LinkedIn Gets IndexTank-ed

Listed online professional networking site LinkedIn will acquire IndexTank, the hosted search engine service. IndexTank CEO Diego Basch confirmed the news on the company’s blog. Specifics of the deal were not publicized. Backers include Freestyle Capital and Patagonia Ventures.


[In]dexTank – LinkedIn Acquires IndexTank
Posted on October 11, 2011 by diego
dexTank – LinkedIn Acquires IndexTank’]
This is not a typical acquisition blog post. You and I have read lots of those. Many tend to sound like Oscar speeches, as if being acquired were the culmination of a career. This one is different, and there are many themes that I’d like to touch on.
First off, all the parties involved are excited. We believe that this is an incredible match, and the first step towards creating something much bigger. I am looking forward to what lies ahead, and I’ll try to explain why. If you’ve been following IndexTank over the past few months, you may have noticed the flattering tweets and blog posts from many of our happy users. We have grown our user base with accounts of all sizes, and increased our revenues with profitability in sight. All this in less than a year since our launch.
When a company is thriving it’s not unusual to have acquisition conversations with bigger players. Some are casual or serendipitous. Part of the work of a BD team is to make contacts that can lead to business, partnerships or even mergers. IndexTank is an infrastructure company, so at first glance LinkedIn may not appear as the most obvious fit. When this conversation first took place I was mostly curious. Even though I was a very early adopter of LinkedIn, I didn’t know a lot about the company itself. When evaluating a company, one of my first instincts as the CEO of IndexTank has been to imagine how they could use our technology. Let’s first look at the two broad categories of customers we have thus far, I’d call them “entertainment” and “services.”
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with working in the entertainment business. Reddit(IndexTank’s first big customer) has made me forget about watching TV. I was ecstatic to provide search for them because I always loved the site. It happens that running such a site is not part of our arsenal of skills. All of us know how to build scalable infrastructure. Alas, the IndexTank team is not well versed in the complexities of maintaining a vibrant community that hosts profound political discussions as well as awesome cat pictures 🙂
Speaking of cat pictures, watch this talk by Steve Yegge if you haven’t already. The gist of it: he didn’t want to work on yet another “pictures of cats” site when there are so many opportunities to directly impact society for the better. For example, you could develop technologies to fight cancer, help prevent malaria or give people access to clean water.
Why LinkedIn?
It was in this context that we approached the conversation with LinkedIn. When I talked to different people at the company, I heard variations on this theme. LinkedIn is a company with the potential to make the world a better place by creating economic opportunities. Connecting people around the world is a net win, and it creates value that simply did not exist before. I am happy to see this sentiment in the Valley that goes way beyond just not being evil (even at the company that invented that slogan). LinkedIn has some extremely successful leaders who could choose to do anything they wanted. When you see them working hard at bringing career opportunities to the remote corners of the world, you know it’s not just another company trying to sell a random luxury item. All of us at IndexTank were *very* impressed by the clarity and consistency of this vision.
Here’s a quick example of how technology can improve the world in an immediate and meaningful way. Mobile phones have made a difference to artisan fishermen of Ghana by “improving their incomes, expanding their markets, enhancing their security, and bringing them closer both their families and other fishermen.”
LinkedIn can help make a difference to billions of people around the globe. Imagine you were a high-school graduate in Ohio a few decades ago. What did you have to do in order to become a financial analyst in New York? My first answer would have been “first you move to the city, then you figure it out.” Thanks to LinkedIn, that’s much easier today. As an example, two acquaintances of mine started a search engine six years ago after connecting on LinkedIn. I helped them build the software to power it. LinkedIn lets you browse,search and find opportunities in a way that wasn’t possible ten years ago. And this is where IndexTank comes in.
LinkedIn has exploded over the past few years, and the search team has done a fantastic job at building world-class technologies to keep up with the growth. Of course, this doesn’t stop here and we’re working on the next play. This growth will continue and perhaps accelerate. One day every smartphone owner could use LinkedIn to find opportunity. Perhaps the Ghana fishermen will choose to network with each other and form cooperatives through their mobile phones. We need to be able to manage billions of people profiles and jobs. I believe IndexTank’s world-class search technology and experience will be instrumental in taking LinkedIn to this next level. I can’t wait to show you how.
To our customers
If one of IndexTank’s customers you may be thinking “this is great and all, but what happens to me?” Rest assured: we won’t let you down. Cloud infrastructure is here to stay. IndexTank and LinkedIn know that open source software is crucial in helping people build applications without having to reinvent the wheel. LinkedIn has agreed to maintain the IndexTank service running for the next six months, as well as to open source the key components that would enable cloud providers to offer a service fully compatible with the IndexTank API. This means that our existing customers will be able to transition seamlessly to other providers. Of course, this will require reputable providers to deploy instances of IndexTank. Rest assured, those conversations are taking place and we’ll keep you posted!
Final thoughts
Ok, I can’t completely escape the Oscar part. I *must* thank our thousands of users who helped us evolve our technology, contributed to the ecosystem and gave us invaluable feedback. The IndexTank team has made me feel proud more times than I can remember, and perhaps my biggest accomplishment has been convincing them to work with me 🙂 Of course, this would not have been possible without investors such as Michael Dearing andSteve Anderson, or advisors such as Bijan Marashi. They believed in our vision from day one and supported us all the way.
A special word of thanks goes to Manu Kumar of K9 Ventures, who provided a level of support far beyond what I expected from an investor / advisor. I have known Manu since our Carnegie Mellon days, and I worked at his first startup in Pittsburgh. His capacity to get things done has always impressed me, and his assistance with the most complicated logistics of this acquisition has been invaluable. As an overextended single founder managing a team split between San Francisco and Buenos Aires, I felt that he stepped into the role of a co-founder for the past few weeks. I am extremely grateful for that.
If you have any questions not addressed on this post, you know where to find me. I’m@dbasch on Twitter, and the support at indextank dot com mailing list will remain active for the foreseeable future. If you know me, connect with me on LinkedIn 🙂
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dexTank – LinkedIn Acquires IndexTank’]