Business networking site LinkedIn will reportedly acquire Rapportive, a Gmail add-on that provides information about your social contacts as you e-mail them. Representatives from both LinkedIn and Rapportive declined to comment on the news since the deal is not settled yet, but sources close to the situation told AllThingsD that LinkedIn offered the browser plug-in a figure in the low teens in millions of dollars.
Rapportive, which is still available over Gmail, adds an e-mailers social networking accounts, including their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts, and overlays the information over open messages and e-mail drafts. If you follow the user on Twitter, you could see their most recent tweets, or if you haven't connected with them on LinkedIn yet, you could easily visit their profile and change that.
I wanted to build a product to make things easier, said Rapportive's CEO Rahul Vohra. In Gmail we show you what people look like, their tweets, what they are into, their social networks, etc. We add a lot of context to Gmail.
Rapportive has never released how many people use the add-on, but Vohra said users currently look at over 65 million contacts per month, and the company has grown its user base many times over, despite only having six employees.
I am now following my passions Vohra said. I just love building experiences that delight users.
Vohra founded Rapportive in January 2010 with two other computer science graduates from the University of Cambridge in the UK, Martin Kleppmann and Sam Stokes. The small company took their talents to San Francisco in 2010 because they found it would be an easier start-up atmosphere than Great Britain.
In one week we accomplished what would have taken us a month back in Cambridge, Vohra said.
The company was accepted to Y Combinator, the start-up accelerator based in Mountain View, Calif., based on the fact that their company had 10,000 users sign up on the first day thanks to an accidental leak to the press.
We applied, accidentally launched, got into YC, and then raised our seed funding round during this period, Vohra said.
Rapportive raised $1 million in August 2010 from a group of angel investors, including Paul Buchheit, the founder of FriendFeed and the creator of Gmail. In May 2011, Google launched a potential competitor to Rapportive, a people widget that integrated Buzz posts, shared documents and calendar events directly into Gmail to similarly view relevant information in context.
We're very flattered by how similar the widget is to Rapportive, Vohra said. In fact, some of the design details have been copied directly, from the new position of the 'print' and 'new window' icons, through to how the widget remains onscreen as you scroll.
But instead of beating its competition, Rapportive joined it instead, integrating Gmail's people widget directly into the Rapportive experience.
The press sensationalized it, saying that Rapportive would die, Vohra said. But, of course, we didn't die -- competition very rarely kills start-ups.
Rapportive could be a tremendous help to LinkedIn, and will likely aid the business network by providing organized user information for job seekers, employers, entrepreneurs, and other business-minded individuals using the site. In a possible marriage, Rapportive could share information from a user's social network -- so long as there's permission -- which would make the lives of millions of job recruiters using LinkedIn significantly easier.
The main reason that companies are using LinkedIn is to find passive job candidates, said Kay Luo, LinkedIn's director of corporate communications. Another reason why companies are using LinkedIn is because referrals from their employees are highly valued because they typically have a higher success rate -- hence the popular 'employee referral bonuses.' LinkedIn helps companies leverage the networks of their employees.
Rapportive would not drastically change how LinkedIn performs, but having more information about job candidates makes recruiters make better, more well-informed decisions. After all, most hiring decisions nowadays require recruiters check a candidate's social media activities, which give an organization an idea of how professional that person is in the digital world.
We'll update as soon as the deal is confirmed, and let you know how much Rapportive made in the acquisition, should it occur.