LinkedIn Acquires Rapportive, Becomes Google+ For Business

LinkedIn has acquired the San Francisco-based company Rapportive, a social enhancement for Gmail, for a reported $15 million.

The Rapportive browser plugin connects users’ Gmail accounts with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other networks to provide more information about their contacts. The company launched in March 2010 and within 24 hours had gained 10,000 new users. Shortly after that, Rapportive raised $1 million in seed funding from a long list of venture capital firms and angel investors including Gmail creator Paul Buchheit.

News of the acquisition was first reported earlier this month by AllThingsD and rapportive Co-founder and CEO Rahul Vohra confirmed the deal earlier today in a blog post. Wrote Vohra:

During our partnership with LinkedIn, we got to know them very well. We found a great overlap between our visions. We found a high-calibre and extremely driven team. We found, crucially, a “members-first” company: everything that LinkedIn does is about making its members more successful.

In business, partnership is dating — and we went on a lot of dates with LinkedIn. Slowly, but surely, we fell in love.

This is the most romantic thing that anyone has ever said about LinkedIn, probably because LinkedIn is a place for people to look up old work colleagues and begrudgingly accept connection requests from people they’ve emailed once. It’s not exactly like Facebook, whose users spend an obscene amount of time posting baby pictures and messaging their friends.

In fact, it seems to have more in common with Google’s social media site, Google+. At the Socialize conference in January, panelists described Google+ as more of a social layer than a social network. Google+ director of engineering David Glazer has also said that the network is designed to “use relationships and identity to activate other Google products,” like its search engine and maps.

LinkedIn has similarly found new ways to enhance users’ contact lists with data with from other sources. The company has made a number of acquisitions toward this end, such as CardMunch, a mobile business card transcription service; and Connected, a contact management startup. Prior to that, users could only invite their contacts to join LinkedIn through their email addresses or by searching for them on the site. LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman recently told CBS that using data to enhance people’s lives could be the foundation of Web 3.0.

For people who often come home from a conference with a stack of business cards whose owners they can’t remember meeting, a more socially connected LinkedIn could help put things into context with a picture and a work history to go along with a name. The same is true of people who work together remotely and might like to see the face behind the email address.

Rapportive’s CEO was cryptic about future projects with LinkedIn, but he offered a hint:  “When we founded Rapportive, we had one simple belief,” wrote Vohra. “We would build software that you don’t have to remember to use.

Let’s hope it doesn’t lead to more professional mishaps like the executive who was fired for forgetting to take his interest in “career opportunities” off his LinkedIn profile.

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