Viadeo: Nipping at LinkedIn’s heels

LINKEDIN is not the only game in town. With 60m members, Viadeo is the world’s second-biggest professional social network. It is strong in its home country, France, and in China. Xing of Germany, the third largest with 14m members, guards the gate of the German-speaking world. Neither is standing still.Viadeo has been the more ambitious, adopting a “multilocal” strategy based on different platforms in different markets. Founded in 2005, it has branched out mainly through acquisitions. Today it is the biggest professional network by membership in France and Francophone Africa, has a significant business in Russia and, most important, is in first place in China. It bought Tianji, a Chinese business-networking site, in 2008 and has built its membership to 20m. Viadeo’s co-founder and chief executive, Dan Serfaty, moved to China in 2011, a sign of how much the market matters to him.The big problem for Viadeo is making money outside France, which accounts for 95% of its turnover—€31m ($42m) in 2013. Viadeo has yet to turn an operating profit (though it claims it is profitable in France). That is not unheard of for startups, especially those enthusiastic about acquisitions, but investors will be keeping an eye on how much cash it burns.Things may be about to improve, if Mr Serfaty is right about China. Viadeo has had trouble getting Chinese businesses to pay for its services…

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