Is Lynda Acquisition LinkedIn’s Starbucks Moment?

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LinkedIn buys Lynda

In its biggest acquisition to date, LinkedIn today announced it’s buying Lynda.com, the online professional education brand named for founder Lynda Weinman, for $1.5 billion.

Lynda’s deep archive of lessons, books, VHS tapes, DVDs and online tutorials have an avid following among those wishing to learn new technical and digital skills, a perfect crossover with LinkedIn’s ever-upgrading, job-seeking professional community.

LinkedIn head of content Ryan Roslansky can relate, writing in a blog post that one of Weinman’s web graphics books helped him build his first website and launch a business while still in college.

LinkedIn economic graph

Now, he writes, integrating the Lynda brand and assets will help LinkedIn members learn new skills and also help fuel LinkedIn’s Economic Graph knowledge resource center with Lynda’s vast library of video tutorials to fill in the skills gap in LinkedIn’s user base.

“LinkedIn’s fundamental value proposition is connecting people to opportunity,” LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner stated. “We’ve made significant progress in this area; nearly 350 million members can use LinkedIn to find a job, build a business, and be more successful in their careers.”

“However, matching talent and opportunity is a simplified take on the equation,” he added. “Without access to education and the ability to acquire skills, many of these opportunities will remain far out of reach for most people. With today’s announcement that LinkedIn intends to acquire lynda.com, LinkedIn has taken a material step forward toward connecting these dots.”

Connecting the dots is also the job of the Economic Graph, LinkedIn’s project that’s “digitally mapping the global economy and connecting talent with opportunity at massive scale.”

As Weiner wrote in 2012, the Economic Graph was partially inspired by Facebook’s social graph, but with a difference:

Our ultimate dream is to develop the world’s first economic graph. In other words, we want to digitally map the global economy, identifying the connections between people, jobs, skills, companies, and professional knowledge—and spot in real-time the trends pointing to economic opportunities. It’s a big vision, but we believe we’re in a unique position to make it happen.

As Ad Age notes today, ingesting Lynda’s content also fuels LinkedIn’s considerable “data arsenal,” and increases its value to advertisers on its network. In Ad Age‘s view, Lynda’s design students would be of interest to Adobe, for example.

Yet this also seems to be Jeff Weiner’s Howard Schultz moment. The Starbucks CEO is using his business empire and powerhouse brand to spark change and improve the world, from spurring job creation to paying employees’ college tuition to sparking a conversation about race relations—even if America isn’t quite ready for one with its morning latte.

Lynda herself is touting the higher purpose to be served by merging her namesake brand with LinkedIn.

“The skills gap is one of the leading social issues of our time — technology changes fast and people need to keep their skills up to date,” she wrote. “We have a shared vision of connecting relevant knowledge to those in need of new or stronger skills, and believe that together we can positively impact the global job market and economy. This is a moment in history when people can learn anytime, anywhere, and with no boundaries.”

Below, a look back at Weiner’s 10-year vision for LinkedIn released last year—which if you listen carefully, lays the groundwork for Lynda’s acquisition:

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