LinkedIn’s European competitors on shopping spree: Viadeo buys Pealk

A happy ending after all for Pealk, the Paris based startup that ran afoul of LinkedIn in June 2012 and saw its API access to the professional networking site revoked. Today, the company announced that it was acquired by Viadeo, the French LinkedIn competitor.

In a statement, Viadeo says it bought Pealk because of its innovative approach to search and filter profiles of potential recruits on professional social networks:

“Pealk’s app has garnered unanimous praise worldwide and gives professionals a seamless,  straightforward tool to search, filter, and organize profiles they can contact. Designed for  maximum productivity, it allows HR and sales professionals to make the most of Viadeo’s extensive database.”

Pealk was devised as an app that would make headhunting on LinkedIn easier. It was developed by Boris Golden, who admired LinkedIn but was frustrated by some of its weaknesses.

One of its key features was that it allowed recruiters to do side by side comparisons of candidate profiles, eliminating the need to open a different tab for each candidate.

Apparently, initial response at LinkedIn for the app was positive and even went as far as suggesting LinkedIn would acquire Pealk, but relations soon turned sour.  As TNW reported in June:

LinkedIn began to talk more specifically with Pealk about collaborations and, in particular, held a number of conference calls to discuss a possible ‘partnership’. While the nature of how the two companies might collaborate was always left open ended, at no point did LinkedIn execs ever reveal that it was breaching its term and conditions.

But apparently, LinkedIn felt that Pealk was giving users access to premium features, which it didn’t like. Shortly afterwards LinkedIn shut Pealk out of its API, stating “clear violations” of its Terms of Service.  LinkedIn provided this list of ToS violations to TNW:

it says Pealk was (1) Storing/archiving LinkedIn profile data, (2) Using LinkedIn data to create email marketing messages to LinkedIn members in volume and (3) Creating competitive solutions to LinkedIn – each of which violates its terms of service.)

The acquisition by Viadeo marks a happy ending for the startup.

European LinkedIn competitors seem determined to put up a fight against their bigger US rival. Last week, German professional network XING announced that it acquired Glassdoor-clone kununu.

In the press release announcing the acquisition, Dan Serfaty, CEO of Viadeo says something to the effect that “size doesn’t matter” for a professional social network, only its usefulness.

“A PSN’s value depends not only on the size of its member base, but on how members can use it to their advantage. That makes Pealk the  most innovative product we’ve released in the last five years, thanks to its ability to democratize  social networking for business purposes.”

Which doesn’t mean that Viadeo is not content with merely entrenching itself. RudeBaguette reports that the company currently has 50 million members (versus LinkedIn’s 200 million), but it continues to  grow in emerging markets like Morocco, China, India, Mexico and Senegal.

Photo: Pealk founders

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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