|How LinkedIn betrayed 5-man startup Pealk|
|Exact violation remains unclear|
|Why developers should be concerned|
|What should LinkedIn have done?|
By JON RUSSELL: The short answer is that, as we suspected, 5-man startup Pealk did try to adapt itself to support LinkedIn’s terms; but the longer answer is a story of how the global professional social network toyed with, and then betrayed, a small team, in a case that should concern any developers that work with the company.
From partnership talk to shut down
The story began back one year ago when Pealk’s Boris Golden (pictured third from left below) and his three fellow co-founders began to put the idea for an app into motion. Through work with a previous startup, which saw him use it daily, the serial entrepreneur had built a comprehensive list of strengths and weaknesses of LinkedIn.
Having identified the need for a “productive and a cool tool to explore the data”, the concept of Pealk was born. The Web app was released in beta two and a half months ago but, Golden told me, the team had essentially spent a year working on the concept – clearly time that the four founders don’t want to put to waste.
The app — which today has some 2,500 registered users — made promising strides filling a niche need for headhunting on LinkedIn, offering recruiters a range of features that included a quick browser that allows for looking at multiple user profiles at one time, eliminating the need for multiple tabs sessions.
Early on, the app attracted the attention of LinkedIn’s own staff who began to engage with positive feedback. Even on the call that informed them of the shutdown, LinkedIn told the now 5-man Pealk team that they “really love the features, its marketing” and the app in general.
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.
The revelation came out of the blue. Last week, following a new round of partnership talks, the company was contacted by LinkedIn with a request for a conference call to discuss closing down its access to the API with immediate effect.
Golden, who is head of product at the startup, managed to negotiate a two week extension but admits that he is baffled by the u-turn.
“One minute we were set to do a new conference call and then suddenly we were told we’d be shut down, instantly. They’d never mentioned a specific problem before and when we were told ‘you’ll need to be shut down’ we began making and proposing changes in order to comply.”
As email exchanges between the two firms passed to The Next Web indicate, Golden was open with his determination and offers to change the Pealk app in order to pass LinkedIn’s requirements and keep it open. Yet the company declined to make this possible.