When we heard the news that Lars Hinrichs, CEO and Founder of XING, was passing the baton of CEO to Dr. Stefan Gross-Selbeck of eBay, we were saddened, but also understood the decision. Lars started the company five years ago, when the Internet was in a “dead zone” between the DotCom Boom and Web 2.0 days. He loved networking and saw an opportunity to bring together aspiring and established business executives from around the world. He called the company, Open Business Club (or OpenBC), based on the notion that it was open to everyone and was completely transparent – I could see who you were connected to and vice versa, so we could better understand our “six degrees of separation.” OpenBC thrived as the technology sector began to breathe in new life, and was profitable within 90 days of launch. Subsequently, Lars decided to change the name to XING – inspired by the railroad crossing signs he saw in the US (get it – XING = crossing!). The company got a new look and appealed to markets outside of Germany – attracting users from the US, China, India, and of course, every corner in Europe.
In December 2006, Lars took the company public, marking the first “Web 2.0” IPO. Seven profitable quarters later, Lars has proven he can run a startup and a public company and has now chosen to give the day-to-day activities to his successor, while he joins the company’s Supervisory Board. He’s taken the company’s EBITDA margin from 17% to 40% in Q3’08, which is nothing to nothing to sneeze at, especially in today’s recessionary climate.
Lars is not just an incredible entrepreneur (we’re going to keep our eyes on him, as he has a track record of starting successful companies), but he’s also one of the nicest guys I know. We also think the world of Daniela Hinrichs, who has navigated the press and communications around XING for several years. They are both the embodiment of business networking… and downright nice, smart, ambitious, international, and caring people.
We’ll miss Lars but are proud to have had a “front row seat” while he created one of the most important and successful business networks in the world. We’re looking forward to the next chapter of XING, under the tutelage of Stefan.
Connect with me on XING here: https://www.xing.com/profile/Kathy_Johnson
p.s. the photo above was taken during our last meeting in SF when we had to do Lars’ favorite thing in San Francisco -have dimsum lunch at Yank Sing. We saw the sign as we left the restaurant and thought that was the perfect embodiment of where everything was headed – up and full steam “ahead”!