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Reid Hoffman--Silicon Valley's 'startup whisperer'

The New York Times paints a portrait of the LinkedIn founder as the man every entrepreneur wants to meet and wants to be.

Reid Hoffman spoke with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington at TechCrunch Disrupt in September.
Daniel Terdiman/CNET

For startups in Silicon Valley, little is more prized than an audience with Reid Hoffman.

Entrepreneurs come for his money, attention, but most of all, his advice.

Hoffman is a bit of a mystic "startup whisperer," according to a New York Times profile on 44-year-old co-founder of professional network LinkedIn.

The profile paints a portrait of a man who juggles a full schedule of meetings with people seeking his guidance, giving rapid-fire suggestions on platforms, presentation, and strategy, while trying not to be tied to Facebook, Twitter, or any of the four cell phones he carries.

LinkedIn, which went public in May, saw its stock close up 109 percent on the first day to close just above $94--one of the more impressive offerings of late. The network counts more than 135 million registered members in 200 countries.

Hoffman is also on the board of directors of game maker Zynga, which is expected to go public this year, and an adviser to Groupon CEO Andrew Mason. Shares of the 3-year-old Groupon closed on its first day of trading Friday at $26.11 on the Nasdaq, an increase of more than 31 percent and giving the company a market valuation of about $16.7 billion.

The story describes Hoffman's path to success starting as an intensely focused child growing up in Berkeley, Calif. His father, William Hoffman, recalls how he would read "The Lord of The Rings" to his young son, but apparently he wasn't reading the story fast enough and would often find the bookmark further along in the book.

The profile goes on to describe how Hoffman got his first job at age 12 and how, while attending Stanford University, he met fellow student Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal. The profile also describes how Hoffman had long identified the untapped value of social networks, leading him in 1997 to found SocialNet, a service that matched people with similar interests.

That effort eventually flopped, but it gave Hoffman experience and perspective that laid the groundwork for LinkedIn--and eventually the man who every Silicon Valley entrepreneur wants to talk with and wants to be.