reidhoffman.jpgReid Hoffman, one of the earliest and most prolific players in the early years of the social network revolution, has stepped down as chief executive of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn, the online site for professional networkers, last week announced it had raised $12.8 million in fresh venture capital, which may be connected to the executive change.

dannye2.bmpHoffman notified VentureBeat of the change earlier today in an email. He did not state the reasons for the change, but did say he’d appointed Dan Nye (pictured left) to take his place.

Nye was previously an executive at Advent Software, and before that was head of Intuit’s small business division. Hoffman remains Chairman and President.

Hoffman’s move also follows the recent departure of his co-founder, Konstantin Guericke, to launch another company, Jaxtr. Sometimes, venture capitalists agree to invest only on certain terms, and they may have done so last month only on condition of a change in executive — but we aren’t certain of this.

Hoffman was an early player in social networking, active in the area with early player Socialnet even before the phenomenon become popular in 2003 with the emergence of Friendster. Hoffman was an investor in Friendster and another early player Tribe, and has since invested in a multitude of other social networking companies. He is known as one of the most networked people in the valley (see his activities here)

We’ll update if and when we hear back from LinkedIn, Hoffman or Nye.

[Update: Spokeswoman Kay Luo and co-founder Konstantin Guericke have since responded. Both said the change had nothing to do with the financing. Hoffman hired a recruiter almost four months ago, and interviewed 72 candidates. Hoffman wants to build LinkedIn into a multi-billion dollar company, they said, and realized LinkedIn needed to scale, which means giving more attention to management issues, something that isn’t his strength. “His passion is in the product,” said Guericke, “rather than in sorting out management stuff.” Nye is a protege of Intuit Chairman Bill Campbell, someone Hoffman respects, Luo said.]

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