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US-based marketplace for business expertise Gerson Lehrman Group (GLG) has jumped into China’s nascent professional networking space by taking a minority stake in Ushi, one of a handful of social media sites that aims to build itself into theChinese version of LinkedIn.

GLG’s investment came as part of a recent $3 million financing round for Ushi, which comes on top of $1.5 million the Chinese company raised in an earlier funding drive.

GLG said in a press release Friday that it plans to partner with Ushi in developing it’s main site as well as Ushi Answers, a new invitation-only Quora-like question and answer site focused on topics related to doing business in China.

Professional networking sites still occupy a relatively small niche in China, where other forms of social media, microblogging in particular, have exploded. The sites have nevertheless begun to attract attention, analysts say, in part because they offer marketers access to the country’s growing white-collar elite.

Launched in 2010 with 100 charter members, Shanghai-based Ushi says its member base now includes more than 50,000 CEO- and CTO-level executives and boasts representatives from more than 85% of China’s venture capital and private equity firms.

While the partnership with GLG may boost Ushi’s chances of eventually becoming the LinkedIn of China, the company faces stiff competition in the world’s largest Internet market, including from LinkedIn itself.

LinkedIn said in June that it had one million members in China, despite not having set up operations in the country. Paris-based professional networking company Viadeo, meanwhile, has managed to attract 6 million users to its Chinese subsidiary Tianji.

Ushi also has to contend with a homegrown competition in Jingwei, a site launched jointly by Nasdaq-listed “Chinese Facebook” Renren and jobs website Zhaopin.

Whether or not Ushi ends up beating the competition, the new partnership stands to benefit GLG in at least one respect: It can now mine the Chinese company’s membership for new experts to add to its own network.

For original press, please click here.

SOURCE. Wall Street Journal
UPDATE. 2011-10-15
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