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Summary:

Ning co-founder and CEO Gina Bianchini is leaving the company and is being replaced by current chief operating officer and former Opsware executive Jason Rosenthal. Bianchini is also becoming an executive in residence (EIR) at venture capital firm of Andreessen Horowitz.

ningmanagers.jpgAfter five and a half years as the chief executive of Ning, the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social network platform provider, Gina Bianchini has decided to step down from her position and is being replaced by current chief operating officer and former Netscape and Opsware executive, Jason Rosenthal. Bianchini is becoming an executive in residence (EIR) at Marc Andreessen’s venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz.

“Nothing else is changing — I remain Chairman, the current management team remains exactly the same, and the Ning service continues unchanged,” says Andreessen, chairman and co-founder of Ning. The company says it has 2.3 million user-created Ning Networks and more than 45 million registered users and is adding million new registered users every 12 days and and 5,000 Ning-powered networks every day. The company has raised more than $110 million in funding and is valued at over $500 million.

  1. stepping aside like this before the exit is pretty unusual and raises serious questions.

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  2. With all these great growth numbers, why do I feel Ning is treading water some time.

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    1. Ning does sound and look like a great idea, especially with all the attention on social networking. With Ning, anyone can start his own Facebook or Orkut-like network. I wonder if there’s any article that analyzes why Ning isn’t red-hot?

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      1. I don’t know of an article, simply my own experience.

        Ning is really good. It is not great.

        It has seriously organisational issues such as search, filter, sorting; things which, as a database geek, I assume should be fairly intuitive.

        It implicitly sends intellectual property questions to users by making it impossible to gracefully gather all your own content from a site you’re a member of. Folks who participate extensively are stymied when they try to gather up all their writing to for re-use.

        I use Ning. As soon as I find something which addresses either (or hopefully both) of those issues, I’ll switch.

        Yes, I realise the tool I’m whining about is free, which is why I don’t rant more than I do.

        It’s just frustrating because Ning could be great. I just hope it survives long enough.

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  3. No one leaves before the exit unless there’s something wrong imho. Now both founders are gone. No one that bleeds the company still works there. Very bad sign.

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    1. Well it seems Marc is still the chairman. I think it is also the fact that after 5-1/2 years sometimes even founders get burned out. I am sure this is a change for the better for all parties. I am going to sniff around and see what else I pick up about this exit.

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      1. Please do that Om. If you can cut through the spin I think you’ll find the truth that this was NOT voluntary. Ms. Bianchini still has so much to prove. As we all know you do not earn your bona fides in this industry until you preside over an exit. Period.

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      2. It is interesting in light of this weekend’s note by Ben Horowitz (see TechCrunch) on the enduring qualities that Andreessen / Horowitz seek in CEOs.

        FWIW – I think that Gina is a very good spokesperson and bootstrap CEO. We discussed their business once, and I did find her a bit defensive / inflexible on strategy.

        The fact remains that the landscape has changed dramatically in the past two years, and Ning has to find it’s rightful place as a recognized traffic leader, or as a well tuned monetization engine… otherwise the $500M valuation doesn’t pencil.

        Jason is a good operator, and has more than a decade of working with Marc and Ben. This change has probably been in the making for more than six months…

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      3. Om, I would definitely start digging. I find their traffic claims dubious (# of active networks counts any group that has one page view in a given month) and their revolving roster of VPs disturbing (top eng departures to FB, loss of their Dir of Marketing and Dir of Product). Ning stopped innovating a long while ago and needs someone at the helm that can get them back into the game to grow their US traffic and their revenue. I have all respect for Jason but he’s an operator and not a product innovator. The company is not ready to monetize without corresponding healthy recurring traffic IMHO. The most disturbing line in the press release is that “nothing has changed” which to me equates to very poor prospects for Ning going forward.

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    2. If I remember correctly, wasn’t there something a few months ago about Marc Andreessen sounding out that he wants to sell his share of Ning? Well, if he’s getting out, then good luck to the new owner. Andreessen does have the ability to obtain the maximum sum possible based on his previous deals. Or, alternatively, his exits signal the peak of something is just around the corner.

      His sale of Netscape to AOL especially – I forgot the total amount but it was HUGE, with AOL so confident it would be their next step to world domination. The dot-com crash of 2000 quickly followed. And even after interest in the tech sector picked up again, AOL – or anyone – could have whipped their prized asset into anything half-alive again.

      Then there was Loudcloud (or something) – this was a big sale too. So, should Andreessen be getting rid of Ning, might the unthinkable happen – the now super hot social networking might cool down?:-)

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  4. This kind of seems like a regurgitation of the press release.

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    1. ML it is just the facts which we reported. Without getting more details, I am not likely to speculate or comment just yet.

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