Co-founded by Marc Andreessen, Ning, once among the highest-profile social network startups, gave up on its grandest plans a while ago and did a full reset. Now it will be part of another startup with ambitious plans, Samir Arora’s ad network Glam Media. The combined companies would have 240 million users (40 million from Ning) and 3.1 billion pageviews (half a billion from Ning), according to Andreessen.
The acquisition, announced late Tuesday afternoon by Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal on the company’s blog and Andreessen on his own site, is expected to close in Q4.
No financial terms were disclosed but I doubt it’s anywhere near as attractive as the payouts Andreessen saw from Netscape or his investment in Skype — or the high valuations Ning once had. Kara pegs it at about $200 million. When I asked, Arora, who was talkative about many other areas, wouldn’t go there, saying only: “Glam is not disclosing the purchase or the structure of the transaction.” (Erick Schonfeld puts it at $150 million. One of my own sources scoffs at the idea it could even be that high.)
Rosenthal plans to run Ning as a division within Glam; Andreessen, its chairman and cofounder, will be on the Glam board. Arora told me Rosenthal will be GM of the division and head of all social platforms for Glam. Palo Alto-based Ning has about 100 employees; nearby Glam has 400. (Glam’s release.)
Here’s how Andreessen explains the deal:
In Glam, Samir and his outstanding team have built one of the leading premium content networks on the web. Glam’s high-end content has amazing reach: 200 million users and 2.6 billion page views across 2,500 publishers, with advertising participation by 1,000 premium brands. Combining Ning’s social technology, user base, and 100,000+ networks will immediately boost Glam’s reach to 240 million users and 3.1 billion page views, add recurring subscription revenue to Glam’s business model, and most importantly, set up the combined company to be the leading social media content company on the web.
As consumer behavior broadly moves from old media to the web-as software eats content-the opportunity for high-end online content is gigantic and our combined company will be in the pole position in this huge market.
Ning was founded by Andreessen and Gina Bianchini in 2004; the object was to create scale and revenue by through white-label social network solutions. To put that $200 million report in perspective, it raised at least $119 million in its first five years. The last round of $15 million came at a reported $750 million valuation in mid-2009; the most spectacular was a 2008 $60 million round valuing the company at $500 million that coincided with a glowing <a href="http://paidcontent.org/article/419-fc-omg-like-totally-ning/" title="Fast Company profile “>Fast Company profile of Bianchini and Ning.
She resigned as CEO in March 2010 and was replaced by Rosenthal, then the COO. A month later Ning started to find a real business model, slicing its staff by 40 percent and annoying users of its free white-label service by going all paid. It was a complete reset — and by most accounts, it worked.
Investors included Andreessen, Lightspeed Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman and Ron Conway.
More from Samir Arora’s interview with paidContent.