Gina Bianchini spoke at our BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) event on September 6, 2008 in San Francisco.
Tech entrepreneurs may seem like the Star Trek flight crew, venturing into unexplored territories with only their wits and insider knowledge of cutting-edge technology to protect them from the unknown dangers that abound. But, the truth is, it’s not necessary to be super tech-savvy to launch an Internet venture. You just need someone on your team—who you’d trust with your life—who’s a techie. Your Spock, if you will. Gina Bianchini, co-founder of the social networking service provider NING, ought to know.
In the case of her second Internet start-up, NING, which Bianchini launched with partner Marc Andreessen (the co-founder of Netscape) in 2007, her lack of deep technical expertise was actually her source of inspiration. She wanted a custom-designed social networking site, like her engineer friends had built for themselves. She envisioned the software equivalent of Home Depot, where users could find everything they’d need to build their own social Web sites and social networks without any special knowledge required.
The partners had a little seed money to get started, as well as a crack team of engineers. The company has taken off from there. NING now has 90 employees and hosts roughly 430,000 social networks, with about 2,000 new networks added every day.
What we learned from Gina: “The only thing you can really do on some level is build something that you think is useful to you and hope that it’s useful to other people.”
Simple Is Better
“The idea behind NING was really simple. Both my co-founder and I were really intrigued and passionate about all of the things that were happening in terms of social media back in 2003-2004. We came at it with the approach of, well, why don’t we build it out as a platform and give people the freedom and opportunity to create their own social networks?”
I Want That
“I was looking around at all of the things that developer friends of mine could do, and I’m not a developer, and I was like, well, I want to actually be able to say, ‘I want this feature but not that feature.’ The option and the freedom to customize themes, and choose different things ourselves, was something that was really important.”
Build It (for Yourself) and They Will Come
“In terms of knowing it was a need [that wasn't being met], we kind of built it for ourselves. So on some level, the product that we have out there today—your own social network for anything—was, in part, what our small team of people wanted for ourselves. We sort of took it from there.”