Gina Bianchini, cofounder of Ning and current Entrepreneur in Residence at Andreessen Horowitz, has recently joined Endeavor’s Global Advisory Board. We recently interviewed Gina about how she became an entrepreneur, the challenges she’s faced in the process, and her relationship with Endeavor.
Q: Gina, some could say you were bred to be an entrepreneur. You grew up in Cupertino, studied at Stanford, worked within Goldman Sachs’s High Technology Group, and then did advertising for high tech companies. Though you founded your first company right out of business school, when did you first know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
A: There is no doubt that I grew up in an entrepreneurial culture. My grandparents ran a nursery in Cupertino before it became Silicon Valley and the home of Apple Computer. Watching these two definitions of entrepreneurism meet helped me immensely in not only taking on the slightly insane life of a serial entrepreneur but in making it through the high highs and the low lows that go along with it.
I look at my journey as a series of small things that led to me being an entrepreneur. On the other, I have always dreamed of doing something that changed the world. Watching the people around me from my little agricultural town of Cupertino actually do it, has inspired me from the time I can remember.
This is probably another way of saying, there wasn’t one moment where I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but rather I put myself in situations that slowly and incrementally brought me to this place. I’ve just followed each opportunity placed in front of me and worked my ass off to deliver to the very best of my ability in every way.
Q: As an entrepreneur, what would you say has been the greatest challenge that you have ever faced, at Harmonic Communications, Ning, or generally?
A: In the same way there has never been one great success, I don’t think that there is one single great challenge. There have been a lot of little ones. If you can embrace challenges by breaking them down into smaller decisions, this life gets a lot easier.
Q: Ning was based on a pretty revolutionary idea – that communities could come together around passions and interests. Ning now has 46 million users, so the initial vision is clearly working. Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
A: I love Jeff Bezos quote about having scars all over his body from the things he and Amazon have learned. There is a ton I’d do differently if given the chance! But that’s not the way it works. Rather, it’s about making the best decisions you can with the information and experience that you have at that moment and constantly learning from what happens next.
As a founder and the CEO, the key is to always raise your hand and take responsibility for the decisions. I love the John F. Kennedy quote, “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” I take responsibility for the good, the bad, and the plain old ugly. I think it is the key to success.
Q: You and serial entrepreneur Marc Andreessen launched Ning in October 2005. You served as CEO until this past year. Tell us about the transition from founder to CEO.
A: After five and a half years, it was time to move on, but I’m incredibly proud of what we built. I’m knee deep in the early stages of something new and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to get Ning to the level it achieved when I left and to work with the best team I could have imagined.
Q: Your first exposure to Endeavor was in Istanbul, as a panelist for one of Endeavor’s International Selection Panels. Our CEO Linda Rottenberg quickly saw the value you would provide to Endeavor as an organization and most importantly to our entrepreneurs. But from your perspective, what made you excited to work with Endeavor?
A. This is one of the most special organizations to which I’ve been exposed. From the mission, to the structure, to the lessons learned, to every person I met, I am proud to be a part of it.
Thanks for your time Gina; we’re thrilled to have you on board!