Kara Swisher

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Ning CEO Gina Bianchini to Step Down–Becomes an EIR at Andreessen Horowitz

Gina Bianchini, the high-profile CEO of social networking platform Ning, is stepping down and will become an executive in residence at the Andreessen Horowitz venture firm.

Bianchini (pictured here) founded Ning with well-known Silicon Valley iconic entrepreneur Marc Andreessen. She will be replaced at Ning by COO Jason Rosenthal.

Ning has raised about $120 million in funding since it was founded in 2004, and it has been one of the more high-profile start-ups and among the most closely watched.

Interestingly, I pinged Bianchini last week about some controversies related to discontent among Ning techies I had heard about in the wake of the fall departure of SVP of Engineering Jay Parikh.

She responded quickly, noting that VP of Engineering Sridatta Viswanath was doing a great job.

And, she added, inviting me in for an update while betraying no sense of her impending departure, Ning was “gearing up for the launch of the next-generation Ning Network this summer.”

Here is the post about Bianchini’s departure as CEO that will be on the start-up’s blog today from Ning Chairman Marc Andreessen:

An Update from Ning Chairman & Co-Founder Marc Andreessen

I’d like to update everyone on a change happening in our company today.

My fellow co-founder and Ning CEO Gina Bianchini has decided to step down after five and a half years of hard and terrific work. I support her wholeheartedly in her decision. Gina is handing the CEO duties over to Jason Rosenthal, who has been our Chief Operating Officer (COO) and head of business operations for the last year and a half. Nothing else is changing–I remain Chairman, the current management team remains exactly the same, and the Ning service continues unchanged.

I’d like to celebrate this moment by enthusiastically congratulating Gina on an amazing series of accomplishments in her time as CEO. Ning today is one of the world’s top social networking properties, with more than 2.3 million user-created Ning Networks and more than 45 million registered users, and is far and away the market leading social platform for interests and passions. Ning Networks span every area of human endeavor, from the arts to business, politics to social activism, and every other field you can think of. Over 5,000 new Ning Networks are created every day, and we’re adding a million new registered users every 12 days. This is all the result of Gina’s incredible dedication, as well as the phenomenal team she has built, since we first started the company.

I am also delighted to mention that Gina is becoming an Executive In Residence (EIR) at my new venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz–my venture capital partner Ben Horowitz and I are looking forward to being able to benefit from her insight and wisdom even more than before.

Gina says: “Now that we have built Ning to its current position in the market, I am ready to hand the reins over to Jason and the team to continue to execute on our vision and strategy. As a founder and large shareholder, I’ll continue to do everything I can to support and cheer on Ning in my new role!”

Let me also give you a thumbnail sketch of Jason Rosenthal, our new CEO. Jason has been a friend and colleague of mine for 15 years–we first worked together at Netscape, where Jason took on a sequence of crucial management roles from the very early days until we sold the company to America Online in 1998. Jason then became the first person my co-founders and I brought onboard when we founded Loudcloud in 1999–our internal nickname for him was “critical hire.” Jason and I then worked together there for nearly 10 years, until we sold that company (renamed Opsware) to Hewlett-Packard in 2007. Since that time, Jason has been immersed in Ning as a senior executive, head of business operations, and COO. Jason is a highly talented executive, manager, and leader, and I can’t think of anyone better to succeed my co-founder Gina as CEO.

Jason says: “Through Gina’s vision, leadership, and passion, she has taken the company from inception to our position today as the largest social platform for interests and passions. It’s been my privilege to work with her for the last 18 months and I look forward to expanding on the outstanding foundation she has put in place.”

Thank you very much for your time and attention, and we’ll see you on Ning!

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work