Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Exclusive: Ning Is Being Shopped Around at $150M Price Tag

According to multiple sources close to the situation, Ning has been talking recently to a large pool of companies about selling itself, including Google and Groupon, as well as to a number of private equity companies.

Interest has been both incoming to and outgoing from Ning.

The talks around the fate of the high-profile social networking platform — co-founded by Silicon Valley icon and investor Marc Andreessen — are still early and might not result in a sale, although a number of sources said the company was being valued at up to $150 million.

That price is well below previous loftier valuations for Ning and would mean only a break-even for investors, who have put close to $120 million into Ning since it was founded in 2004.

Among its investors: Andreessen, LinkedIn Chairman and investor Reid Hoffman, Legg Mason, Allen & Company and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

There are no bankers involved in the preliminary efforts, in which Andreessen has been involved, although discussions with Google and Groupon have been substantive in nature.

Several other companies — including AOL, Demand Media and Go Daddy — have also been approached or are kicking tires at the site. Most would be interested in Ning’s technology for creating premium social networks.

Ning bills itself on its site as “The World’s Largest Platform for Creating Social Websites.”

The sales effort grew out of a parallel one to possibly raise more money for the start-up. Sources said there was some incoming interest, so talking to a larger pool of buyers was undertaken recently.

Such a move would be an interesting one for Ning, which has undergone a series of ups and downs over its history, including dramatic management and business plan shifts.

Its most recent plan has been to go all-premium, trying to find a way to turn the start-up into a profitable enterprise.

That’s worked out well, the company has previously said, with strong growth. Since its business shift a year ago, Ning has said, it has had 400 percent year-on-year revenue growth, going from 17,000 to more than 100,000 subscribers and with 60 million monthly active users.

Ning’s shift has been under the leadership of Jason Rosenthal, who had been COO of Ning until he replaced its founding CEO, Gina Bianchini, in early 2010.

Ning has also recently tried to get into the highly competitive mobile social communications arena, with a service called Mogwee. The traction for the product does not appear to have been significant.

Ning’s Rosenthal declined to comment about any sales efforts when reached by me today.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik