Mention Gina Bianchini’s name at any gathering of geeks and technophiles, and you’ll get the same reaction – respect, admiration and maybe even a touch of envy. As the co-founder of Ning, an Executive-In-Residence at the prestigious Andreessen Horowitz venture firm and the leading lady at social networking startup Mightybell, Bianchini has done what few folks — and especially few women — have been able to. She’s made a career out of being at the forefront of what’s next in technology, and done it all with an extremely high profile and an even higher level of respect from her peers.
Of course, Gina Bianchini is a natural role model for all women. But, for us tech geeks in particular, she provides a perfect case study in the kind of success that most of us dream about. And, in the pursuit of my own personal dreams, I’ve picked up a few extremely valuable lessons from following Gina Bianchini, courtesy of the very same social web she helped create.
1. Always Stay Ahead Of The Curve: Gina Bianchini is a master at the art of anticipating what’s next, and at getting there before anyone else does. A decade ago, she was at the forefront of the social media revolution, launching Ning the same year Facebook went live. Now, she’s the first to admit that social media is an oversaturated market, and that the revolutionary industry she helped to create is ripe for revolution itself. With MightyBell, Bianchini is looking to capitalize on the next generation of social – using the online experience to inspire offline experiences. And, once again she’s at the head of a trend that’s barely begun to take root for the rest of us.
2. Diversify, Diversify, Diversify: From co-founder to CEO, blogger to board member, Gina Bianchini always has her hands in a lot of proverbial pies. She’s been published everywhere from HuffPo to the New York Times, and worked on projects ranging from her current stint on the board of Scripps Interactive to a past life as a Financial Analyst. All of that experience adds up to a well-rounded resume that gives her the extra edge of wide-ranging experience, and keeps her — and her numerous passion projects — in the public eye to boot.
3. Choose Your Partner Wisely: From Harmonic Communications Mark Kvamme to Ning Co-Founder Marc Andreessen, Bianchini has always made it a point to work with people who complement her skills. In her own words, “When working with a co-founder, it helps to have the same core values and complementary skills. I know advertising and finance, and Marc is obviously strong in technology, among other talents. Neither of us wants the other’s job, there’s a lot of mutual trust, and we share the same approach to work.”
4. Perception Is Not Reality: This is a direct quote from Gina Bianchini herself, taken from an article she wrote for CNN disproving the point that you have to be a geeky guy to make it as a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur. In a nutshell, her argument is that the stereotypical geek-in-a-garage founder myth is just that — a myth. Sure, it rings true for the Zuckerbergs of the world. But, is just as easily disproven when one looks at Steve Jobs. Or Gina Bianchini for that matter. Both of whom stand as proof that the stereotypes don’t have anything to do with actual success. As she says in the article, “While it’s true that women don’t sit in the upper echelons of the corporate universe — and I’ll let others speculate on why that is — I know this about succeeding as a consumer Internet entrepreneur: The key is to focus on the data and bury the stereotypes that signal to women that the game is not for us.” There’s no data that says you have to fit a certain mold to make it big in this business, and no reason anyone with the right skills, smarts and savvy can’t follow in Bianchini’s forward-thinking footsteps.
5. Don’t Get Hung Up On Gender: One of the most valuable things I’ve seen Gina Bianchini reiterate time and again is the importance of removing gender from the entrepreneurial equation. In her words, “We’re not doing anyone any good by talking about some of the unique challenges of being a woman entrepreneur. If you’re a male entrepreneur, you’re faced with a certain set of challenges. If you’re female, you’re faced with a potentially different set of challenges. The most important thing you can do is say, ‘I don’t care what the challenges are, I’m going to tackle them, take them down, and keep going where I’m going. Don’t think about yourself as a woman entrepreneur. Think about yourself as an entrepreneur.”