Small Business

The Secret of Ning's Success


Marc Andreessen talks about why his social network platform is gaining users; agonizing over Facebook; defining new qualities of leadership; and more

What's a "Double Viral Loop"?

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of browser Netscape Communications (TWX) explains how his social network service, Ning, has reached 100,000 networks. "On a typical social networking service, users join a single large social network designed and run by the service's owner," he writes on his blog. "Users then invite other users to join that same single large network—this is the viral adoption loop by which the network grows. On Ning, users both join existing user-created networks—one of the 100,000+ networks that already exist —and/or create their own networks. This is a double viral loop. These two viral loops feed one another: the more networks on Ning, the more users who are getting invited to join—and the more users who join, the more new networks that get created, leading to even more users being invited to join."

He has to hope so, since by all indications Ning has a lot of catching up to do to match networks like MySpace (NWS). MySpace is reported to have 70 million visitors a month; Andreessen doesn't provide such data, except to say: "As a private company we are quite happily exercising our freedom to not publish all of our internal metrics."

From the Get-Over-It Department: Facebook Could Have Stayed in Boston

A Boston Globe columnist's recent lament that Facebook and its $6 billion of value could have been the Hub's star prompts a venture capitalist's ire. "Let's face the facts," says David Aronoff of IDG Ventures in his blog. "We are not Silicon Valley, we never have been and never will be. The Red Sox eventually won the World Series (hopefully again this year), but the tech economy is not the pennant race and Silicon Valley is not the Yankees. There is a volume and scale out there that we just don't have and personally I am sick of looking in the rearview mirror for the multitude of historical reasons. Facebook didn't happen in Boston. But EMC (EMC), Akamai (AKAM), Genzyme (GENZ), Netezza (NZ), Equalogic, and a host of other world class companies did."

Emerging Qualities of Leadership?

In a recent book, Apples Are Square (Kaplan Publishing; July, 2007), the "control and compete" approach of many entrepreneurs is replaced by a softer set of leadership qualities: service, humility, compassion, transparency, and inclusiveness, among other traits. Authors Susan Smith Kuczmarski and Thomas D. Kuczmarski gain credibility by virtue of having interviewed leaders ranging from entrepreneur Craig Newmark of Craigslist to Chicago dance center founder Joel Hall to bandleader Susan Anton. The book makes an effective case for risk-taking within a framework of humanity.

Old Entrepreneurs Don't Just Fade Away—This One Dances with the Stars

Mark Cuban, star entrepreneur of the 1990s and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, writes on his blog that his success as a contestant on ABC's Dancing with the Stars "…will be one small step toward bringing couples out of their chairs and onto the dance floors where man and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, and any combination thereof, can proudly do the dances that we guys excel at."

David Gumpert is a journalist who blogs reports regularly about the business of health and has written a number of books about small business and entrepreneurship, including Burn Your Business Plan! He writes his What Entrepreneurs Need to Know columnevery other week.

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