Every week The Grindstone interviews an influential woman in the world of business. We scour our brains and hearts to come up with strong, successful women who not only inspire us, but will also inspire you. No industry is off limits, no interview subject too controversial.
When I think of top female entrepreneurs who have helped change the face of Silicon Valley, I think of Gina Bianchini. And so does CNNMoney, Fast Company (of which she has graced the cover), Fortune and Huffington Post. Obviously, we all can’t be wrong. Plus, I have firsthand knowledge that this woman knows how to create a chill atmosphere. At the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise Symposium (WIE) she moderated a panel called “Women’s Internet Entrepreneurs: Is There A Woman’s Ghetto?” Instead of a typical panel in which the four speakers sit at a table in the front of the room while the audience sits in the back row, Bianchini decided to change it up and have everyone form a big circle and go around and introduce themselves. The women discussed various topics brought up by both Bianchini and the audience which was made up of mostly budding entrepreneurs of all different ages and backgrounds. She also introduced me to the phrase, “A lot of people call your baby ugly in the start-up world,” which will stay with me forever.
Besides coming up with great catch phrases, she is one smart lady. After graduating with honors from Stanford University and earning her M.B.A from Stanford Business School she went on to become a tech analyst at Goldman Sachs. She has also held positions directly responsible for acquisitions, IPOs and corporate development at CKS Group and she was Co-founder and President of Harmonic Communications.
In 2004 Gina and Marc Andreessen founded Ning, the world’s largest platform for creating social websites. If you want to find out more about Ning watch this great interview Gina did with Charlie Rose back in 2010.
After five and a half years as the chief executive of Ning, Gina decided to step down. After after a brief stint as an EIR (Executive in Residence), Bianchini started Mightybell in late 2010. Mightybell is based on the idea that “success comes from thinking big, but acting incrementally,” and so the platform allows you to create and share an “experience.” For example, if you’re exploring a new hobby you could follow an expert or enthusiast and read their blogs, status messages, see their photos and watch videos on how they achieved a particular goal. “Mightybell seeks to offer creators, instigators, bloggers, organizers, operatives, entertainers, artists, teachers, guides, and everyone’s alpha friend a simple way to take new social technologies and turn them into better, more compelling experiences for people in the real world. It’s the obvious next step in social media,” said Bianchini in a statement. The start-up raised $2.1 million in seed funding led by Floodgate and First Round Capital as well as “a handful” of angel investors.
We were lucky enough to get to chat with Gina about all the great, and not so great, stuff that comes with being a successful entrepreneur and not worrying too much about being a woman in this business.
Did you picture yourself in a career like this growing up?
Depends on when I picture myself actually. When I was little, I wanted to be a truck driver because of Smokey and the Bandit and a bartender because of afternoon television commercials for a bartending school on our local Bay Area station. Big dreams, I know.
As I got older, I wanted to do something – anything – that had an impact on the world. So I thought about running a big non-profit or starting my own company. Turns out the company piece was a great fit for my passions and goals.
What is the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?
I’d actually flip this question. Everything is hard about being an entrepreneur. It’s probably more interesting to think about what’s easy about being an entrepreneur.
The most fun, exciting, and amazing part about being an entrepreneur is dreaming up a world that you want to live in that doesn’t exist yet. It’s this passion and vision that keeps a certain type of ambitious entrepreneur going through the ups and downs of what is a long, hard journey.
How do you deal with the work life balance struggle?
I love to full immerse myself in the things that I love to do, so I don’t look at the goal as balance. I look at it as fully realizing my mission, which, at its core, is to give people new and innovative ways of realizing their interests, passions, and goals through social software.
What are some of your biggest challenges and how do you deal with them in your career?
Everyday is a challenge and that’s universal for each of us. The key behavior of a successful person is to just keep going and treat every day as day one. Those that can shake off past mistakes, learn from them, and just keep at their goals despite highs and lows are the ones that are ultimately successful. I want to live like this.
Can you tell us about things you have done you considered to be a failure in your career and how you learned from them?
How much time do you have? Seriously, I make mistakes and fail all the time. In fact, the people I admire the most as entrepreneurs have had just as many failures as they have had successes. The key is to just keep going, which is hard when you have incredibly high standards and want to be perfect at all times. But, the reality is that perfect people are boring. I prefer colorful, opinionated, passionate people who are flawed and have the courage to fail on the way to realizing their larger mission.