Gina Bianchini is an expert in creating smarter social networks online and in the real world. She is the founder and CEO of Mightybell where you can create your own social network with your purpose, your people and your content. Before Mightybell, Bianchini and Marc Andreessen co-founded Ning, the largest social platform for communities of interests online.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Three things pop to mind:
1. My mother instilling in me a desire to be relentlessly curious, respectful of others and as kind as possible has served me very well. I am continually amazed and excited by how unique and interesting people are when you listen, especially those who build things.
2. The opportunity to play team sports at a competitive level. Playing team sports - in my case, field hockey - left me with a permanent "peripheral vision" for where people are on a project team. In running small or large teams, thinking about the system of people, not just the individuals, has been an advantage. Oh, and the training to work hard didn't hurt.
3. My father dying suddenly when I was 11. I learned that I can handle (almost) anything and I am nothing if not resilient.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Mightybell?
At my last company, Ning, I discovered my passion: to help people meet the people they should know around their interests, passions and goals.
The desire to create a place where people can come and find a social network just for them has taken me on a journey to deliver something both hard and incredibly valuable.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Mightybell?
Unlocking a great product is a process of rapid experimentation, a ton of failure and finding the bright spots to focus on and build up until it takes over everything you are doing. If you don't think that is a challenging process, then you have never done a start-up!
The first version of Mightybell in 2011 didn't work. It looked great, but it was too hard to use. We learned to simplify options while giving people more room to be creative.
The second version of Mightybell was much closer and now we've been in a beta process for the past year and a half working closely with some great organizations to create together new, smarter social networks for meeting the people that you should know, not those already in your address book.
How have Mightybell's partnerships with organizations including Lean In, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and American Express changed your company?
We are indebted to these organizations for co-creating Mightybell with us during our beta period. We would not be able to move as fast or learn as much as quickly as we have without working closely to create smarter social networks that create a context for the people most important to these organizations.
We could not have asked for better partners.
What advice would you give to women who are looking to make an impact online, specifically within social media?
Whatever your goal, stay focused on all the ways you can engage people in your orbit today and those you want to meet in the future with something of value.
Yelling the same message at people over and over again isn't valuable. Neither is a soliloquy about how you were wronged by United Airlines or the rude waiter at the restaurant where you just ate. While people may respond in support of you, have you really moved the world forward?
Rather, how about introducing people who should know each other to each other? How about organizing an event in real life or a virtual chat online with people who would love to build a relationship?
The true power of social media is access to more people like you all over the world. We can do something great with that when we move beyond the world where you're talking to your followers and your followers are talking back to you, but no one is talking to each other.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
While I would not describe work/life balance as an area of strength, I love history, documentaries and spending time with people who are truly masters of what they do. I make time for all three of those things each week. Oh, and the occasional workout.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I don't think that there is one big glaring issue, but rather a ton of small issues that add up to a unique set of challenges for women in the workplace.
I do think the world would be a better place if we start conversations about women as 50% of the population with the classic improv device of "yes, and" when it comes to other women.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I am more grateful for sponsorship in my career. The people who used financial and political capital on my behalf will forever have a loyal advocate, even if they are no longer in my day-to-day life.
I think there is too much emphasis on mentorship and not nearly enough on the value of finding sponsors. Or, better yet, being one to another person.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
The list is too long to mention here, but what they all have in common is their resilience and never quitting.
What are your hopes for the future of Mightybell, particularly as the platform is now open to all individuals and organizations?
Mightybell seeks to introduce you to people you need to know and provide a way to get to know new people around the things you care about the most. This is the core reason people join social networks with a purpose: to capture new things they learn and learn from people like them. We think there is an opportunity to make social networks smarter for organizations and envision a world where all the small business owners, teachers, people learning to code, new dads and passionate triathletes have a place just for them.