Author Archives: pmarca

Ning passes 200,000 social networks

Today I’m delighted to announce that Ning just crossed 200,000 social networks for the first time!

For those of you new to this blog, Ning is my third company, cofounded with Gina Bianchini. We enable you to create your own social network for anything — in two minutes, for free. Think of it as creating your own MySpace, Facebook, or Youtube — but around any topic you want, with whatever set of features you want, and as public or private as you want.

People are using Ning today to create and run social networks around practically every topic you can possibly think of.

And as of today, they (you) have created more than 200,000 networks on Ning.


What’s the significance of 200,000 social networks to Ning?

Number of networks is our primary public metric, both because it’s important in its own right — the more networks on Ning, the more new people who are drawn to Ning to join an existing network and then perhaps create networks of their own — and because it’s a leading indicator of overall usage of Ning.

We’re experiencing 0.5%+ day-over-day growth of number of networks on Ning, which means that we’re adding more than 1,000 new networks per day — and that’s accelerating.

In fact, at our current growth rate, we’ll cross 300,000 networks in a matter of weeks.

Based both on this rapid creation of new networks and rapidly increasing use of existing networks, we are seeing even stronger growth in number of registered users (1.0%+ per day) and page views (1.5%+ per day), as well as uniques.

Here are some additional interesting facts that come out of this:


  • Over 70% of the networks on Ning are active, as defined by “used in the last 30 days”. This is a considerably higher percentage than we would have thought when we created the service, given that we make it so easy to create a network that you can do it in two minutes, for free — I would have assumed there would be more throwaways. It turns out that people really like using social networks!


  • As that “70% active” statistic indicates, the long tail is most definitely alive and well on Ning — activity on the system as a whole is spread out broadly across the base of active networks. This continues even as the largest networks on Ning are getting much larger than ever before.


  • There are now more — actually, a lot more — social networks on Ning than there are on the rest of the Internet in total, including all of the other services that let you create your own social network combined (i.e., all of our honorable competitors combined).


  • Our growth rate continues to accelerate as the overall penetration of social networking across the Internet expands. As more and more people all over the world use social networking — including the big one-size-fits-all social networking services that many people use first — people become more interested in creating and using their own social networks for many topics that they care about. This is a very large market, and it’s growing very fast.


  • Finally, fewer than 1% of our current networks fall into the adult category — a number that’s frankly surprisingly low, but one with which we’re just fine.

If you’ve never experienced Ning, feel free to give it a shot by either going to theNing home page — from which you can create your own social network with a few clicks — or explore the Ning Blog to see lots of examples of social networks on Ning.

Disney’s Bob Iger beams a message back to 2001

Makin’ progress, makin’ progress…

Proclaiming the web “just as important as TV” for kids, Disney CEO Robert Iger urged fellow executives on Wednesday to join the digital revolution–or hire people who can.

“Hire new people,” Iger declared to nervous laughter during a morning keynote…

Iger also impelled media companies and marketers to shed their protectionist [hostile, enraged, psychotic, litigious, counterproductive, foaming-at-the-mouth] stances on new and emerging technologies. “Most classic brand managers look at technology with a deep-rooted aversion [fear, loathing, dismay, anger, denial, Future Shock],” Iger said.

“Technology is good,” he said [shortly before he was hit by a mysterious lightning strike from above], explaining how it allows brands to distribute more broadly, and to be more relevant in the marketplace. “You have to keep the consumer in mind and use technology to do that.”

Beyond corporate strategy, Iger took time on Wednesday to regale the audience of new- and old-media types with his personal adventures in online media.

He admitted to having a Facebook page, but only two friends in the hot social network.

“It’s important for executives to experience all of this,” Iger said…

Iger said his presence was more established within Club Penguin, the virtual world for kids that Disney acquired last August.

“I’ve got some pretty cool stuff in my igloo”–which, he said, boasts a flat-screen TV, a fireplace, and a basketball hoop. “I’ve never been to an igloo with a basketball hoop, which is pretty great.”

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the space/time continuum, the 2015 Bob Iger is giving another speech: “The web is way more important than TV for kids.”

[Source: Online Media Daily.]

I am so disappointed to discover that the Carlyle Group doesn’t actually run the world

There goes another illusion shattered.

Hat tip to Paul Kedrosky for pointing out the choice sentence in the story:

The secret to making money was borrowing massive sums.

You don’t say.

The story:

Carlyle Capital Corp. said late Wednesday that it expects that its lenders will seize its assets, causing the likely liquidation of the fund. “Although it has been working diligently with its lenders, the Company has not been able to reach a mutually beneficial agreement to stabilize its financing,” the fund said in a statement. [Well, thank heavens they were “working diligently” and not just slacking off.]

The fund’s likely collapse is a major black eye for Carlyle Group, the powerful Washington, D.C.-based private-equity firm whose executives own 15% of the fund [but not a big enough black eye that they felt the need to put up more capital and bail it out]…

The news comes just one week after Carlyle Group had pleaded with some of the world’s largest banks to hold off on margin calls and the liquidation of its mortgage assets. Several of the lenders, led by Deustche Bank and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. ignored Carlyle’s request. Wednesday night, they began selling the fund’s $21.7 billion in mortgage securities, which were committed as collateral against huge borrowings.

By Monday, dealers had sold $5.7 billion of the fund’s $21.7 billion in assets, which were committed as collateral against huge borrowings.

Other dealers that sold off Carlyle Capital’s collateral included Merrill Lynch & Co. and Bear Stearns Cos., according to people familiar with the fund. But some other dealers who didn’t sell, including Citigroup Inc., had hoped to resolve the fund’s crisis amicably.

The fund’s collapse shows how Wall Street’s biggest players have begun playing hardball with some of their best clients. And they reveal how jittery banks have become about their own loan exposures. In the case of Carlyle, 12 banks had lent the fund about $21 billion, or $20 for every dollar of initial capital.

[Here’s the really cool part:] It also illustrates how the credit crunch has moved far beyond subprime mortgages. Carlyle Capital’s portfolio consisted exclusively of $21.7 billion of triple-AAA mortgage backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They are considered to have the implied guarantee of the U.S. government and pay par at maturity.

Carlyle Capital’s investment strategy looked like easy money at first. The fund would exploit the difference between the interest earned on its investments in mortgage securities and the costs of financing those investments. [What could possibly go wrong?]

The secret to making money was borrowing massive sums. Carlyle Capital managed only $670 million in client money, but used borrowings to boost its portfolio of bonds to $21.7 billion. Until the dealers started selling off the fund’s collateral, it was about 32 times leveraged, a level one mortgage-company analyst called “astronomical.”

[Source: Wall Street Journal.]

Life lessons from Client #9

In a interview two years ago, [Eliot] Spitzer, then-attorney general [and now governor, at least for the next few minutes], told ABC News he had some advice for people who break the law.

“Never talk when you can nod, and never nod when you can wink, and never write an email because it’s death. You’re giving prosecutors all the evidence we need,” he said.

[Source: ABC News.]

At approximately 8:12 p.m… LEWIS [the madam] received a call from Client-9 [Spitzer]. During the call, LEWIS told Client-9 that the “package” [cash] did not arrive today. LEWIS asked Client-9 if there was a return address on the envelope, and Client-9 said no. LEWIS asked: “You had [the correct address]…,” and Client-9 said: “Yup, same as in the past, no question about it.” LEWIS asked Client-9 what time he was interested in having the appointment [illegal hooker sex] tomorrow. Client-9 told her 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m…

At approximately 8:23 p.m., LEWIS called Client-9, and told him that the [her boss] said he [Spitzer] could not proceed with the appointment [illegal hooker sex] with his available credit. After discussing ways to resolve the situation, LEWIS and Client-9 I agreed to speak the following day…

At approximately 3:20 p.m… LEWIS… received a call from Client-9. During the call, LEWIS told Client-9 that they were still trying to determine if his deposit had arrived. Client-9 told LEWIS that he had made a reservation at the hotel, and had paid for it in his [fake] name. Client-9 said that there would be a key waiting for her, and told LEWIS that what he had on account with her covered the “transportation” (believed to be a reference to the cost of the trainfare for “Kristen” from New York to Washington, D.C.)…

At approximately 4:58 p.m… LEWIS… received an incoming call from Client-9. During the call, LEWIS told Client-9 that his package arrived today, and Client-9 said good. LEWIS asked Client-9 what time he was expecting to have the appointment. Client-9 told LEWIS maybe 10:00 p.m. or so, and asked who it was. LEWIS said it was “Kristen,” and Client-9 said “great, okay, wonderful.” LEWIS told Client-9 that she would give him a final price later, and asked Client-9 whether he could give “Kristen” “extra funds” at this appointment in order to avoid payment issues in the future. Client-9 said maybe, and that he would see if he could do that. LEWIS explained that the agency did not want a model accepting funds for a future appointment, but that she was going to make an exception that way a deposit could be made so that he would have a credit, and they would not have to “go through this” next time. Client-9 said perfect, and that he would call her regarding the room number…

[During the next phone call] Client-9 asked LEWIS to remind him what ‘Kristen” looked like, and LEWIS said that she was an American, petite, very pretty brunette, 5 feet 5 inches, and 105 pounds. Client-9 said that she should go straight to [hotel room] 871…

Well, at least he didn’t write any emails.

[Source: Federal indictment of the prostitution ring used by Eliot Spitzer.]

An hour and a half with Barack Obama

I’ve tried very hard to keep politics out of this blog — despite nearly overpowering impulses to the contrary — for two reasons: one, there’s no reason to alienate people who don’t share my political views, as wrong-headed as those people may clearly be; two, there’s no reason to expect my opinion on political issues should be any more valid than any other reader of what, these days, passes for the New York Times.

That said, in light of the extraordinary events playing out around us right now in the runup to the presidential election, I would like to share with you a personal experience that I was lucky enough to have early last year.

Early in 2007, a friend of mine who is active in both high-tech and politics called me up and said, let’s go see this first-term Senator, Barack Obama, who’s ramping up to run for President.

And so we did — my friend, my wife Laura, and me — and we were able to meet privately with Senator Obama for an hour and a half.

The reason I think you may find this interesting is that our meeting in early 2007 was probably one of the last times Senator Obama was able to spend an hour and a half sitting down and talking with just about anyone — so I think we got a solid look at what he’s like up close, right before he entered the “bubble” within which all major presidential candidates, and presidents, must exist.

Let me get disclaimers out of the way: my only involvement with the Democratic presidential campaigns is as an individual donor — after meeting with the Senator, my wife and I both contributed the maximum amount of “hard money” we could to the Obama campaign, less than $10,000 total for both the primary and the general election. On the other hand, we also donated to Mitt Romney’s Republican primary effort — conclude from that what you will.

I carried four distinct impressions away from our meeting with Senator Obama.

First, this is a normal guy.

I’ve spent time with a lot of politicians in the last 15 years. Most of them talk at you. Listening is not their strong suit — in fact, many of them aren’t even very good at faking it.

Senator Obama, in contrast, comes across as a normal human being, with a normal interaction style, and a normal level of interest in the people he’s with and the world around him.

We were able to have an actual, honest-to-God conversation, back and forth, on a number of topics. In particular, the Senator was personally interested in the rise of social networking, Facebook, Youtube, and user-generated content, and casually but persistently grilled us on what we thought the next generation of social media would be and how social networking might affect politics — with no staff present, no prepared materials, no notes. He already knew a fair amount about the topic but was very curious to actually learn more. We also talked about a pretty wide range of other issues, including Silicon Valley and various political topics.

With most politicians, their curiosity ends once they find out how much money you can raise for them. Not so with Senator Obama — this is a normal guy.

Second, this is a smart guy.

I bring this up for two reasons. One, Senator Obama’s political opponents tend to try to paint him as some kind of lightweight, which he most definitely is not. Two, I think he’s at or near the top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in political life today.

You can see how smart he is in his background — for example, lecturer in constitutional law at University of Chicago; before that, president of the Harvard Law Review.

But it’s also apparent when you interact with him that you’re dealing with one of the intellectually smartest national politicians in recent times, at least since Bill Clinton. He’s crisp, lucid, analytical, and clearly assimilates and synthesizes a very large amount of information — smart.

Third, this is not a radical.

This is not some kind of liberal revolutionary who is intent on throwing everything up in the air and starting over.

Put the primary campaign speeches aside; take a look at his policy positions on any number of issues and what strikes you is how reasonable, moderate, and thoughtful they are.

And in person, that’s exactly what he’s like. There’s no fire in the eyes to realize some utopian or revolutionary dream. Instead, what comes across — in both his questions and his answers — is calmness, reason, and judgment.

Fourth, this is the first credible post-Baby Boomer presidential candidate.

The Baby Boomers are best defined as the generation that came of age during the 1960’s — whose worldview and outlook was shaped by Vietnam plus the widespread social unrest and change that peaked in the late 1960’s.

Post-Boomers are those of us, like me, who came of age in the 1970’s or 1980’s — after Vietnam, after Nixon, after the “sexual revolution” and the cultural wars of the 1960’s.

One of the reasons Senator Obama comes across as so fresh and different is that he’s the first serious presidential candidate who isn’t either from the World War II era (Reagan, Bush Sr, Dole, and even McCain, who was born in 1936) or from the Baby Boomer generation (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, and George W. Bush).

He’s a post-Boomer.

Most of the Boomers I know are still fixated on the 1960’s in one way or another — generally in how they think about social change, politics, and the government.

It’s very clear when interacting with Senator Obama that he’s totally focused on the world as it has existed since after the 1960’s — as am I, and as is practically everyone I know who’s younger than 50.

What’s the picture that emerges from these four impressions?

Smart, normal, curious, not radical, and post-Boomer.

If you were asking me to write a capsule description of what I would look for in the next President of the United States, that would be it.

Having met him and then having watched him for the last 12 months run one of the best-executed and cleanest major presidential campaigns in recent memory, I have no doubt that Senator Obama has the judgment, bearing, intellect, and high ethical standards to be an outstanding president — completely aside from the movement that has formed around him, and in complete contradition to the silly assertions by both the Clinton and McCain campaigns that he’s somehow not ready.

Before I close, let me share two specific things he said at the time — early 2007 — on the topic of whether he’s ready.

We asked him directly, how concerned should we be that you haven’t had meaningful experience as an executive — as a manager and leader of people?

He said, watch how I run my campaign — you’ll see my leadership skills in action.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to make of his answer — political campaigns are often very messy and chaotic, with a lot of turnover and flux; what conclusions could we possibly draw from one of those?

Well, as any political expert will tell you, it turns out that the Obama campaign has been one of the best organized and executed presidential campaigns in memory. Even Obama’s opponents concede that his campaign has been disciplined, methodical, and effective across the full spectrum of activities required to win — and with a minimum of the negative campaigning and attack ads that normally characterize a race like this, and with almost no staff turnover. By almost any measure, the Obama campaign has simply out-executed both the Clinton and McCain campaigns.

This speaks well to the Senator’s ability to run a campaign, but speaks even more to his ability to recruit and manage a top-notch group of campaign professionals and volunteers — another key leadership characteristic. When you compare this to the awe-inspiring discord, infighting, and staff turnover within both the Clinton and McCain campaigns up to this point — well, let’s just say it’s a very interesting data point.

We then asked, well, what about foreign policy — should we be concerned that you just don’t have much experience there?

He said, directly, two things.

First, he said, I’m on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where I serve with a number of Senators who are widely regarded as leading experts on foreign policy — and I can tell you that I know as much about foreign policy at this point as most of them.

Being a fan of blunt answers, I liked that one.

But then he made what I think is the really good point.

He said — and I’m going to paraphrase a little here: think about who I am — my father was Kenyan; I have close relatives in a small rural village in Kenya to this day; and I spent several years of my childhood living in Jakarta, Indonesia. Think about what it’s going to mean in many parts of the world — parts of the world that we really care about — when I show up as the President of the United States. I’ll be fundamentally changing the world’s perception of what the United States is all about.

He’s got my vote.