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Hot 20 2009: Gina Bianchini, Co-Founder of Ning

Photography by John Lee.

In many ways it was the diversity of the Bay Area itself that inspired Gina Bianchini to launch Ning.com, the social platform for the world’s interests and passions. Ning, which means peaceful in Mandarin Chinese, houses more than 1.5 million networks, with 4,500 new ones (and counting) created every day around varying topics—ranging from Twilight fanatics (183,000 members) to the Indian Premier Cricket League (713,000 members). Ning is on fire, and not just because tech-gossip blog Valleywag dubbed Bianchini a “Web 2.0 hottie;” new network creation accelerated 26 percent in July to 30 million registered users.

Bianchini believes Ning’s success lies in a natural inclination to connect with people via shared interests. “Most people have less than a 50-percent overlap between their interests and the people they already know,” says Bianchini. “Ning provides a complementary place to explore your passions.”

Bianchini got her MBA from Stanford and now lives in Palo Alto. She worked in finance at Goldman Sachs and started a Web analytics company before launching Ning with tech celebrity Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape.

The site recently opened the Ning Platform to developers and added 100 more Ning Apps—including shopping carts and live video chats—to make the experience as flexible as possible for the needs of each network. “Ning is really a testament to the fact that people are inherently unique and interesting,” Bianchini says.

“Running this company really doesn’t feel like work.”

Check out the other 2009 Hot 20.