Andreessen-founded Ning cuts staff, free service

Uh-oh. Just a month after Gina Bianchini, co-founder of build-a-social-network service Ning, departed the company, it’s cutting 40 percent of its staff and axing its free, ad-supported service, CNet reports. Bianchini had co-founded Ning with Valley legend Marc Andreessen, and it had raised $119 million in venture capital, including a whopping $60 million round in early 2008 that Andreessen famously characterized as a stockpile for the “nuclear winter” that would help get it through the economic recession. Jason Rosenthal, the Ning COO who took over as CEO from Bianchini, sent an eMail memo to company staffers on April 15 that somebody forwarded to industry blog TechCrunch. He explained that Ning will be focusing on premium networks–which come with additional features and are not ad-supported–because that’s where the company’s business successes have been, thus far. “We are going to change our strategy to devote 100 percent of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity,” Rosenthal’s memo explained after detailing the success of a number of its paid networks. “We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning.” The company’s staff reduction will take it from 167 to 98 employees…

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