How I discovered the Internet

August 29, 2008, 8:01 PM UTC

I’ve gotten to know Gina Bianchini. She’s the CEO of Ning, the Silicon Valley startup that supplies the infrastructure to help you build your own social networking Web site. Think Home Depot for the social-network set. The other day, she “introduced” me via e-mail to her chairman and financial backer, Marc Andreessen. I had to laugh and tell both of them that Marc and I actually had met before, though he may not remember.

Andreessen got a kick out of this when I told him: He was the first person who ever showed me the Internet. Fourteen years ago, I was out in Silicon Valley visiting his infant startup, Netscape — then called Mosaic — to report a story about America’s most successful twentysomethings. (Back then, pre-Web, not many twentysomethings were very prominent in business.) I remember so distinctly standing behind this 23-year-old kid from Iowa, as he sat at a computer and showed me a page, explaining, “See this underlined word here? That’s called hypertext. And if you click on it, it’ll take you to another page.”

In my 24 years at Fortune, this ranks as one of those very cool moments.

Andreessen went on to sell Netscape to AOL for $4.2 billion. Then he built another company, Opsware, and sold it to Hewlett-Packard . Ning is his third startup.

I also mentioned Jeff Zucker in that 1994 story. He grew up to be General Electric’s entertainment honcho and CEO of NBC Universal — and as I recall, I short-shrifted him in print until I profiled him fully last year in Fortune. To see that 1994 story, called “Don’t call me SLACKER!,” you can click here.

I’d love to find out what’s become of the other super twentysomethings I wrote about. If you read the story and know any of those folks, please let me know where they are now. Thanks and have a great Labor Day weekend!