A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayalbibliotecapleyades.net | Jan 2nd 2010
But, somewhere between the article in the Harvard Crimson in 2004 and Zuckerbergs rise to billionaire status, there is a tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal.
What exactly that story is, the facts and the events that transpired? Well, that is the memories of the aggregate of participants. Writing the history of Facebook is a historians task of sorting out fact from fiction in primary and secondary sources.
In parallel with Ben Mezrich’s book, as a “dramatic, narrative account“, there are a large number of attempts to tell the story in less prosaic format. One such story appeared in Rolling Stone.
Highlights from the 8 page Rolling Stone article cited at the end of this posting
from Rolling Stone June 26, 2008
The courses didn’t help him much with his personal life.
Sitting alone in his dorm room that night in 2003, Zuckerberg had just been jilted by a girl. He started drinking and once again sought solace in the realm that never let him down. Logging on to his blog, he created an entry titled “Harvard Face Mash: The Process.”
His plan was as simple as it was vindictive: create a site called Facemash.com, hack into Harvard’s directory, download photographs of his classmates and post them online next to photos of farm animals to rate who was more desirable.
He began like any other hurt schoolboy.
“Jessica A -is a bitch,” he wrote. “I need to think of something to take my mind off her. I need to think of something to occupy my mind. Easy enough, now I just need an idea.”
At 11:09 p.m., invention was in full swing:
“Yea, it’s on. I’m not exactly sure how the farm animals are going to fit into this whole thing (you can’t really ever be sure with farm animals...), but I like the idea of comparing two people together.”
Zuckerberg wasn’t the only student at Harvard exploring the Web’s potential for bringing people together. All over campus, students were thinking up ways to use this new tool to make online the personal connections that seemed to elude them in real life.
“Networking is a time-honored practice at Harvard, going back to FDR,” says Lawrence Summers. “It was waiting to happen. It was a wave of the next Internet thing and a group of very talented, social people. All innovators are great adapters to social need.”
Ten months before Zuckerberg launched Facemash, a Harvard junior named Divya Narendra had come up with the idea of creating a social network aimed at college students.
Narendra went to two of his dormmates, identical twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, and told them he had an idea for an online community for Harvard students, with access granted only to those with a college e-mail address. The twins instantly recognized the idea’s potential.
Throughout 2003, Narendra and the twins worked on the site, hiring several fellow students to help them code it. But by that fall, the site still wasn’t finished. Then, in November, the entrepreneurs, who’d heard about the rise and fall of Zuckerberg’s Facemash, decided to contact the programming prodigy and catch some of his computing heat.
According to Zuckerberg, he enlisted one of his closest friends, Eduardo Saverin, who shared his dorm suite, to think about how to incorporate the site.
On January 12th, while he was still ostensibly working for Harvard Connection, Zuckerberg e-mailed Saverin and told him the Facebook site was almost complete and it was time to discuss marketing strategies. They each agreed to invest $1,000 in the site, with Zuckerberg owning two-thirds of the company.
Unencumbered by class work, Zuckerberg plowed ahead with his new project, isolating and exhausting himself. Facebook launched on February 4th, 2004.
“If I hadn’t launched it that day,” he told the Crimson, “I was about to just can it and go on to the next thing.”
But Zuckerberg’s burgeoning success online did little to stop him from burning those closest to him in real life.
After school ended, he packed a bag and took a plane to California. In his eyes, Silicon Valley was “sort of a mythical place for a startup.” Taking a leave of absence from Harvard, like Bill Gates before him, Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto in the summer of 2004. His goal was to take his extraordinarily popular Website to the next level.
He and Saverin each agreed to invest another $20,000 in the operation. While Zuckerberg was in California, Saverin stayed behind in New York. That decision would prove ill-advised.
In July, Zuckerberg and Saverin had a mysterious falling out. Zuckerberg has filed a lawsuit, claiming Saverin jeopardized the company by freezing Facebook’s bank accounts.
Saverin countersued, claiming that Zuckerberg never matched his $20,000 in seed money and, further, used that money for personal expenses.
That summer, Zuckerberg transferred all intellectual-property rights and membership interests to a new version of the company in Delaware. The value of Saverin’s stock was unhinged from any further growth of Facebook, and Saverin was expunged as an employee.
Not long after the incident, Cameron Winklevoss ran into Saverin in a bar in New York. Saverin, Winklevoss said in a deposition, apologized to him.
“Sorry that he screwed you,” Saverin allegedly said. “Mark screwed me, too.”
“He’s young - and I’m nervous about that,” says Kara Swisher, a columnist who writes about Silicon Valley for The Wall Street Journal. “How many people has he burned, and he’s only 24? Even if he’s not culpable, the number of people he’s had problems with at a young age is remarkable - and not in a good way.”
What to learn from all this…
The story of the two Asian girls at the Harvard lecture who found the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg more interesting than the lecture by Bill Gates may be fact of fiction. Nonetheless, it could have happened and it makes a good story.
What is certain is that between 2004 and 2008, Mark Zuckerberg became a billionaire - and others did not.
Along with Mark becoming a billionaire, the Facebook user community grew from several hundred users at Harvard to 350 million users globally.
Is success so much about randomness, luck, and chance?
Is success so much about randomness, luck, and chance - being at the right place at the right time with the right skills and the tenacity to pursue and refine a vision. Mark Zuckerberg just happened to be the person - and Facebook, the opportunity.
One could ask the same question about Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, and Steve Wozniak and the personal computer revolution of the 1970′s.
Were these folks of particular genius or where they just in the right place at the right time while the inevitable confluence and convergence of technology, unmet need, events, and idea assembled before them as if it fell from the sky and landed at their feet before them.
Did they have a choice in the matter? Was the computer revolution going to happen no matter what - and Gates, Allen, Jobs, and Wozniak just happen to be the “unlucky” folks that were destined to carry it through - not by choice but by circumstance?
And, through any means possible - “the end justifies the means”.
An Accident… - waiting to happen
The “Accidental” in “Accidental Billionaires” - the title of the book, might be the exact right term. From the article in the Harvard Crimson…
“While Zuckerberg promised that thefacebook.com would boast new features by the end of the week, he said that he did not create the website with the intention of generating revenue.”
“There is a new kind of Internet Emerging…”
Maybe it was “in the air”. But the fundamental change that Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, and other social networking sites brought about was a new way of looking at the Internet.
It was the fall of 2003, and the World Wide Web was just beginning its love affair with social networking.
That month, Fortune wrote,
“There may be a new kind of Internet emerging - one more about connecting people to people than people to Websites.”
Connecting people to people rather than connecting people to websites was the fundamental change in the global internet perception.
This fundamental change was endorsed by the 350 million people on Facebook.
The cost of entrepreneurship
"If there’s going to be another Bill Gates,” says former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, “Mark is as close as anyone.”
And like Gates early in his career, Zuckerberg is facing serious allegations that his creation was based on ideas he stole from others.
In a lawsuit one judge describes as a “blood feud,” three fellow Harvard students claim Zuckerberg fleeced their idea after they hired him to code a social-networking site they were creating.
“We got royally screwed,” Divya Narendra, one of the students, has testified.
And in April, another classmate, Aaron Greenspan, filed a petition to cancel Facebook’s trademark, claiming he invented an online facebook months before Zuckerberg.
Greenspan, who has compiled reams of e-mails chronicling his months of communication with Zuckerberg, bristles at equating the Facebook prodigy with Microsoft’s founder.
“Gates was shrewd, calculating and insanely competitive, bordering on autistic,” Greenspan writes in his self-published autobiography. “Mark was inarticulate and naive."
A great entrepreneurial story & Accidents in History
Fact or “a dramatic, narrative account“, Ben Mezrich’s book is a good story.
Take a read. If anything, Merrich’s book can be a springboard to investigating the primary sources - if you so desire. If one reads these primary sources, the founding of Facebook really is a story of sex, money, genius, and betrayal.
Is Mark Zuckerberg a model of entrepreneurship to be emulated? Maybe. Perhaps if you are in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and “a new kind of internet is emerging” drops from the sky and lands at your feet - maybe you don’t have a choice in the matter. You have to do what you have to do - no matter what.
Accidents do happen. A recent casualty of such an accident was Mark Zuckerberg - number 158 on the Forbes roster of the richest Americans. According to Mezrich, the motivation for thefacebook at Harvard was - “They just wanted to meet some girls…”
Mark Zuckerberg is an “Accidental” Billionaire.
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