The Accidental Billionaires The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich is the basis for the movie The Social Network. As usual, although the movie was great, the book is better than the movie. Although the title implies that it will treat all of Facebooks’ founders equally, Ben Mezrich mostly zeroes in on everyone’s favorite young billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg.
After reading the book, I had the distinct impression that Mark Zuckerberg was not only as brilliant as he was made out to be, he had no qualms stealing ideas and forgetting his friends.
As in The Social Network, the book opens up with a younger Mark Zuckerberg blogging late into the night after a bad date. He started drinking beer and scheming about how to find a way to create a website database which would allow Harvard’s students the ability to rate the women on Harvards’ campus by comparing them to each other and possibly to farm animals. (Charming, Mark.) The industrious young hacker/computer programmer found a way to create the site and stole the pics of the unsuspecting women on campus.
He succeeded. And of course, women’s groups at Harvard complained and he shut down the site.
Soon after, he was approached by the Winkelvoss twins with the idea of a social networking site—the Harvard Connect. As Ben Mezrich describes it in The Accidental Billionaires describes it, Mark Zuckerberg listened to their idea, agreed to do it, and didn’t follow through.
Instead, Mark Zuckerberg chose to create thefacebook—which was later changed to Facebook by Napster co-founder Sean Parker because the “the” bugged him—with Eduardo Saverin who provided the original business expertise and some funds.
If the perspective in The Accidental Billionaires is correct, the two big problems that I have with Mark Zuckerberg are as follows:
1. After learning about the Winkelvoss’ twins’ idea for the Harvard Connect, he created Facebook, which was pretty much the same thing. He also intentionally mis-led the twins about Harvard Connect by letting them think that he was still working on their project.
2. After moving to California to work on Facebook with Sean Parker, Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker got more funding for Facebook—ostensibly to cover legal fees. While this was a step in the right direction for Facebook, Eduardo Saverin’s original shares in the company were diluted. According to Eduardo Saverin, this was done without his permission.
So, it would appear that in addition to being a cocky billionaire, Mark Zuckerberg is also untrustworthy.