Friday, March 11, 2011

The Accidental Billionaires- The Founding of Facebook by Ben Mezrich

I was recommended this book by my neighbor, Kaushal and it proved to be awesome! Thanks Kaushal!
Ben Mezrich has created a fast paced documentary book that is unique in style of writing and pace; he calls it as the tale of sex, money, genius and betrayal! What a combination? I guess most of the greed in business world has some flavor of this mix in varying percentages. It will be good to create an algorithm of this based on historic research of start-ups and enterprises; we will know the exact percentages. This book is a smart chronological collection of interviews, secondary research who were involved with Mark Zuckerberg in some way or the other; this is packaged in a great story! For non-digital natives, Mark Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook, the world’s most popular social networking site, youngest billionaire and the youngest TIME person of the year, 2010 [,28804,2036683_2037183_2037185-1,00.html]. This book talks about his journey from Harvard dorm room, the vision of social networking, the concept of Facebook, the whole viral way in which it took off and finally the ruthless focus and agility that Mark brought to FB!
I finished it in one shot and it was a sort of déjà vu for me for multiple reasons- It is an ‘interesting’ book [stealing from Mark’s words] which was made in a movie called “the social network’.
The plot and the characters are very simple- Mark’s classmates in Harvard are Eduardo Saverin, Winklevoss brothers and Divya Narendra. Plus there is this legendary Sean Parker [of Napster and Plaxo fame] who acquaints Mark and influences his move from Harvard to Silicon Valley. Mark joins Harvard and he is socially awkward; the irony is hard to miss- From being a socially awkward kid, he moves on to create the biggest social network of the century and is the TIME person of the year to have 500 million users in Facebook!! Behind every great fortune, there lies a great crime- In this case; it was a prank for Mark and he went on to create the revolution. Basically Mark got rejected by a girl and he went on hacking the entire Harvard directory [all pictures] and created a website called ‘face mash’. Face Mash concept was simple- People could vote the hottest girls in the campus and maybe some of the girls faces would be put next to farm animals so that people can vote which one is attractive. Within 72 hours, the whole voting of girls became viral and facemash had logged 22K votes- This created a huge sensation within Harvard and Mark was featured in the Harvard Crimson primarily for even suggesting the fact that he wanted to compare girls with farm animals and of course for hacking all the pictures from the Harvard database illegally. The Harvard ad-board gave a warning and probation to Mark on this incident- The face mash was the trigger for FB and ‘Looking for, Relationship Status, Interested In’ was the genius for FB and the heart of any college experience or college life. A computer program could actually get you a date and get you laid!!
Simultaneously, the Winkelwoss brothers and Divya had been working on an idea called Harvard Connect later renamed as ConnectU- They wanted to finalize the last bit of programming and wanted Mark’s help to finish that. Mark listened to them fully and procrastinated them for 8 weeks and created Facebook -launched it using Eduardo Saverin’s seed money for servers. There are infinite numbers of designs for a chair but that does not mean anyone making a chair is stealing from someone else- That was Mark’s argument against Winklevoss twins law suit on stealing their idea of ConnectU.
Along the way, this book also gives a sneak peak on Harvard clubs, the history, tradition around it- The whole campus life is interesting and the unpredictable mind of Mark. He used the Harvard Connect idea; he used Saverin’s seed money, used Sean Parker’s contact to get the initial VC money all along when he was GROWING up from 21 years!! The focus and ruthlessness of Mark comes in the angle where he chopped off Eduardo, Sean Parker in a clinical manner. Mark’s behavior was best illustrated by his business card- ‘I’m CEO-Bitch’
PS: Winklevoss brothers won the lawsuit and they settled at USD 65 Mn. Eduardo has an impending lawsuit and his name as a cofounder of FB is reinstated

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