January 02, 2010
“The girls were both Asian, pretty, and
a little overly made up for a lecture like this.
The tallest of the two had long sable
hair pulled back in a high pony tail and was wearing a short skirt
and a white shirt open one button too far down the front. Eduardo
could see wisps of her red lace bra wonderfully offset by her tan,
smooth skin. The other girl was in an equally short skirt, with a
black leggings combo that showed off some impressively sculpted
Both had bright red lipstick and too much eye shadow, but they were
damn cute - and they were smiling and pointing right at him.
Well, at him and Mark. The taller of the girls leaned forward over
the empty seat and whispered in his ear.
“Your friend - isn’t that Mark
Eduardo raised his eyebrows.
“You know Mark?” There was a first
time for everything.
“No, but didn’t he make Facebook?”
Eduardo felt a tingle of excitement move
through him, as he felt the warmth of her breath against his ear, as
he breathed in her perfume.
“Yeah. I mean, Facebook, it’s both
of ours - mine and his.”
“Wow that’s really cool,” the girl said. “My name is Kelly. This
Other people in the girls’ row were
looking now. But they didn’t seem angry that the whispers were
interrupting their enjoyment of Bill Gates. Eduardo saw someone
pointing, then another kid whisper something to a friend.
Then more pointing - but not at him, at
When Mark Zuckerberg
became more interesting than Bill Gates
There is a first time for everything.
The scene quoted above is set at a lecture at
Harvard University. Bill Gates is at the podium speaking. But, according to
the story, more interesting than Bill Gates is a student - Mark Zuckerberg.
And who is Mark Zuckerberg? One of the co-founders of Facebook. The story
above, is the way things were in 2004, at least, as told by Ben Mezrich in
the book: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of
Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal.
The Accidental Billionaires has gotten nearly universal bad reviews at
The common consensus of Ben Mezrrich’s book is
that it is mostly a work of fiction. In fact, you get what you get. And, if
you read the first page of the book, Ben tells you as much.
“The Accidental Billionaires is a dramatic,
narrative account based on dozens of interviews, hundreds of sources,
and thousands of pages of documents, including records from several
Noticeably absent from Ben’s book is a direct
contribution by Mark Zuckerberg.
Whatever the real facts of the founding of Facebook, sometime between a 2004
article in the Harvard Crimson by staff writer Alan Tabak and 2008 - 4 short
years later - Mark Zuckerberg, a “socially inept computer geek”, became a
The Harvard Crimson in 2004
On February 9, 2004 from the
Published on Monday, February 09, 2004
Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website
Facemash creator seeks new reputation
with latest online project
by ALAN J. TABAK
Crimson Staff Writer
When Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06 grew impatient with the creation of an
official universal Harvard facebook, he decided to take matters into his
own hands. After about a week of coding, Zuckerberg launched
thefacebook.com last Wednesday afternoon. The website combines elements
of a standard House face book with extensive profile features that allow
students to search for others in their courses, social organizations and
“Everyone’s been talking a lot about a universal face book within
Harvard,” Zuckerberg said. “I think it’s kind of silly that it would
take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it
better than they can, and I can do it in a week.”
As of yesterday afternoon, Zuckerberg said over 650 students had
registered use thefacebook.com. He said that he anticipated that 900
students would have joined the site by this morning.
“I’m pretty happy with the amount of people that have been to it so
far,” he said. “The nature of the site is that each user’s experience
improves if they can get their friends to join it.”
Zuckerberg’s site allows people with Harvard e-mail addresses to upload
their pictures and personal and academic information. Just as with the
popular website Friendster, which Zuckerberg said was a model for his
new website, members can search for people according to their interests
and can create an online network of friends.
Zuckerberg said that the most innovative feature of the site is that
people can search for other students in their classes so that they can
branch out to form friendships and study groups.
“If you’re in a class where you don’t vknow anyone and want to ask
somebody for help, this is a way to find out the names of people in that
class,” said thefacebook.com user Roberto C. Acosta ’05.
Zuckerberg said that the extensive search capabilities are restricted by
a myriad of privacy options for members who do not want everyone to be
able to look up their information.
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
Now skip ahead four short years and the kid that
had no intention of creating revenue with Facebook is named to the list of
Forbes richest americans. At age 23, Zuckerberg is worth 1.5 Billion
Forbes 2008 - Mark Zuckerberg
Tech’s newest golden boy founded addictive
social networking site Facebook in February 2004 from his Harvard dorm
Left school for Silicon Valley later that year; scored initial $500,000
investment from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel. Venture firms soon
swooned, among them Accel Partners and Greylock Partners.
Today Facebook boasts 66 million active users. Estimated annual sales:
$150 million. Expanding beyond being a college-only message system and
photo album; now courting users to 55,000 different high school,
business and city networks.
Problems with privacy: installed “News Feed” in 2006; program
automatically alerted users’ friends to changes they made to their
profiles. Outcry over privacy concerns led company to backpedal;
Zuckerberg issued apology. Similar controversy ensued after release of
Facebook Beacon late last year; program automatically alerted friends of
activities on selected outside sites, including eBay and Fandango.
Microsoft bought 1.6% stake for $240 million last October; deal led many
to suggest the company is worth $15 billion. Some analysts—and even a
few Facebook investors—suggest the company’s value is far lower.
Not good enough - Mark moves up from #785 to
#158 on Forbes400 roster of richest Americans.
Forbes 2009 - Mark
Youngest member of The Forbes 400 guiding
addictive social networking site Facebook through slumping online ad
Netscape founder and Facebook director Marc Andreessen claims site will
top $500 million in revenue in 2009; firm became “cash-flow positive”
Fresh-faced entrepreneur launched Facebook from Harvard dorm room in
2004. Left school for Silicon Valley later that year; bagged initial
$500,000 investment from PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel.
In May Russian investment firm Digital Sky agreed to buy stock from
Facebook employees; price valued company at $6.5 billion. Growing
rapidly: user base has tripled to 300 million since last fall.
A Tale of Sex, Money,
Genius and Betrayal
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
The Skinny on the founding of Facebook
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
“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.”
Issue 1055 - June 26, 2008]
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
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
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
“There is a new kind of
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
Connecting people to people rather than
connecting people to websites was the fundamental change in the global
This fundamental change was endorsed by the 350
million people on Facebook.
The cost of
"If there’s going to be another Bill Gates,”
says former Harvard president Lawrence Summers, “Mark is as close as
And like Gates early in his career, Zuckerberg
is facing serious allegations that his creation was based on ideas he stole
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."
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
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.