The Accidental Billionaires


This narrative account detailing the early years of the world’s most popular social
networking site is already being turned into a film by “The West Wing” scribe Aaron
Sorkin, and it’s easy to see why. Author Mezrich forsakes the tech and business
aspects of the story for a sort of Geeks Gone Wild spin, heavy on — as the book’s
subtitle promises — scandal and soap opera. This is stuff that Hollywood eats up.

Open on Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard sophomore who’s a genius with computers but
a complete dunce when it comes to social interaction. It is 2003, and he is creating
Facemash, a Web site that lets students vote on the hotness of Harvard co-eds —
none of whom he has a shot with. The university ultimately disciplines him for the
venture, but the exposure brings Zuckerberg to the attention of three Harvard
students in search of a computer programmer. They are planning to launch a social
networking site called ConnectU.

Cut to a few months later. Zuckerberg has abandoned that project, and left his fellow
students in the lurch. Suddenly — and perhaps not coincidentally — he has an idea
for his own social networking site called TheFacebook. Zuckerberg borrows $1,000
from friend Eduardo Saverin, and launches Facebook from his dorm room.

The site quickly spreads from Harvard to other schools and eventually around the
world, and today it is valued at $12.5 billion. Cut to Zuckerberg and Saverin enjoying
the good life, as Facebook grows in popularity. They dine aboard a venture capitalist’s
yacht and eat rare koala. They pick up two Asian chicks on campus and have sex with
them in a bathroom stall. And in one dubious scene, Zuckerberg leaves a party with a
Victoria’s Secret model.

Meanwhile, the students behind ConnectU are convinced Zuckerberg stole their idea,
and they sue. It is this dispute that drives much of the story.

But that won’t be Facebook’s only lawsuit. Zuckerberg, who transforms in the pages
from shy nerd to a megalomaniac with a business card reading, “I’m CEO — Bitch,”
also has a falling out with Saverin. As the site grows in value, Saverin — who was
originally promised 30% of the company — is slowly forced out by Zuckerberg. The
two later sue each other.

Saverin’s replacement, Napster founder Sean Parker, is also kicked out the company
after he is arrested at a party. The book suggests Zuckerberg may have set his
partner up. The question is, how reliable is all this? Mezrich claims to have “hundreds
of sources,” but the most forthcoming appear to be those that have an axe to grind with Facebook, including the book’s prime source, Saverin. (Zuckerberg did not cooperate.)
Mezrich’s previous book, “Bringing Down the House” about the MIT blackjack team, was
criticized for its outright fabrications, as this fictionalized account certainly will be.

For starters, the book jacket screams that the founders “just wanted to meet some girls.”
But when Zuckerberg first launched his now-world famous Web site, he reportedly already
had a steady girlfriend.


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