Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

 I think this book was recommended by Alan Caruba, a prolific writer of political columns, and reviewer of multiple genres of books, but I can't be sure at this point. The book reads more like a novel than a bio, with some pretty solid recreated dialogue, well-appointed interior and exterior scenes, and a third party omniscient point of view throughout, although the thoughts and motivations of Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, remain obscured here.

It becomes obvious fairly quickly, however, that Mezrich's main sources were all of the "friends" that Zuckerberg screwed over on his way to becoming one of the youngest billionaires ever. The first to bite the dust were a trio of upperclassmen at Harvard who attempted to hire him to develop a social media web site with them, targeted at the dating world. He seemed to agree to work with them, then spent his time developing, the earliest version of the famed site, limited to Harvard students, instead of working on their idea. He put off their requests for progress reports until his own site was launched, then claimed he'd never agreed to work with them and that their site was substantially different than his own project. Some years later, as a result of a lawsuit they brought, he settled with them for millions of dollars, according to this book.

Perhaps the worst betrayal described in the book was the one he dropped on his best friend at Harvard, Eduardo Saverin. Eduardo was in from the beginning with Mark, and even put up his own money in order to rent servers and support the business in the early days. While Eduardo was in New York between semesters, trying to scare up advertisers for theFacebook, Zuckerberg moved to California and was seduced, so to speak, by the high flying tech star, Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster, into the world of venture capitalists. The company was restructured, and Eduardo's 30% interest was diluted away by stock offerings to early employees and Parker, himself. Of course, Zuckerberg screwed Parker over, too, a short time later.

I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of any of this, but it's an interesting take, anyway, on one of the billionaire bad boys of the era.

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