The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

May 30, 2011

Summary (from the publisher): Best friends Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg had spent many lonely nights looking for a way to stand out among Harvard University’s elite, competitive, and accomplished student body. Then, in 2003, Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard’s computers, crashed the campus network, almost got himself expelled, and was inspired to create Facebook, the social networking site that has since revolutionized communication around the world.

With Saverin’s funding their tiny start-up went from dorm room to Silicon Valley. But conflicting ideas about Facebook’s future transformed the friends into enemies. Soon, the undergraduate exuberance that marked their collaboration turned into out-and-out warfare as it fell prey to the adult world of venture capitalists, big money, and lawyers.

Liked:

  • I liked that this book was easy to read. I spent no more than a couple days on it, which is about all it end up being worth. At least I didn’t have to waste more time on it!
  • I saw the movie before reading this book, and thought the film version of Saverin was highly sympathetic. In the film, it was clear that Mark and Sean Parker edged Saverin out unfairly, and the actor who played Saverin did a good job of showing the emotional pain and distress involved in losing what he thought was a true friend. In the book, however, Saverin doesn’t come off nearly as well. The book made it sound like he was squeezed out of Facebook due to his own bad choices, such as pursuing an internship in New York instead of moving to Palo Alto to help get Facebook off the ground. Saverin also cut off Facebook’s funding, which pushed Zuckerberg into Peter Thiel’s world and effectively ended Saverin’s role as business manager. So, yeah, even though Zuckerberg was a douche for pushing Saverin away (and paid for it thanks to a subsequent lawsuit), Saverin made his own bad choices too. It was good to see the other side of the coin here.

Disliked:

  • This was hardly a balanced account of how Facebook was founded, as Mezrich mostly only talked to Eduardo Saverin. As a result, the book felt like nothing more than secondhand information or hearsay, which made me wonder what was true and what wasn’t. It didn’t help that Mezrich included many “imagined” scenes in which he speculated about what Zuckerberg “might” have done or thought.
  • What was with all the author describing all the “Asian girls” that were after Saverin? It seemed that every time some girl caught his eye, she was Asian. What was the author trying to say? I mean, why make the ethnic distinction at all?? Why not describe the girls in terms of their designer clothes or majors instead of their ethnicity? When the lingerie model went after Mark, were we told her ethnicity? No. So what was the deal with Eduardo’s girls?
  • Is it just me, or is there something wrong with the world when a guy like Sean Parker can be attached to Facebook for all of three months and walk away with several million dollars for his “trouble”? Wow, talk about right place at the right time! Yes, Parker introduced Zuckerberg to Thiel and was therefore responsible for the first round of VC funding, but Mezrich made it clear that other VC groups were circling around trying to get on board. Zuckerberg and Facebook would have gotten money with or without Parker, IMO. I just can’t believe he somehow got his name attached to the project like that. (Oh, I guess he did convince Mark to drop the “the” from the website name….)
  • I wish Mezrich would have made it clear why Parker was eventually forced out of Facebook. Was it really just for being busted at a party where minors were drinking alcohol?? That seems like such a petty thing. Then again, Zuckerberg did the same thing to people over and over, so I guess anything is possible.
  • The stuff with the Winklevoss twins and their rowing endeavors was boring and unnecessary. Yes, the ConnectU angle was relevant, but I could have done without all the descriptions of them training, eating, and competing. Zzzzzz.

Rating:

Now that I’ve read the book, I am more convinced than ever that Aaron Sorkin deserved his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. How he made a watchable movie from this source materials i nothing short of a miracle. If you’ve seen the movie, then you already know more than is even contained within these pages and really have no reason to spend time or money on The Accidental Billionaires. I give this book 2 stars out of 5.

Leave a Reply