The Life of Shinke

The Accidental Billionaires

Posted on: January 18, 2011

Title: The Accidental Billionaires

Author: Ben Mezrich

Published: 2009

Description: The high-energy tale of how two socially awkward Ivy Leaguers, trying to increase their chances with the opposite sex, ended up creating Facebook.

Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg were Harvard undergraduates and best friends–outsiders at a school filled with polished prep-school grads and long-time legacies. They shared both academic brilliance in math and a geeky awkwardness with women.

Eduardo figured their ticket to social acceptance–and sexual success–was getting invited to join one of the university’s Final Clubs, a constellation of elite societies that had groomed generations of the most powerful men in the world and ranked on top of the inflexible hierarchy at Harvard. Mark, with less of an interest in what the campus alpha males thought of him, happened to be a computer genius of the first order.

Which he used to find a more direct route to social stardom: one lonely night, Mark hacked into the university’s computer system, creating a ratable database of all the female students on campus–and subsequently crashing the university’s servers and nearly getting himself kicked out of school. In that moment, in his Harvard dorm room, the framework for Facebook was born.

What followed–a real-life adventure filled with slick venture capitalists, stunning women, and six-foot-five-inch identical-twin Olympic rowers–makes for one of the most entertaining and compelling books of the year. Before long, Eduardo’s and Mark’s different ideas about Facebook created in their relationship faint cracks, which soon spiraled into out-and-out warfare. The collegiate exuberance that marked their collaboration fell prey to the adult world of lawyers and money. The great irony is that while Facebook succeeded by bringing people together, its very success tore two best friends apart.

The Accidental Billionaires is a compulsively readable story of innocence lost–and of the unusual creation of a company that has revolutionized the way hundreds of millions of people relate to one another. (Taken from Goodreads)

So I’m sure everyone knows of the movie The Social Network but how many of you knew it was based off a book?

I didn’t but thanks to Brandon Werner the host of a book podcast Do Nothing But Read I was introduced to The Accidental Billionaires.

I immediately downloaded it and started reading because I thought it would be rather interesting to hear the story of how Facebook was started especially since I had yet to see the movie.

As soon as I started reading it I started having problems with the story. The book is suppose to be about how Facebook got started and I don’t know if I’m just being picky but for that to happen for me you would have to have some input from the actual founder, Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s like hearing the story of how Bruce Wayne became Batman from Alfred although Alfred would probably have been able to do a better job since Bruce confided in him and Eduardo couldn’t even read Mark.

In the story Eduardo mentions that Mark doesn’t talk much he’s the listener in this friendship and his responses are limited to the word interesting, everything is either interesting or should be interesting. He also mentions that he can’t read Mark’s eyes and his face is normally stoic.

Which brings me to the question of then why are YOU telling me the story. You know next to nothing about what is going on in his mind. Sure you can tell me the sequence of events and how you felt about them but that’s really not what I wanted out of this book.

For instance when they launch The Facebook for the first time, put it out there made it live I got Eduardo’s reaction to this big moment and Mark was just sitting there….silent. And all I could think about was what’s going on in his mind?

I wanted the eureka moment when he came up with the concept for Facebook, I wanted his take on Harvard and the social scene not Eduardo’s insecurities and determination to get laid via the Phoenix. It’s like getting stuck with Robin’s account of an adventure when all you really want is Batman’s.

The book is also told through the eyes of Tyler Winklevoss and Sean Parker. The Winklevoss twins are the ones that Mark allegedly stole the Facebook idea from but from what I understand from the book, he didn’t. He probably took some of their concepts and fleshed them out making a better website but I doubt The Harvard Connection would have been anything close to Facebook since they wanted a social dating network.

I’m by no means supporting what Mark did to them, stalling their website, lying to them, leading them all, that was wrong, plain and simple but their depiction in the book just left me feeling annoyed. They were hardworking and dedicated to their sport but they seemed too into their elite status for my liking.

Sean Parker on the other hand I liked only partially. I liked him because he was helping them out, pushing them in the right direction but at the same time I know that in the back of his mind he was only doing this for himself. He was trying to get into a company that wasn’t his so that he could benefit from it when it went global, and in the end he helped to push Eduardo out of the company. Granted Eduardo did something stupid helping himself out but I’m sure Sean helped make the final decision. Not that I support Eduardo being cut out of the company by any means, I’m just saying. But what goes around comes around because Sean got kicked out of the company some months later too.

Sean Parker narrative wise was like Batman explaining to me why Superman makes some of the choices he does, Sean being Batman, Mark being Superman. It would be better to have Superman tell you himself but since Batman is a superhero as well he can explain what might be going on in Superman’s brain.

Another sore point for me was the author’s writing. He has a habit of repeating  a sentiment over and over again until you have one paragraph portraying one single concept. It’s as if he had verbal diarrhea and his editor was out sick and couldn’t check the manuscript for him and so he sent it straight to publishing.

And what is with the title? This story is about anything but accidental billionaires. What it should be called is all the people that didn’t become billionaires off of Facebook and had to sue to get a piece of the pie.

All in all it was an okay book, I’m sure the movie is better especially with all the awards and buzz it’s picking up worldwide. We must remember however that this book is a sensationalized history of Facebook, meaning a fictional story with historical fact and these “facts” were contributed by people who were allegedly screwed over by Zuckerberg in the early days and hence detest Facebook and Zuckerberg.

But if you’re interested in a sensationalized history of Facebook and don’t mind the fact that Zuckerberg’s voice is missing give this a try, it’s a quick read, a little over 200 pages  so it’s not exactly torture. I give The Accidental Billionaries a 2.5 out of 5.

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1 Response to "The Accidental Billionaires"

That seems kind of silly that the story isn’t told from Mark Zuckerberg’s perspective. I can understand your frustration with that.

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