Twenty-Five Billion Dollars, Two Lawsuits, One Phenomenal Idea: The Story Behind Facebook
By: Anita Chang
“You don’t get 500 million friends without making a few enemies…” -The Social Network
A movie about Facebook; surprisingly, when I initially viewed the trailer, I had no inclination to see the movie in theatres. How interesting could the founding of Facebook possibly be? The Social Network turned out to be an extraordinary movie that told a story beyond my imagination. It told a story of a Harvard genius who developed an idea proposed to him by his colleagues. With the help of a financial investment by his best friend, he turned a social network exclusively for Harvard students into the multi-billion dollar social network we use every day. The Social Network tells a story of friendship, partnership and betrayal.
At the end of the day, who doesn’t want a piece of a business that is worth more than twenty-five billion dollars? No matter how great an invention, no matter how creative an idea, it all boils down to the money – how much will I get out of it? The Social Network left me with several deep insights into this reality of business.
In our society, ideas are worth billions of dollars. In The Social Network, the Winklevoss brothers had come up with the idea of Harvard Connect, an exclusive social network where Harvard students could share messages and photos. Entrusting Mark Zuckerberg with the idea led to a case of intellectual property theft. Zuckerberg took the idea and expanded it into the now well-known phenomenon.
He didn’t copy any of the code written by the Winklevoss brothers; therefore, he considered the idea his own. Intellectual property theft is a very challenging crime to back with solid proof. The Winklevoss brothers were lucky to obtain a monetary settlement for their lawsuit against Zuckerberg, but the situation highlights the importance of protecting our ideas.
Business is a tricky battlefield; strangers may become your friends, your friends may become your enemies, and your enemies may become your strength. Mark Zuckerberg pitched his idea for Facebook to his best friend Eduardo Saverin because he needed financial support. Saverin supported him without much question but their objectives were not aligned. While Zuckerberg viewed Facebook as a cool social network, Saverin saw it as a business opportunity.
Zuckerberg then brought Napster creator Sean Parker onto their team without Saverin’s knowledge. Their lack of effective communication and organizational transparency resulted in Saverin unknowingly signing an agreement to reduce his share in the company from about 34% to 0.03%. An angry Saverin sued Zuckerberg for 600 million dollars and spawned the movie we now call, The Social Network. This reiterates the message that we must choose business partners carefully and that once we choose them, we need to respect them, align our goals, and maintain transparency within our organization.
The Social Network is based on Saverin’s point of view; Zuckerberg refused to contribute. Though many aspects of the story were modified to suit the standards of Hollywood, it gives the audience a good framework of the amazing story behind what we now call Facebook.