Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

I hadn't read any of Mezrich's earlier books, though they are extremely popular in Boston, due to the MIT angle for Bringing Down the House. I expect that some of his earlier work was easier to complete, since he had the cooperation of the people he was profiling. In the case of this book, Mezrich could not get Mark Zuckerberg to go on record. Since the book is about Zuckerberg's (and others') accomplishments in establishing Facebook, I'd have to say that must have been a big disappointment to Mezrich, since it gave his story a one-sided feel.

The bulk of the story rested on the testimony, I guess you could call it, of Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg's initial financier, sounding board, and moral support while Zuckerberg was at Harvard. Zuckerberg subsequently found ways to ditch people he felt were feeding off his creation, including Saverin. What struck me most was the juvenility of everyone involved in the whole process. They were only college kids after all, but somehow one hopes that those with exquisite gifts also have exquisite sense. Unfortunately, we all know that is not true--witness Tiger Woods. If you ever wondered if sex makes the world go round, look no further than this book.

When I was first exposed to Facebook, I must admit I was awed at its reach. But this story of its founding makes me uneasy. Not that I think Zuckerberg stole anybody's idea. After all, he not only had unique ideas, he could do the programming himself, something many others could not do. But he doesn't sound like the kind of person anyone wants to have as a friend. Zuckerberg's reluctance to speak for himself could be just a desire to let his creation speak for him, a shrug at what readers think of him, a fear that the writer would not give him a fair shake. Whatever it is, he probably doesn't feel like he needs to justify himself. Shrug. He certainly doesn't care what I think, and how lonely can a billionaire be?

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