Monday, October 11, 2010

Is There Any Truth in "The Social Network"?

Got around to seeing The Social Network this past weekend. While the flick has gotten rave critical reviews (93% on Flixster), the question of what percentage of the movie is true has also gotten a lot of discussion in the blogosphere.

One thing that can be agreed upon is that is an entertaining movie and well worth $10 (or $11 with Fandango). The move topped the box office for the second straight weekend and has grossed $46M in less than two weeks. If you haven't seen it yet, can check out the trailer below.

I did a little searching around the web to try and find a truth vs. fiction comparison, but the closest I found was "The 10 Most Glaring Lies In 'The Social Network'" on the Business Insider. However, most of these are so minor that it is difficult to argue that they don't fall under artistic license. For example, the movie shows Sean Parker (a stellar performance by Justin Timberlake) arrested for cocaine possession at Stanford. According to the Business Insider, he was actually arrested in a different place and time. Co-founder Dustin Moscovitz is referred to as a programmer, but he is actually an operations guy. Aaron Sorkin sure missed that one (insert sarcasm here)...

Of course, they left off one of the biggest inaccuracies in the entire film, which my wife noticed right away. Several weeks after Zuckerberg and the team move to Palo Alto for the summer, co-founder Eduardo Saverin finally pays a visit. Zuckerberg forgets to pick him up at the airport and Saverin shows up at the front door dripping wet with rain pouring down. As my wife said, who would ever believe it raining in Palo Alto in the summer? She was also amused by Disney actress (Brenda Song of the Suite Life of Zack and Cody) having sex in the men's room of a Cambridge bar.

Did I mention how great Timberlake was? The scenes in the NY restaurant, Stanford dorm room, and Facebook office were some of the funniest in the whole movie. Got me thinking back to one of the best start-up pitches I ever saw. It was early in 2005 and the company was Facebook. Sean Parker showed up about an hour late and gave an incredibly compelling pitch about the business, growth, etc. Unfortunately, wasn't an opportunity to invest at the time.

Ok, so what are the lessons here.
  • Be careful what you write in email, chat or text. It could come back and hit you in the face during a deposition
  • Make sure that your co-founders have the right skills and commitment before doling out equity. Also, be sure to include vesting for all founders.
  • If there are any promises (written, verbal or otherwise) regarding equity, address early rather than later.
  • Once you become rich and/or famous, anyone you have wronged throughout your life will surface
One other thing. Not saying Zuckerberg took the high road in any of this, but Facebook was all about the execution and not the idea. At the end of the day, the settlements were a relatively small piece of the company, but a huge windfall for those who sued. Whether true or not, at the end of the day, just doesn't matter.


Anonymous said...

So you were pitched Facebook?

Blake Southwood said...

This is a good review of the movie and both books. Having read both books myself and seen the movie twice I found different views from each story but the movie was quite good. I just wish that it didn't end.

The movie didn't show how much programming was involved but the book "The FaceBook Effect" was very biased in favor of Zuck but had some good details not covered in "Accidental Billionaires" nor the movie.

Blake Southwood
Founder of LIghtning Storm Software

Blake Southwood said...

Professor Bennet,

I'm seeking advice (especially raising funding) for my startup called Lightning Storm Software.

We are developing a software technology that works on the web using cloud computing to build software 100X faster and reduce bugs and cut costs.
If I could have coffee with you sometime and talk either in San Jose or Palo Alto that would be great.
I'd be happy to send you our business plan, exec summary, and ppt. And I can show you our working demo of our prototype.

Blake Southwood, SJSU Alum 1991 Psychology
Lightning Storm Software founder
brashrhino(at) gmail (dot) com

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