The Social Network

The Social NetworkI just finished watching the movie “The Social Network”. Not sure how much is fact or how much is fiction but nevertheless I found it entertaining.

The movie was a good dose of the entrepreneurial spirit, a slice of the harshness that is the business world and a great life lesson on being honest and true to your friendships. It’s hard to believe that the phenomenon known as “facebook” is basically only 7 years old. According to the movie, facebook was incorporated in 2004. It started as nothing more than a simple web site in an already crowded field of similar “social” sites all of which were vying for more and more users.

If you believe the film you are led to believe that Mark Zuckerberg adamantly resisted the temptation to start selling advertisements on the site once they had achieved modest success. I have not researched, nor paid much attention to how Zuckerberg ran the company at the time, but as a facebook member for quite a while now and seeing how the site has evolved over time it’s not hard to believe that this is true of his philosophy. From a business perspective, and especially for a web site business, I have personally witnessed what once started as a good social site become quickly overran with obnoxious advertisements, non-stop pop-up banners and/or infested with viruses/Trojans or spyware. Anyone remember the likes of Geocities, Limewire or even, dare I say, MySpace? All of which are gone or soon to-be gone.

While I do recall some frustration with facebook outages a few years ago when they were growing and adding so many users very quickly, the truth is that the service has been extremely reliable to my standards which are pretty high when it comes to service availability. Also, facebook does serve advertisements but I think they are subtle enough that it’s not annoying and the ads are not all x-rated like so many other web sites these days. This shows some level of responsibility and decorum on the part of facebook to keep their community clean and fun for everyone. I’m sure porn sponsors would love nothing more than to pay big money to serve stupid ads that have the potential to be seen by more than 500 million users!

Overall I think the movie had a good moral story. You almost can’t blame a young successful kid for making silly mistakes. For example (warning: spoiler-alert if you haven’t seen the movie), Zuckerberg allowed himself to get caught up in the fast-paced, party lifestyle that was introduced to him by the founder of Napster, Sean Parker. This mentorship by Sean Parker was both a blessing as well as a curse. This ‘friendship’ and the business connections that Sean Parker had allowed facebook to get the venture capital investment that allowed them to become legitimate and ultimately become the company they are to this very day. At the end of the movie, which is already a bit dated (released in 2010) they said the net worth of facebook was $25 billion dollars. I’ve heard estimations as high as a $50 billion dollar net worth and I know for a fact that they just raised $1.5 billion in additional investment so it’s clear in the business community that there is serious value here and well worth investing. Just a random Kevin Neal thought here but the real challenge with all these cool web based ideas is how to monetize a cool idea.

Anyhow, the curse of the ‘friendship’ with Sean Parker was that apparently his personal character was shady and unprofessional at times. Sure, he had the business connections to get facebook the financial investments they needed to succeed but his personal conduct could have nearly ruined the business as well.

I got the feeling at the end of the movie that writers portrayed Zuckerberg as missing something emotionally in spite of his success. He missed his ex-girlfriend as well as his original business partner.

Some interesting items I found from the movie:

• I love analogies and this was a good one from Sean Parker’s character. “Will you be known for fishing the 3000 pound marlin or 14 trout?”
• Simple ideas can truly be magical with a little common sense and a lot of hard work
• Be true to your friends and don’t trust posers

It will be interesting for me to finally now do some research on the ‘real’ story and see how much of the movie was reality versus fiction. I give The Social Network a eight out of ten Steeler-star rating.

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