Thoughts on “The Social Network”

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Yesterday, I managed to catch one of the most anticipated films in the tech sector, “The Social Network“. It was a sneak preview and the movie is officially out next week in Singapore. With a script written by one of my favourite writers, Aaron Sorkin (with claims to fame from “The West Wing”, “A Few Good Men” & “Studio 60 on a Sunset Strip fame”), I know that I am not going to be disappointed by “The Social Network”. The movie is set on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich which described the controversial beginning of the company, Facebook and her founders, Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin (with little emphasis on the other two founders Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz. Here are some thoughts which I have gathered after watching the movie.

  • The Winklevoss twins’ claim to Facebook: Honestly, before the movie and even from reading the accounts about the lawsuits from the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra to Mark Zuckerberg, I do not think that they deserved the payout of US$60M. The idea of a social network as conceived by them was in existence such as Friendster, MySpace and even exclusive social networks such as A Small World. While I do not condone what Mark Zuckerberg did to stall them, they probably should have the brains to quickly engage a developer to work on the idea instead of depending on one person. In the web-tech industry, speed and execution are the essential ingredients of success and having the idea is just not enough. However, there are lessons to be learnt from the incident that Mark Zuckerberg should not have even bothered to agree to work with them in the first place. So, we learned that providing commitment to a project could actually lead to consequences that can bite you in the future.
  • The lawsuit from the perspective of Eduardo Saverin: On the other hand, Eduardo Saverin has a stronger case given that he had a hand in investing in the social network and also worked on the initial stages of the company. We can see the contrast between the characters in the movie between Eduardo Saverin and Sean Parker, where one is the down to earth business man and the other a clear Silicon Valley type of entrepreneur. Eduardo paid the price of not taking the risk with Facebook but he did not deserved the ending that he had with how his shares of the company got diluted. The lessons to be learnt from his mistake is that he should have made sure that he read the legal agreements carefully. Whatever he has settled for in the end, I think that the verdict is fair for him because he has contributed to the company in its initial stages.
  • Building a great product vs a great business: A hidden theme which I believe that the movie has told us, is how Facebook decided to be a great product first before becoming a great business. It focussed on making sure that the growth of the social network did not compromise with the monetization. It is only until the last two years that Facebook has properly structured its monetization model in the realm of social advertising and virtual currency. However, the key is that not a lot of companies have that kind of leeway as compared to Facebook. Most of us who worked in the web-tech space will know that if monetization don’t come sooner, the company will cease to exist because it does not have a proper revenue model.

On the whole, I thought that Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg and Andrew Garfield as Eduardo Saverin are pretty impressive given that you can see their evolution from being good friends at the start to the point where they sat against each other with the lawyers. Probably, given that I know that the movie did not really depict all the facts correctly, as a piece of romanticized version about the founding of an interesting company, I will say that it’s good fiction. I do highly recommend young tech entrepreneurs out there to watch this movie.

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Bernard Leong

A Pragmatic Idealist