David Sawyer's Reviews > The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
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Jan 22, 11

Read on January 21, 2011

I haven't been this glued to a book in a while. The extra short chapters made the book feel fast-paced, a perfect device for telling the story of the meteoric rise of Facebook. I've always been a huge fan of Facebook, even when it was "thefacebook," so it was great to read about its genesis. Or, should I say, alleged genesis?

Mezrich's main source for the book is Eduardo Saverin, the kid who originally partnered with Mark Zuckerberg and provided the startup money for thefacebook's initial existence. Saverin starts out as a 30% owner of thefacebook, and his evolving relationship with Zuckerberg is an important part of the site's history. (Mini spoiler here) Saverin ends up suing Zuckerberg after he feels unfairly pushed out by the newly reorganized company. We don't read many details beyond that, because at that point Saverin quit talking to Mezrich. Beyond Saverin, Mezrich acknowledges that the rest of the story is filled in by "sources," and he admits to recreating nearly all of the book's dialogue based on sources who were privy to the conversations. So the book's main sources essentially boil down to a guy with a bone to pick with Zuckerberg, who refused to speak with Mezrich, and a bunch of anonymous hearsayers. (Mezrich also lists in the back of the book a number of interviews and feature articles as secondary sources.)

So we don't really know how entirely accurate the book may be. But it's not a hit piece on Zuckerberg, and it's actually flattering to him at times. Also, given that none of the story is particularly outlandish, my guesstimation puts the book at 80-85% accurate. When Zuckerberg writes his autobiography, it will be interesting to see how much Mezrich got right. At any rate, the book is really hard to put down and is thoroughly enjoyable. I haven't seen The Social Network yet, and I may update this review with a comparison once I do. If you find yourself checking Facebook on a regular basis, you owe it to yourself to read about how the site that has changed the way humans interact on the Internet got started. Or, at least, how one guy says it got started.

Update: saw the movie last night, and it sticks to the facts in the book pretty well. Zuckerberg comes off as a huge jerk in the film, and I didn't really feel that way about him after reading the book. The film is plenty entertaining, but I'm not sure anyone deserves any Oscars.
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