The Social Network movie: a San Francisco tech entrepreneur’s review
I just watched The Social Network last night. Wow. The geeks can win! The mainstream world really cares about us now, sorta.
I doubt this review will be a spoiler to anyone who wants to watch the movie regardless. Here is my official disclaimer: I take no responsibility for anyone’s movie-going enjoyment or lack thereof because of my review. Before writing my post, I read many other reviews on the Web; most of the reviews were written from either the Harvard student’s perspective or of the regular person.
Honestly, I related to this movie more than any other in a very long time. As a tech startup entrepreneur who lives and works in San Francisco, I really wanted to hate this movie and the man behind it all. Like it or not, Facebook has become a major force in my life, both professionally and personally.
The soundtrack was genuinely well done. The background music complimented the vibe of the film comfortably. Glad to know Trent Reznor finally found something to do other than looking tortured.
The movie begins with Zuckerberg getting dumped by his girlfriend and he begins lashing out at her online via blog. Anger seems to be a powerful motivational tool and is the catalyst for everything that follows. The Zuck developed Facemash using female students’ school photos acquired by hacking into various networks. Facemash was a latter-day Hotornot.com, but for Ivy Leaguers. It made me smile when Mark was building Facemash: he purchased his very first web domain registration from Network Solutions in 2004. In 1997, I too bought my very first domain from Network Solutions. There was more mystery in building websites before Danica Patrick and the GoDaddys of the world came along.
The film adequately reflects the frenetic energy of a college tech startup. Director David Fincher accurately captured the way college entrepreneurs have more ideas than money and free time. To pursue your web empire dreams in college means capitalizing on the wealth at hand. The resources most college kids have are a computer, network connection and a group of possibly geeky friends. Zuckerberg had the same resources and utilized them masterfully. Eventually, they raise a bit of money thanks to his co-founder Eduardo Saverin.
I had a plethora of amazing ideas in college and hopefully I still do. My favorite collegiate idea was for IsItOpen.com: a site to find out if businesses were open or not. Like Zuckerberg, my idea was borne of intense anger. During a holiday weekend, I drove around town for hours looking for a staple gun to finish a school project. Not one business answered the phone or had their hours of operation in their message. After realizing the potential of my new idea, my friends and I figured out how to crawl Citysearch’s data a la ‘Facemash’ style. Unfortunately, along came life and I let it go by the wayside. I lacked the resources to market my idea and sort through the massive amounts of fragmented data. Only recently has Google started to unify the way to detect if businesses are open or closed in maps results. However, there really is still no universal repository for a smaller business to update hours during holidays. Mine is the typical college tech startup story, which did not end with billions (yet).
…and back to the movie review!
Finally, the idea for Facebook is born and things get rolling. Excitement abounds. The relationship between Mark and his best friend and co-founder Eduardo starts to sour after Justin Timberlake, I mean, Sean Parker shows up. Sean is a hot-to-trot web pioneer with his napster pedigree, but he lacks the capital to back it. Sean captures Mark’s imagination with razzle dazzle. Sean and Eduardo inevitably engage in the classic Silicon Valley venture capital (VC) vs. bootstrapping battle. I won’t go into any more detail about this part, except to pose one question: Where does all the confirmed Facebook revenue come from today? Bingo! You’ve got it, advertising revenue.
Every startup owner has wrestled with the idea of raising cash. Zuckerberg’s character passively floats through the business side of things, and lets Sean Parker lead him around. Yes, I realize it was a silver screen interpretation, but many tech startup owners dread the capital raising process from beginning to end. It is a time consuming and stressful process. Talking to a VC is comparable to hitting up your parents for money; many startups hate it yet they have contemplated it at some point.
In closing, let me also declare I am a lady geek. There wasn’t a single woman in the movie who possessed any technical or industry know how. The only woman allowed to show her intellect was the attorney played by Rashida Jones. The women of The Social Network were relegated to being promiscuous, straight up crazy or groupies into drugs. The depiction of women is probably just a fantasy on Fincher’s part. Would it have been so hard to throw in a chick programmer or tester?! Even Star Trek in the 70s had Lt. Uhura. Although, to be fair, I have not read the book and can’t say if any women were actually part of the process.
I’d say to go ahead and watch The Social Network without guilt, because I truly enjoyed it. The film doesn’t reflect overreaching sentimentality. They don’t waste time on it. Unlike Zuckerberg, I have been working for ten years to become an overnight success. Sean Parker got a bad rap. Eduardo Saverin got a relatively good rap, although he was made to look the fool. Dustin Moskovitz gets almost zero rap. I think Zuckerberg was exceptionally talented and lucky. One thing that I have learned about Silicon Valley is that we all make our own luck…