"Accidental Billionaires": A Politely Scandalous Novel

-Accidental Billionaires Cover-Over the past two days I read through Ben Mezrich’s new book the “Accidental Billionaires”, and while hardly anything new is revealed, it provides as much entertainment as one would expect from flipping through the pages of Maxim magazine. Actually that’s not so true as there is more male eroticism than scantily clad women but you can’t blame the author for at least trying. If you were looking for the type of excitement evoked by watching the movie “Hackers”, you will be sorely disappointed, especially since there isn’t a sweet soundtrack to accompany the book … you’ll have to wait for the movie for that.

For those that are unaware of “Accidental Billionaires”, it has been been the subject of a large amount of controversy over the past few months since rumors first surfaced about a potential book and movie deal. We first wrote about it back in December and in under 7 months it has been released as a book and is reportedly slated to begin shooting for a film that will be released later this year.

It has been a fast moving process and with the book now in possession, I had a chance to see what all the hubbub was about. The book paints Mark Zuckerberg as a hacker genius who first developed Facemash after being rejected on a double date with close friend and co-founder, Eduardo Saverin. Where information is lacking, the author does not hesitate to embellish.

For example the book states that after deciding to create Facemash, Mark Zuckerberg was forced to take aggressive action to acquire hard to get photos of girls in one of the Harvard residence houses. The reason was that some of the photos were inaccessible unless you were accessing an internal directory from an IP address within the residence. As such the author alludes to the idea that Mark engaged in breaking and entering in order to get the photos:

If you were to ask the right computer hacker what might have happened next, that frigid fall night in Cambridge, the answer seems fairly clear. [Does it?] Based on the blog he created, documenting his thought process as he created Facemash, one can surmise what might have followed. Maybe there are other explanations, but we know there were certain houses Mark was having trouble hacking into. He might have gotten what he needed in other ways, we certainly don’t know for sure every detail; but we can imagine how it might have gone down.

So Mark decides to break and enter into the residences and fortunately there is a couple in the process of hooking up to provide 30 seconds of sultry excitement:

At the moment, the guy has the girl back against the wall, her leather jacket open and her sweatshirt up all the way past her collarbone. The guy’s hands are moving up her flat, naked stomach, and she arches her back, his lips touching the side of her throat. She seems about to give in to him, right then and there—but thankfully, something makes her change her mind. She lets him go a second longer, then pushes him away and laughs.

Can’t you feel the excitement?!? Moments like this are littered throughout the book as attempts to make a story otherwise devoid of large pieces of historical information, entertaining. The author spends so much time describing the environment, one has to wonder what sort of dialogue will exist in the supposedly completed screenplay. While the book may not be a completely accurate depiction of the founding of Facebook, any internet company founder shouldn’t be too furious about a book or movie that makes the development of a web application appear glamorous.

Ben Mezrich does a good job at taking scenes from what would otherwise be an incomplete story and connects them together making for a quick and continuous reading experience. It’s also a relatively enjoyable experience unless of course you are a historian in which case, Mezrich’s method of rounding out the story is probably not the best.

Mark Zuckerberg comes off as a hacker hero who in the process of creating the largest social platform supposedly takes down a Victoria’s Secret model and eats koala on a yacht. None of this information was that surprising considering all the reviews have revealed the most juiciest components of the novel. Despite the inaccuracies, all of the characters in the book have compelling stories and even Mezrich acknowledges at the end of the book that he is thoroughly impressed by all the participants:

I am enormous fan of all of the characters in this book; I am in awe of their genius, and I am grateful to have been able to get a glimpse into a world of creation I’d never known before.

With Facebook announcing that they’ve crossed the 250 million user level, it’s incredible to look back at how far the company has come. The book may not be the most historically accurate piece of work ever but it is nonetheless and extremely compelling story no matter which way you look at it. I’ve spent the past two years writing over 1900 articles just about the company and I can’t blame Mezrich for writing a novel about it … Facebook is one of the greatest internet startup stories to date.