I finally got around to watching The Social Network last night. For me, the most interesting character(s) were the Winklevoss twins. The Winklevi, as they've come to be known, created a perfect portrait of wannabe entrepreneurs and the factors that separate them from the genuine article. Putting aside how accurate the movie is or isn't, here's why the twins were unsuccessful and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was rather the opposite.
- Rule-bound: From the inception of their idea, the Winklevi constrained themselves with rules. The original idea was the HarvardConnection -- a social network exclusively for Harvard students. Because so much of W2's sense of self came from within the walls of Harvard, they didn't think beyond its narrow boundaries.
- Disciplined -- in all the wrong ways: These guys are 6-feet-5-inches tall and weigh 250 pounds -- each! They were Olympic rowers. They worked hard at Harvard -- studying, training, eating, sleeping. What could fit in between became the outlines of the HarvardConnection -- and it was not nearly enough. So they outsourced the heart and soul part of the mission to Zuckerberg, whose character later said to them during a deposition, "If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook." You are correct, sir.
- Money-focused: They were always about, and only about, the money. They were never about the idea. They had no vision.
- Arrogant -- in the wrong way: Arrogance is a trait of many successful entrepreneurs. Sometimes arrogance gets a bad rap. A certain kind of arrogance that's about self-belief in the face of daunting odds is necessary. But in Winkle World, it's arrogance driven by a sense of entitlement and pedigree, rather than accomplishment.
I wouldn't know the real Mark Zuckerberg if I fell over him, but I think the movie version provides a good template for a few key traits of successful entrepreneurs.
- Obsessed: Once he started, he couldn't stop. Remember the scene in which Zuckerberg is in the cafeteria with a friend who asks him if a girl they both know has a boyfriend? Zuckerberg doesn't answer. He just sprints back to his dorm room to add the missing link -- Relationship Status -- to Facebook. Then he flips the switch to make the site live for the first time. I have known a lot of successful entrepreneurs, and they're mostly all like this. There is very little room in their lives for anything but their idea and driving it as far and fast as possible.
- Ruthless, sometimes: In the movie (I have no idea what the truth is), Zuckerberg completely screws his co-founder, Eduardo Savarin (although being screwed and left with $2.5 billion or so in stock isn't so bad). Savarin owned about a third of Facebook until Zuckerberg duped him into signing away his rights to not have his shares diluted when new investors came in. Prior to Savarin's lawsuit and settlement, Zuckerberg left him with approximately 0.03 percent of the company, which is enough to buy a couple of nice islands in Greece, but a far cry from his original stake. There is a certain degree of ruthlessness in many highly successful entrepreneurs. I can think of a bunch I know with whom I would not want to share a foxhole.
- Non-Compliant: Zuckerberg could not have cared less about the rules and traditions of Harvard, or personal relationships with women, or anything else. He had no respect for anything conventional, which is why it was easy for him to focus on what he did care about, move to Silicon Valley and be at the heart of the money and talent to grow the company.
The Social Network -- two thumbs up for its insightful lessons on business. What's your review?