The Accidental Billionaires

The founding of Facebook: A tale of sex, money, genius, and betrayal
By BEN MEZRICH  |  October 4, 2010

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Published by arrangement with Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. Copyright © 2009 by Ben Mezrich.

In this nonfiction account of the Harvard origins of the social-networking phenomenon, the author boils down the essence of why Facebook — orginially called thefacebook — was created and the root of its power: nerds obsessing over sex. In this excerpt, undergrads Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg begin to realize that Facebook is indeed their golden ticket.

From up above, the man looked tiny and hunched behind the podium, his face just a little too close to the microphone, and his lanky shoulders poked out at the corners of his formless beige sweater. His bowl haircut dribbled almost to his eyes, and his oversize glasses covered most of his splotchy face, obscuring any sense of expression or emotion; his voice reverberating through the speakers seemed a little too high and nasal, and sometimes it veered into a monotone drone, a single laryngeal note played over and over again until the words bled right into one another. 
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He was not a fantastic speaker. And yet, just his presence, the mere fact that he was standing there in the front of Lowell Lecture Hall with his pale hands flapping against the podium, his turkey neck bobbing up and down as he tossed pearls of monotone wisdom at the crowded room — it was beyond inspiring. The audience — made up mostly of engineering and computer geeks from the CS department and a few econ majors with entrepreneurial aspirations — hung on every nasal word. To the gathered acolytes, this was heaven, and the strange, bowl-cutted man at the podium was god.

Eduardo sat next to Mark in the back row of the balcony, watching as Bill Gates mesmerized the gathered crowd. Despite Gates's strange, almost autistic mannerisms, he managed to toss off a few jokes — one about why he'd dropped out of school ("I had a terrible habit of not going to classes") and certainly some pearls of wisdom — that AI was the future, that the next Bill Gates was out there, possibly in that very room. But Eduardo specifically saw Mark perk up when Gates answered a question from one of the audience members about his decision to leave school and start his own company. After hemming and hawing a bit, Gates told the audience that the great thing about Harvard was that you could always come back and finish. The way Mark seemed to smile when Gates said it made Eduardo a little nervous — especially considering how hard Mark had been working on simply keeping up with the demand of their nascent Web site. Eduardo would never drop out of school — it simply wasn't a possibility to him. In the first place, his father would throw a fit; to the Saverins, nothing was more important than education, and Harvard meant nothing if you didn't come out of there with a degree. Second, Eduardo understood that entrepreneurship meant taking risks — but only to a certain degree. You didn't risk your entire future on something until you figured out how it was going to make you rich.

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