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Mark Zuckerberg's Most Valuable Friend (nytimes.com)
108 points by wallflower on Oct 3, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments

Mark Zuckerberg's most valuable friend is/was Sean Parker. Thanks to Sean, Mark retained control of the board, and thus was able to avoid the utter disaster of a $1b sale to Yahoo.

Sean got to see what happens when shortsighted VCs get control before (at Napster and then Plaxo); he's smart enough to not get screwed the same way thrice.

How did Mark retain control of the board specifically?

"... Donald Graham, the chairman of the Washington Post Company, who once tried to hire Ms. Sandberg, says that in the last two years a lot of questions about Facebook’s viability have been put to rest. ..."

I'd argue that Zucks most valuable friend post Sean is Graham. Graham helped set the company up so control falls to the owner and not the board. The Washington Post is set up the same way. Facebook isn't going away till the founder wants it to.

So beyond just having the founder take up the majority of the board seats? I suppose one needs to first find investors comfortable to let this all happen.

You make it a negotiating point; you might have to accept lower valuation or other terms to protect investors if you push on board control. Being obviously brilliant, responsible, and experienced (Parker) goes a long way in those negotiations too.

As a response to the movie, they know it would be a good time to put a human face in front of the press. Hence, they're pushing her forward rather than Zuckerberg. And the NYT slurped it up.

I wonder how long the back-and-forth over how the story was to be structured took.

[edit: I'm not saying Zuckerberg is not human, just that he's overexposed in the media at the moment, and they need to connect Facebook to something else.]

I'm betting it's an overarching PR strategy that will be executed over the next few months. To try to fix Zuck's reputation by association, rather than directly.

Oh Jesus, can't we all stop gawking at Facebook bullshit? No one can figure out what Facebook is, but if you haven't succumbed to it, you're intimidated by it. It's worth billions of dollars and for what? The pure evil of having everyone's marketing data?

In the mindset of Rodney King, can't we all just move on? Can't we all just get past not being Zuckerberg? Can't we all get back to being hackers who do things because they make our minds happy?

Downvote the above if you will, but there is truth in those words, if only masked behind palpable bitterness...

...and honestly - I feel the guy.

We humans have a tendency towards the shameless worship of heroes. We seem to need to create legends and demigods and to praise and glorify acts that upon careful examination are little more than the progeny of good fortune and timing. Providence itself isn't worthy of our praise nor our consideration - which makes the ascension of men of 'lesser stuff' a bitter pill to swallow for those few 'in-the-know'.

I think back to first grade, and recall how desperately I wanted to be a scientist/composer/hero/great man/demigod. I had no idea what these things were really, but in my mind, they were the people who knew; and what they didn't know they sought. They were the gatekeepers, arbiters, discoverers, and composers of knowledge, truth, and frankly most of what mattered. A few years later, when asked who/what I wanted to be when I grew up, beyond my father I could think only of Newton, Einstein, Maxwell, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, et al...

My, how quickly things change. The pursuit of knowledge and beauty for its own sake is an ideal which has perhaps never existed, or existed in so few men as to have practically never done so. But we're waaay past that. A man not too long ago solved Fermat's Last, how many know his name without Wikipedia? What impresses us now? What is deemed worthy of our 'shameless worship"?A man not too long ago solved Poincare's; beyond the story about his rejecting a million dollars, who gave a shit?

No one. We save our shits for the pirates of Silicon Valley these days.

That, if I am ever blessed with a son or daughter, and they are one day asked in their youth who or what they want to become when they grow up, and in turn respond with Gates, Jobs, Zuckerburg, et al, we have all failed. And I, them.

That's one of the aspects of the HN community that I most dislike. It's like Puritan divine providence, but applied non-religiously to business. X succeeded so he/she must be great. HN sees these people as masters of business: smart, ambitious, persistent, etc. What if they were lucky? Unscrupulous? Manipulating? I'm not saying it has to be all one way or all the other, but I often think only one point of view gets seen here.

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people."

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

Completely agree, the name dropping around here can get tiresome quick. There was a great article on Mint vs. Wesabe posted here recently - in my opinion we need more articles like that and less Jobs is a design master/Zuckerberg is a genius/etc.

Eleanor Roosevelt didn't say that. From Wikiquote, which is slowly approaching authoritativeness on quotes online:

This has been quoted without citation as a statement of Eleanor Roosevelt. It is usually attributed to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, but though Rickover quoted this, he did not claim to be the author of it; in "The World of the Uneducated" in The Saturday Evening Post (28 November 1959), he prefaces it with "As the unknown sage puts it..."


Its still a nice quote regardless of who its attributed to.

Not sure what you think of Malcolm Gladwell, but I am finally reading Outliers and he casts new light on the many factors of success -- new in the sense that, contrary to mythos, success is not attributable primarily to personal greatness/willpower, but rather having the right-place-right-time + family upbringing + opportunities, etc. (things that are not in the person's direct control).

Pure academic achievement is no doubt worthy of appreciation. And on other days, the Nobel Laureates and Fields Medalists and Booker Prize winners will get their due.

But let's be clear: our modern day Fords and Edisons also deserve their due. Self-made billionaires have served society in the ultimate sense: they made something that millions upon untold millions of people want.

Those in the ivory tower, god bless them, are scratching their own itch. Sometimes, some of them produce something which benefits humanity, but it's not their primary goal. Their goal is to indulge their curiosity and make a name for themselves. And their world is generally far less stressful than if they'd taken the plunge into actually creating wealth and building things for other people.

As for your children, well, there's a couple billion people in China and India who've endured a 20th century replete with attacks on industrial ambition. Something tells me many of them would be just fine with their son or daughter growing up to be the next Gates, Jobs, or Zuckerberg.

This used to be called "Startup News." It's a news site explicitly established for people who want to become Mark Zuckerberg. Flag it if you don't like it, but move on.

Also, can we stop to consider the fact that a company that is worth billions of dollars can only barely eke out a profit, despite having access to the personal lives of 500 million people? It's not like they lack the capability to be evil. More likely, they're a paper tiger. They don't have much time to build the killer app that people will pay for before their investors start gettin anxious.

The approach to social networking they've taken simply isn't a particularly profitable approach, the profitable approach hasn't been invented yet. Eventually, people will realize that, and while they're running and begging venture capitalists for another $100 million just to keep the lights on in their server farms, someone else is gonna build the next big thing, and Facebook will go the way of Friendster and Myspace. If we've learned anything, social networks are fickle, and it doesn't take long for a trickle of users to become a flood.

Zuckerburg won't ever starve, and the company probably won't ever fold (heck, even AOL is still around), but the idea that his wealth and any perceived power is in any way stable just doesn't check in with reality.

Think about an Oil rig, if you will. Just because it takes half a billion dollars to get it started doesn't mean it is barely eking out a profit while it's being built. Once it's built, its going to make the owners billions.

I think a comparison to an oil rig is wishful thinking, to say the least. You have a basically clear and proven business model that's existed for 100 years, based on selling a tangible product that everybody inarguably needs.

Facebook has none of those characteristics, and nobody's proven that there's anything substantial where they're digging.

Looking at Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg from a positive perspective is the new flavour of the month. It's a novelty compared to a few weeks or months ago where Facebook was the bloody piñata of the internet.

I don't think that this new angle is a bandwagon like deriding Facebook was - maybe it's just a sign of the new nuanced approach to thinking about Zuckerberg and Facebook.

I don't mind the Facebook coverage as long as it is original, independent and not just a flailing industry's attempt at staying relevant and interesting by jumping on a bandwagon.

I think a great deal of Facebook's recent, and coming, success is not just that Sheryl Sandberg was brought on, but when she was brought on. They allude to the rapid growth that Facebook has seen lately, but Mark Zuckerberg may not have been able to effectively handle that growth without her. She joined on at the crucially perfect time, which is a credit to both of them.

Here's a cached version of the article for those of us without a nytimes account. http://www10.nytimes.com.nyud.net/2010/10/03/business/03face...

Great PR placement and spin about Mark Zuckerberg. Congrats to the PR agency!

I think this will go down in history as one of the great working relationships in the technology industry along with Larry & Sergey and Jobs & Woz.

It also seems a bit like a Gates/Ballmer relationship as well: sharp hacker and a sharp MBA.

..but with a sharp MBA.

Is Donald Graham (Washington Post chairman / Facebook board member) related to Paul Graham?

If my XPath is correct, there are 168 people with the Graham last name that are noteworthy enough to merit their own wikipedia pages.

Either Paul Graham and his immediate family[1] have done well for themselves, or maybe, just maybe, it's one of the top 10 most common names for people from the British-Isles.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_%28surname%29

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