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The Accidental Billionaires: Sex, Money, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook [Format Kindle]

Ben Mezrich
4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)

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Chapter 1 | October 2003

It was probably the third cocktail that did the trick. It was hard for Eduardo to tell for sure, because the three drinks had come in such rapid succession—the empty plastic cups were now stacked accordion style on the windowsill behind him—that he hadn’t been able to gauge for certain when the change had occurred. But there was no denying it now, the evidence was all over him. The pleasantly warm flush to his normally sallow cheeks; the relaxed, almost rubbery way he leaned against the window—a stark contrast to his usual calcified, if slightly hunched posture; and most important of all, the easy smile on his face, something he’d practiced unsuccessfully in the mirror for two hours before he’d left his dorm room that evening. No doubt at all, the alcohol had taken effect, and Eduardo wasn’t scared anymore. At the very least, he was no longer overwhelmed with the intense urge to get the fuck out of there.

To be sure, the room in front of him was intimidating: the immense crystal chandelier hanging from the arched, cathedral ceiling; the thick red velvet carpeting that seemed to bleed right out of the regal mahogany walls; the meandering, bifurcated staircase that snaked up toward the storied, ultrasecret, catacombed upper floors. Even the windowpanes behind Eduardo’s head seemed treacherous, lit from behind by the flickering anger of a bonfire consuming most of the narrow courtyard outside, twists of flame licking at the ancient, pockmarked glass.

This was a terrifying place, especially for a kid like Eduardo. He hadn’t grown up poor—he’d spent most of his childhood being shuttled between upper-middle-class communities in Brazil and Miami before matriculating at Harvard—but he was a complete stranger to the sort of old-world opulence this room represented. Even through the booze, Eduardo could feel the insecurities rumbling deep down in the pit of his stomach. He felt like a freshman all over again, stepping into Harvard Yard for the first time, wondering what the hell he was doing there, wondering how he could possibly belong in a place like that. How he could possibly belong in a place like this.

He shifted against the sill, scanning the crowd of young men that filled most of the cavernous room. A mob, really, bunched together around the pair of makeshift bars that had been set up specifically for the event. The bars themselves were fairly shoddy—wooden tables that were little more than slabs, starkly out of character in such an austere setting—but nobody noticed, because the bars were staffed by the only girls in the room; matching, bust-heavy blondes in low-cut black tops, brought in from one of the local all-female colleges to cater to the mob of young men.

The mob, in many ways, was even more frightening than the building itself. Eduardo couldn’t tell for sure, but he guessed there had to be about two hundred of them—all male, all dressed in similar dark blazers and equally dark slacks. Sophomores, mostly; a mix of races, but there was something very similar about all the faces—the smiles that seemed so much easier than Eduardo’s, the confidence in those two hundred pairs of eyes—these kids weren’t used to having to prove themselves. They belonged. For most of them, this party—this place—was just a formality.

Eduardo took a deep breath, wincing slightly at the bitter tinge to the air. The ash from the bonfire outside was making its way through the windowpanes, but he didn’t move away from his perch against the sill, not yet. He wasn’t ready yet.

Instead, he let his attention settle on the group of blazers closest to him—four kids of medium build. He didn’t recognize any of them from his classes; two of the kids were blond and preppy-looking, like they’d just stepped off a train from Connecticut. The third was Asian, and seemed a little older, but it was hard to tell for sure. The fourth, however—African American and very polished-looking, from his grin to his perfectly coiffed hair—was definitely a senior.

Eduardo felt his back stiffen, and he glanced toward the black kid’s tie. The color of the material was all the verification Eduardo needed. The kid was a senior, and it was time for Eduardo to make

his move.

Eduardo straightened his shoulders and pushed off of the sill. He nodded at the two Connecticut kids and the Asian, but his attention remained focused on the older kid—and his solid black, uniquely decorated tie.

“Eduardo Saverin.” Eduardo introduced himself, vigorously shaking the kid’s hand. “Great to meet you.”

The kid responded with his own name, Darron something, which Eduardo filed away in the back of his memory. The kid’s name didn’t really matter; the tie alone told him everything he needed to know. The purpose of this entire evening lay in the little white birds that speckled the solid black material. The tie designated him as a member of the Phoenix-S K; he was one of twenty or so hosts of the evening’s affair, who were scattered among the two hundred sophomore men.

“Saverin. You’re the one with the hedge fund, right?”

Eduardo blushed, but inside he was thrilled that the Phoenix member recognized his name. It was a bit of an exaggeration—he didn’t have a hedge fund, he’d simply made some money investing with his brother during his sophomore summer—but he wasn’t going to correct the mistake. If the Phoenix members were talking about him, if somehow they were impressed by what they’d heard—well, maybe he had a chance.

It was a heady thought, and Eduardo’s heart started to beat a

little harder as he tried to spread just the right amount of bullshit

to keep the senior interested. More than any test he’d taken freshman or sophomore year, this moment was going to define his future. Eduardo knew what it would mean to gain entrance to the Phoenix—for his social status during his last two years of college, and for his future, whatever future he chose to chase.

Like the secret societies at Yale that had gotten so much press over the years, the Final Clubs were the barely kept secret soul of campus life at Harvard; housed in centuries-old mansions spread out across Cambridge, the eight all-male clubs had nurtured generations of world leaders, financial giants, and power brokers. Almost as important, membership in one of the eight clubs granted an instant social identity; each of the clubs had a different personality, from the ultraexclusive Porcellian, the oldest club on campus, whose members had names like Roosevelt and Rockefeller, to the prepped-out Fly Club, which had spawned two presidents and a handful of billionaires, each of the clubs had its own distinct, and instantly defining, power. The Phoenix, for its part, wasn’t the most prestigious of the clubs, but in many ways it was the social king of the hill; the austere building at 323 Mt. Auburn Street was the destination of choice on Friday and Saturday nights, and if you were a member of the Phoenix, not only were you a part of a century-old network, you also got to spend your weekends at the best parties on campus, surrounded by the hottest girls culled from schools all over the 02138 zip code.

“The hedge fund is a hobby, really,” Eduardo humbly confided as the small group of blazers hung on his words. “We focus mostly on oil futures. See, I’ve always been obsessed with the weather, and I made a few good hurricane predictions that the rest of the market hadn’t quite picked up on.”

Eduardo knew he was walking a fine line, trying to minimize the geekiness of how he’d actually outguessed the oil market; he knew the Phoenix member wanted to hear about the three hundred thousand dollars Eduardo had made trading oil, not the nerdish obsession with meteorology that had made the trades possible. But Eduardo also wanted to show off a little; Darron’s mention of his “hedge fund” only confirmed what Eduardo had already suspected, that the only reason he was in that room in the first place was his reputation as a budding businessman.

Hell, he knew he didn’t have much else going for him. He wasn’t an athlete, didn’t come from a long line of legacies, and certainly wasn’t burning up the social scene. He was gawky, his arms were a little too long for his body, and he only really relaxed when he drank. But still, he was there, in that room. A year late—most people were “punched” during the fall of their sophomore year, not as juniors like Eduardo—but he was there just the same.

The whole punch process had taken him by surprise. Just two nights before, Eduardo had been sitting at his desk in his dorm room, working on a twenty-page paper about some bizarre tribe that lived in the Amazonian rain forest, when an invitation had suddenly appeared under his door. It wasn’t anything like a fairy-tale golden ticket—of the two hundred mostly sophomores who were invited to the first punch party, only twenty or so would emerge as new members of the Phoenix— but the moment was as thrilling to Eduardo as when he had opened his Harvard acceptance letter. He’d been hoping for a shot at one of the clubs since he’d gotten to Harvard, and now, finally, he’d gotten that shot.

Now it was just up to him—and, of course, the kids wearing

the black, bird-covered ties. Each of the four punch events—like tonight’s meet-and-greet cocktail party—was a sort of mass interview. After Eduardo and the rest of the invitees were sent home to their various dorms spread across the campus, the Phoenix members would convene in one of the secret rooms upstairs to deliberate their fates. After each event, a smaller and smaller percentage of the punched would get the next invitation—and slowly, the two hundred would be weeded down to twenty.

If Eduardo made the cut, his life would change. And if it took some creative “elaboration” of a summer spent analyzing barometric changes and predicting how those changes would affect oil distribution patterns —well, Eduardo wasn’t above a little applied creativity.

“The real trick is figuring out how to turn three hundred thousand into three million.” Eduardo grinned. “But that’s the fun of hedge funds. You get to be real inventive.”

He delved into the bullshit with full enthusiasm, carrying the whole group of blazers with him. He’d honed his bullshit skills over numerous prepunch parties as a freshman and sophomore; the trick was to forget that this was no longer a dry run—that this was the real thing. In his head, he tried to pretend he was back at one of those less important mixers, when he wasn’t yet being judged, when he wasn’t trying to end up on some all-important list. He could remember one, in particular, that had gone incredibly well; a Caribbean-themed party, with faux palm trees and sand on the floor. He tried to put himself back there—remembering the less imposing details of the decor, remembering how simple and easy the conversation had come. Within moments, he felt himself relaxing even more, allowing himself to become enrapt in his own story, the sound of his own voice.

He was back at that Caribbean party, down to the last detail. He remembered the reggae music bouncing off the walls, the sound of steel drums biting at his ears. He remembered the rum-based punch, the girls in flowered bikinis.

He even remembered the kid with the mop of curly hair who had been standing in a corner of the room, barely ten feet away from where he was now, watching his progress, trying to get up the nerve to follow his lead and approach one of the older Phoenix kids before it was too late. But the kid had never moved from the corner; in fact, his self- defeating awkwardness had been so palpable, it had acted like a force field, carving out an area of the room around him, a sort of reverse magnetism, pushing anyone nearby away.

Eduardo had felt a tinge of sympathy at the time—because he had recognized that kid with the curly hair—and because there was no way in hell a kid like that was ever going to get into the Phoenix. A kid like that had no business punching any of the Final Clubs—God only knew what he had been doing there at the prepunch party in the first place. Harvard had plenty of little niches for kids like that; computer labs, chess guilds, dozens of underground organizations and hobbies catering to every imaginable twist of social impairment. One look at the kid, and it had been obvious to Eduardo that he didn’t know the first thing about the sort of social networking one had to master to get into a club like the Phoenix.

But then, as now, Eduardo had been too busy chasing his dream to spend much time thinking about the awkward kid in the corner.

Certainly, he had no way of knowing, then or now, that the kid with the curly hair was one day going to take the entire concept of a social network and turn it on its head. That one day, the kid with the curly hair struggling through that prepunch party was going to change Eduardo’s life more than any Final Club ever could.

Chapter 2 | Harvard Yard

Ten minutes past one in the morning, and something had gone terribly wrong with the decorations. It wasn’t just that the ribbons of white- and blue-colored crepe paper attached to the walls had started to droop —one of them bowing so low that its taffeta-like curls threatened to overwhelm the oversize punch bowl perched below—but now the brightly designed decorative posters that covered much of the bare space between the crepe paper had also begun to unhinge and drop to the floor at an alarming rate. In some areas, the beige carpet had almost vanished beneath piles of glossy computer-printed pages.

On closer inspection, the catastrophe of the decorations made more sense; the peeling strips of packing tape that held the colored posters and crepe-paper ribbons in place were clearly visible, and what’s more, a sheen of condensation was slowly working the strips of tape free as the heat from the overworked radiators that lined the walls played havoc with the hastily constructed ambience.

The heat was necessary, of course, because it was New England in October. The banner hanging from the ceiling above the dying posters was all warmth—alpha epsilon pi, meet and greet, 2003—but there was no way a banner could compete with the ice that had begun to form on the oversize windows lining the back wall of the cavernous lecture room. All in all, the decorating committee had done what they could with the room—normally home to numerous philosophy and history classes, lodged as it was deep into the fifth floor of an aging building in Harvard Yard. They’d carted away the row upon row of scuffed wooden chairs and dilapidated desks, tried to cover up the bland, chipped walls with posters and crepe, and put up the banner, concealing most of the ugly, oversize fluorescent ceiling lights. Topping it all off, there was the coup de grâce; an iPod player attached to two enormous and expensive- looking speakers set on the little stage at the head of the room, where the professor’s lectern usually stood.

Revue de presse

"High-octane page-turners, replete with sex, skullduggery and plot twists worthy of James Patterson"--New York Times

“The book is better; you should read the book” —A-Rod

“Uproarious. . . . Stimulating enough to keep even an unmedicated narcoleptic awake.”
The Washington Times
“Mezrich’s prose has a cinematic flavor.”
The Boston Globe
“You won’t be able to put the book down. The story’s far too compelling, and entirely too personal, to toss aside.”
The Oregonian

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Le livre est excellent si vous avez aimé le film ("The Social Network"), même si l'histoire et les personnages diffèrent un peu. Sachant que certaines parties de l'histoire sont inventées à la fois dans le bouquin et dans le film.
Je recommande à tous ceux qui savent à peu près lire l'anglais, c'est pas compliqué ici.
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0 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Super roman-documentaire 30 octobre 2010
Par Minerva
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
Bien que comportant quelques inexactitudes (que le créateur de Facebook s'est empressé de pointer sitôt le film adapté de ce livre est sorti), ce livre est très bien écrit, intéressant et rondement mené!
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Amazon.com: 3.5 étoiles sur 5  219 commentaires
268 internautes sur 310 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Tabloid Quality Dramatic Narrative 14 juillet 2009
Par Tim Challies - Publié sur Amazon.com
I read this book because I wanted to understand the history of Facebook--a program (a site, a lifestyle) that is changing society. The book's cover (a picture of a red, lacy bra and a couple of cocktail glasses) and subtitle (A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal) should have tipped me off that it was not going to be serious history. Mezrich writes the book in the style of dramatic narrative which apparently means "when I don't have facts, I'll just make 'em up and when the story gets slow, I'll fabricate a sex scene." He does provide lots of interesting facts and shares the rather brutal history of Facebook (from Mark Zuckerberg essentially stealing the idea from people who had asked him to create a very similar social media site to the backhanded way that he forced his co-founder out of the company). I suppose it is a tale of money, genius and betrayal, though I don't see how sex really enters into the true tale except as much as it would for any group of college students (except, of course, as a selling feature). So this is Mezrich's take on the story, written in a tabloid fashion where what is true and what could be true blend together. By his own admission, Mezrich did not speak to Zuckerberg at all and relied very heavily on Eduardo Saverin, a valuable though hardly objective source (seeing as he is the very co-founder who was removed from the company). The framework of the facts seems to line up with what I've read elsewhere but the very nature of the book makes it somewhat less than trustworthy. Still, if you want to know how Facebook came to be, how it evolved from a week's worth of work for a college student to a company valued in the billions dollars, this seems to be the only show in town. Even then, read Wikipedia first to see if it offers enough to satisfy your curiosity before plunking down the money for this book. Even at just $16.50 it's hard to believe that it's worth the money.
163 internautes sur 190 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Don't accidentally buy this book 18 juillet 2009
Par Web Samurai - Publié sur Amazon.com
I enjoyed Ben Mezrich's "Bringing down the House" but his latest books have been terrible. First the very boring "Rigged", and now "The Accidental Billionaires", about the history of Facebook.

All of his books follow the same formula: A young, brilliant man suddenly finds fortune and girls by using his skills to make money in interesting ways. Usually he has a mentor. His success causes some friction with his friends, but he eventually wins out, albeit at a price. This formula is so rigid one wonders if Mezrich begins his books with a Word Template... Chapter Five - Hero realizes the idea will make lots of money... Chapter Eight - Hero gets with girl way out of his league...

The characters seem like hand-puppets even though they are allegedly real-life personas. You have the unlucky-in-love nerd, his pushover sidekick, and the jealous jocks. The dialogue is so mundane and contrived you can't imagine anyone talking that way.

As for women, they exist only as status symbols in Mezrich's books.

Now, the story about the founding of a website will not excite most readers, so Mezrich tries to sex it up with stories of lavish parties and groupies. The problem is Mezrich admits to creative storytelling in the Forward-- collapsing time frames, combining characters, even imagining scenarios. So, in effect, everything not publicly documented could be fabricated.

As a history or bigraphy, then, we already know that the book is useless. But it also fails as a compelling drama. In some chapters basically nothing happens. Mezrich will spend pages describing the setting in detail, the characters will make a few remarks, and then the chapter ends. What was it about? Why was it important? Who knows. But these chapters do pad out the book, which is a breezy read anyway. You will finish the thing in a few hours. There's about 10 words per line, 20 lines per page, and very little content. The meat of the book takes us up to 2005, before Facebook's truly phenomenal growth (it was still far behind MySpace at the time), and before anything is resolved. Like many of the chapters, the book just sorta ends. I suspect the movie rights to this book were sold before the book was even in the outline stage, and he was on a tight deadline.

In short, this book gives you no reliable information, and is not even entertaining.
33 internautes sur 36 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Mega-Money, Technology, and Social Dysfunction 6 novembre 2010
Par Mark Edward Bachmann - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
People who have panned this book are mostly missing the point in my judgment. Author Ben Mezrich is raconteur with a story to tell, and he doesn't expect us to accept it as business history or even serious journalism. He offers the necessary disclaimers in his introduction, acknowledging that he did the best he could with fragmentary sources and connected the dots where necessary with a fair amount of probabilistic imagining. One senses he captures the gist of this story pretty well, in much the way a talented sketch artist can draw an uncanny portrait despite distortion and a lack of details. Allowing for such limitations, this is quite a good book.

The digital economy has spawned a series of meteoric companies and overnight billionaires over the past three decades. And just when it seemed this phenomenon had passed its zenith, along came Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. Yet another geeky kid with a high IQ and anarchistic tendencies, Zuckerberg created the precursor to Facebook as a hacker's prank during his short stint as a Harvard undergraduate. When the prank "went viral" literally overnight within the Harvard community, Zuckerberg knew he was onto something much bigger than he bargained for.

There were other ideas for online social networks being explored at the time. At Harvard itself, a couple of wealthy six-foot-five crew champions - identical twins - had a similar notion. The Winklevoss brothers knew little about computers, however, and had hired a programmer for the project, who dawdled with it for a while and then quit suddenly. To complete the task, the twins turned to Mark Zuckerberg, who was miles beneath them in social status at Harvard but had become an instant campus celebrity when he hacked the University computers. Everyone at Harvard, including the Winklevosses, knew who he was and recognized his technical prowess. Zuckerman too appeared to doddle with the project, but was in fact moving at lightning speed in secret to build his own social networking site. When he launched the surprise attack, the Winklevosses were stunned and accused him of stealing their idea and their code. In reality, the slow-footed twins had nothing worth stealing, since Zuckerman already had the idea and probably viewed the code as child's play. What he was guilty of was stalling the two brothers long enough for him to gain the first-mover's advantage.

Zuckerberg never looked back afterwards. After "the facebook" pervaded Harvard, he quickly introduced it to one college campus after another as the wild viral phenomenon fed on itself. With thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of new users flocking to the site, Zuckerberg was building a potential gold mine. However, a true-blue hacker to the core, he seemed to care little about business matters or even money. For this stuff, he partnered with his best friend, Eduardo Saverin. Saverin was also something of an outsider at Harvard, but he was more polished than Zuckerberg and had some business credentials. He had managed a small hedge fund one summer, and his father was a successful businessman. Saverin put his own money into the project and in yeoman-like fashion set about finding advertisers for Facebook.

In the meantime, Zuckerberg had made contact with Sean Parker, the buccaneering and hyperactive young co-founder of Napster. Parker had flamed out with Napster and all of his other business ventures to date, but he still saw himself as a player and had ties to serious venture capital money. He introduced Zuckerberg to Peter Theil, a man with very deep pockets, who opened them up to set Facebook on its way as big business. Glibly jettisoning his Harvard career, Zuckerberg moved to California, while Eduardo Saverin chose to continue plodding along back in Cambridge. Sensing correctly that he had become superfluous to the operation and was being phased out, Saverin in a fit of pique tried to short-circuit the young business by closing its bank accounts, which he still controlled. Zuckerberg and his new partners struck back mercilessly by conspiring to drive Saverin out of the company. Zuckerman lured him out to California to review as set of re-incorporation documents, which amazingly Saverin signed without comprehending. Shortly afterwards, Facebook issued a ton of new equity that diluted Saverin's share of the soon-to-be multibillion-dollar company down to virtually nothing. He was out of a job and a fortune, and friendship was out the door.

In his epilogue Ben Mezrich describes himself as an "enormous fan of all the characters in this book", forcing us to wonder how he might write about people for whom he feels less enthusiasm. No one comes off well here. Zuckerberg himself, who didn't cooperate with the author, is a dark enigma. Like most compulsive hackers, he probably has a diagnosable psychological disorder. He could be a schizoid personality, or even suffer from Asperger's syndrome or one of the other mild variants of autism. None of these conditions preclude brilliance, and some can even enhance a person's ability to focus monomaniacally on technical problem-solving.

Eduardo Saverin appears a likeable enough person, but a patsy for whom it's hard to sympathize. For the guy for fancied himself the business brain behind Facebook, the fact that he would blindly sign a legal document authorizing his own destruction seems proof he needed to find another job anyway. Sean Parker, who also was later expelled by Zuckerberg and his new team, seems a stoned-out narcissist, albeit talented and engaging. The Winklevoss twins appear as privileged and rather dim-witted jocks. None of these characterizations are likely to be quite fair, but in a quick sketch, it's how they come across.

Mezrich writes in a style that's reminiscent of early Tom Wolfe and certain other authors whose work constituted what was called "new journalism" back in the 1960's. Like Mezrich, these writers were highly entertaining and easy to read, but they also generally sought to illustrate social themes. In Mezrich's case, his theme is the impact of progressive technology and mega-money on people's lives in twenty-first century America. Whether Mezrich is a "fan" of his characters or not, they don't come across as very happy people. They're engaged in socially useful business, and while not truly corrupt as people, they're self-centered and generally amoral. One gets the impression that mega-money is likely only to make these problems worse for them as their young lives progress.

Mezrich's limited purpose with this book is to entertain us and to illustrate these motifs. I think he succeeds, and I can recommend the book to people who don't expect from it more than it has to offer.
136 internautes sur 175 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
1.0 étoiles sur 5 Poorly written 19 juillet 2009
Par A. P. - Publié sur Amazon.com
I was amazed how poorly this book is written. I originally thought that it was the author's first book, but to my amazement it turned out that he already published 10 books! I only read it because I was curious about the story, but seriously, the story could be written in 20 pages, not two hundred something. Also, the constant mention of "hot blond" or "hot Asian" chicks was extremely annoying and offensive. Isn't it strange that every character in the book views women purely as a sex object and is only attracted to blonds or Asians. Or is it the author, Ben Mezrich only attracted to Asian or blond chicks? Anyway, this book was a total waste of money for me.
63 internautes sur 80 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Where's the beef? 14 juillet 2009
Par Richard Cumming - Publié sur Amazon.com
Mark Zuckerberg is the very public face of Facebook so this book will let readers know all about the genius Harvard computer nerd who turned a prank into the biggest social network on the web, right? Sorry, if you want to know anything new about Zuckerberg you'll have to search elsewhere.

He would not speak to the author. Zuckerberg's former friend and partner Eduardo helped out. He doesn't seem to know Zuckerberg at all. By the end of this book he admits that he never really knew the guy well. Even the anonymous sources don't add much to this discussion.

The bare bones of Facebook are here. The embryonic growth phase. The lawsuits. But it is written as a sort of fiction. The author imagines conversations and the details of events. Mezrich went to Harvard so he is writing what he knows, sort of.

The book is already optioned for a film. Perhaps the film will be bolder about portraying Zuckerberg as more than a mysterious cipher? Hard to say, with Zuckerberg's cash perhaps everybody is just afraid of litigation. Who knows?

This book is not any great revelation despite what some adoring critics might claim. A pretty wrapper but not much on the inside....

p.s. Be sure to read the review by Kim Albert aka "BigMamma" in this group of reviews. In the comments section you will find a fascinating conversation between this reviewer and Ben Mezrich, the author of "Accidental Billionaires." Enjoy!
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