This summer, being super excited about the Entrepreneurship class I was going to take in Fall, I read a whole bunch of books about how tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook got started and evolved.
Most of these companies have multiple books being written about them, some by ex employees, some by tech journalists. Most books written about the same company do offer generally different perspectives or may focus on different periods of time in the company’s evolution. I generally like to read all the books about a single company either simultaneously or at the very least back to back, one right after the other. Hey, its been a slow summer ;o)
When it came to Facebook, the two book options out there are – The FaceBook Effect and The Accidental Billionaires. And the fact that Hollywood had made a movie based on one and not the other should have told me something. Plus the fact that the tagline for Accidental Billionaires was (and I quote) – A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal.
Now, I quite liked The Social Network. Its a movie – Silicon Valley (and a little bit of Harvard too) Hollywood-ized. But oh the book its based on …. blech! Talk about a potboiler! Not for the first time have I seen a movie and then read the book its based on and wondered just how the adapting team literally pulled an entertaining rabbit out of their collective hat. For instance, have you ever tried to read the original book that the TV series Sex and the City was based on? Double blech!
In any case, what kind of book are people expecting when they pick up a book about how an amazing company got started? Are they really looking for the “dirt”, “personalities”, “gossip”? Or are they looking for how the idea got started, what strategic decisions were made and just how the company got to where it now is. Or perhaps that is just what MBA students read books for.
The Facebook Effect thankfully has plenty of the above and does not disappoint. For instance, Kirpatrick describes how Facebook was initially rolled out a single college at a time and only when the team was convinced that the infrastructure could handle the additional load (so as to not have the site ever, ever be down). And how the decision was made as to which University/college to expand to next…. and how Facebook became more popular than competing social networking sites being rolled out at the same time.
P.S. I know the media has been raving about the initial adoption rate of Google+, but comparing it to how Facebook spread is just comparing apples to oranges.