Book Review: The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich

The first time I heard the  phrase counterfactual condition, I was at an academic conference.  A speaker was talking about how things might be different, say, if President Kennedy  hadn’t been assassinated.

We all think about the ‘what-ifs’, about coincidences, good luck, timing, and…”There but for the grace of God go I…”.

I had read Ben Mezrich’s book, Bringing Down the House , about how a bunch  of MIT math  wizards briefly  ran a great Blackjack playing empire that was so good, they got banned by the casinos. It was so well told, that I was eager to read this  book, published in 2009.  It is the factual narrative (at least from the point of view of Eduardo Saverin), of how Facebook emerged to be Facebook.  Essentially, Mark Zuckerberg was in the right place at the right time.  Of course, he doesn’t tell his side of the story, he has no need to.  He is obviously a brilliant programmer.  It took more than being a great programmer to turn this into a business, however.  This is really what this book is  about.

Many of us have heard about the Winklevoss twins, and that it was their idea, first.  Possibly.  They had an idea, and could not find a programmer to  bring it to fruition.  Because of their reluctance to look outside of the Harvard community, and trusting Zuckerberg because of what appears to be an implied understanding, they felt they were wronged.  Nobody need shed any tears for these guys.  They got a multi-million dollar settlement.  The guy we should really  sympathize with is Eduardo Saverin.  He really got squeezed out.  That’s it in a nutshell.  However Mezrich does a really good job telling it, from start to finish.

This is the book that Aaron Sorkin used to  develop the  movie, The Social Network.  It’s a good read.


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