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3 Things The Social Network Taught Me About Startups

Spoiler Alert: You’ve been warned.

If “The Social Network” has a subliminal message, it’s this:

“Swinging for the fences means forgetting about everything they taught you in business school, and if you went to business school, you are fucked.”

1.Lunch Meetings and Face to Face is for losers.

If you are going to New York to talk to ad men, you are just cosplaying “Mad Men.” In fact, any social interaction that isn’t mediated and accelerated through something like Flowtown, or Salesforce, or LinkedIn is just that, cosplay. If you are doing business over lunch, then you might as well be dressing up for Renn Faire.

The lesson of this is one of the pivotal scenes in “The Social Network.” Not to give away too much, but in the movie, Fincher and Sorkin take great pains to show what happens to someone who doesn’t get it, even if he’s a co-founder. This person who didn’t get it has a business degree from Harvard, and went to New York to make deals for selling ads on Facebook.

2. Coders can do it faster and better than biz dev or people who cannot code.

Coders code much faster than any “traditional” business arrangement. If you have an idea, and cannot code it, you can never be relevant if you are swinging for the fences. Case in point: The Vinkelvoss twins did have the “idea” for a social network, but so did everybody and their grandma at the time, but execution is very different. Most business folks focus on the idea and the revenue model. The example with in the movie showed that this idea is flawed. Why? Making waves in society with technology will always be faster than a revenue model.

3. Our capacity for having the wisdom to understand the technology we create outstrips the rate at which we create technology.

If this is the case, then the point that the character of Sean Parker pushes throughout the movie, that putting ads on a site is like ending a real cool party at 11 pm, is something all startups swinging for the fences have to take to heart.

EDUARDO: Settle an argument for us, would you? I say it’s time to start making money from TheFacebook but Mark doesn’t want advertising. Who’s right?
SEAN: Neither of you. TheFacebook is cool, that’s what it’s got going for it… You don’t want to ruin it with ads because ads aren’t cool. It’s like you’re throwing the coolest party on campus and someone’s telling you it’s gotta be over at eleven. You don’t even know what the thing is yet.

Great point, Sean. I mean look at what has become because of that ad revenue pop-up model of business. ImDB is so ugly and not cool.


Keeping It Real On Social Networking

I un-friended 50 people today and it feels good.

I applauded Twitter’s decision in July of 2007 to change “friend” to “follow”. It took one more falsehood out of the pile of lies that is the Internet.

I had to look at my Twitter followers and who I was following. I did the same with Facebook. I saw quite a few spammers, posers, users, and those who were a combination of all three.

A pic of how easy it is to fake friendship
figure 1. It’s easy to fake friends.

There was one person, who shall remain nameless, that really used me and hurt me. This person has managed to “friend” the top people in the Web 2.0 industry and has made it appear like s/he was the friend of all these top people thanks to carefully placed comments and strategic friending on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and Upcoming.

Imagine my embarrassment when I showed up at a function with this person and my real friends revealed that they didn’t know this person at all.

Anyway, one of my goals is to keep my Twitter and Facebook connections real and I won’t hastily add “friends” anytime soon.

It’s a sad thing that nobody reads Book 8 of Aristotle’s Ethics anymore.

Here are two quotes that serve as a commentary of our age of easy friending:

“Those who quickly show the marks of friendship to each other wish to be friends, but are not friends unless they both are lovable and know the fact; for a wish for friendship may arise quickly, but friendship does not.”

“Those who are friends for the sake of utility part when the advantage is at an end; for they were lovers not of each other but of profit.”

And what am I going to do about it?

I’m planning on making a social network where it’s actually difficult to friend people. The idea is that you can’t be someone’s friend unless you complete a task that shows your friendship for someone and have that verified.





Let me know if you want to work on this project.