It was a decent enough idea, he figured, so he shared it with Eduardo L. Saverin ’05. Saverin, a former president of the Harvard Investment Association, agreed to throw in $1,000 in startup money. This capital, he and Zuckerberg reasoned, would keep the site live for at least two months.
The two friends were thinking ahead. But they could only see so far into the future.
They did not imagine what would come the next month, in February, when the success of the project would inspire Zuckerberg to expand the website nationally, enlisting the help of his roommate, Dustin A. Moskovitz ’06-’07. Nor did they imagine the concert tickets, dinners, or the new sport utility vehicle that investors looking to cash in on the project would eventually throw Zuckerberg’s way. They did not imagine that this fall one of these investors would reward their success with a party at his posh San Francisco club, Frisson, where champagne and caviar are menu standards. They did not anticipate a personal meeting with the CEOs of Friendster and Google—or that they would soon take time off Harvard to share a house in California with the co-founder of Napster. And they certainly did not guess that today, only a little over a year after they first launched the site, TheFacebook.com would serve 1.5 million users from across the country, nearly all of whom visit the site at least once a week.
In just five months, what began as a follow-up project to Zuckerberg’s failed HotOrNot.com spin-off, Facemash.com, became an internet phenomenon in the same boat as multimillion dollar companies like Friendster and Tribe. And a sophomore computer science concentrator in Kirkland House, his detail-oriented roommate, and a mutual friend with an eye for business became Silicon Valley executives—de facto CEO, project manager, and CFO, respectively.
The three friends stumbled into a glamorous life, but it wasn’t all caviar and champagne.
Tensions ran high this summer when Zuckerberg decided to reapportion ownership of the company, increasing Moskovitz’s share to match the work he put in. The rest of the team was shocked, but Zuckerberg says it was only fair: he says TheFacebook is just as much the overlooked Moskovitz’s project as it is his own. Conflict comes with the territory of mixing friends and business, especially when creative visions clash. Zuckerberg says they work it out as friends would—by talking it out—but according to a summer intern, Zuckerberg always has the last word.
The team’s greatest troubles, however, fall outside the domain of internal power dynamics. Last July, TheFacebook fell nearly $60,000 in debt as site traffic—and advertising revenue—declined. The team faced a choice: let the investors bail them out, or stick it out alone, keeping the site student-run.
It’s an identity crisis TheFacebook has yet to resolve completely. Making matters worse, the individual futures of Zuckerberg, Saverin and Moskovitz are just as uncertain as that of their company. Zuckerberg and Moskovitz have begun another semester away from school, but they don’t want to stay away forever. Meanwhile, Saverin is counting the months until graduation. And money always remains an issue: the lawsuit filed by three Harvard graduates for the competing ConnectU site costs TheFacebook $20,000 a month, even though the case has yet to reach discovery phase.
TheFacebook faces big questions, but Zuckerberg will tell you he’d rather be programming.
THE GOOD LIFE Two days after Christmas, it’s a freezing 54 degrees in California, and the streets are slick from rain the night before. It’s been a wet season, Zuckerberg says, not at all like the endlessly sunny summer that the TheFacebook’s production team first enjoyed when they moved out in June.
His teammates Andrew K. McCollum ’06-’07, Moskovitz, and Sean Parker, the 25-year-old cofounder of Napster, have all left for the holidays, but Zuckerberg, a New York native, stayed in town.
“I’m sick of airplanes,” Zuckerberg says. “You know it’s a bad sign when you fall asleep at takeoff.”
Zuckerberg took a number of trips to the East Coast earlier in the semester to meet with potential investors and advertisers. He once squeezed six cities into a 10-day trip. His roommates joke about his “weekly commute to New York.”
Today Zuckerberg is loafing around in pajamas and a T-shirt, his typical work garb, and the same outfit he will wear when pitching his latest project, Wirehog, to Sequoia Capital, a world-famous investment firm, in late January.
Located in Los Altos, California, the house Zuckerberg and his team have named “Casa Facebook” looks like an oversized extension of a Kirkland dorm room—the place where it all began.