When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Kirkland House dorm room in February 2004, he wasn’t much different from any other Harvard student. A decade later, he’s a household name worth billions of dollars. I had the opportunity to meet up with four of the seven charismatic young men who now live in Zuckerberg’s suite for some retrospection, reflection, and laughs. Just like any blocking group of junior boys, the seven of them have ample shared memories and jokes, though they insist the next big thing in technology won’t be coming from their room.
The Zuckerberg suite wasn’t the blocking group’s top choice in last year’s housing lottery. “We got pushed out of the seven-man lottery, so it was our top choice to crowd a six, and when we toured the room, the previous residents told us it was Zuckerberg’s room and we were pretty stoked,” recalls R. Reid Bergsund’ 15. The room, he assures me, is the same size and quality as any other six-man suite in Kirkland. “It’s a cool piece of history, but there’s nothing to indicate that anything out of the ordinary happened there.”
Not everyone agrees with Bergsund’s recollection: blockmate Andrew S. Flesher ’15 said he didn’t know whose room he was moving into. “I wasn’t even aware. I just thought we were getting a bad room, but a few weeks later we found out,” he recalls. “We just thought we were getting n-1 housing. We were pretty bummed.”
“No, I thought some of us knew,” Bergsund counters. Blockmate Jordan N. Mann ’15 recalls being uncertain. “I wasn’t sure if it was a myth, where people thought that’s where it was but no one actually knew,” he adds.
Though none of the blockmates have ever met or interacted with Zuckerberg, blockmate Alejandro Perez ’15, a Crimson business editor, has what he calls “literally the smallest connection” to Facebook’s founding. “The co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, went to my high school. I’ve met him,” Perez says. A blockmate adds, “Double coincidence,” and all four boys nod in agreement.
Though Zuckerberg himself never came as a visitor, the room has attracted some unexpected, Facebook-related guests. Mann recalls, “We briefly had four random strangers in our room last week. They just came in through the fire door and we didn’t realize they were there. They were just having drinks in the room to celebrate Facebook’s tenth anniversary.”
Bergsund, who had been in the room at the time, says, “I heard them talking, and thought they were one of you guys. Lo and behold, they were four people I’ve never met before. But I met them then, and we toasted Facebook’s success.”
However, the room has changed somewhat since the halcyon days of 2004. “The way the room is set up right now is two beds and probably eighteen pieces of furniture. There’s legitimately no space right now. I don’t think it looks anything like it did back then,” Flesher says.
He adds, “I saw some photo where [Zuckerberg] had a desk and was able to move around a little bit, but there’s not too much space for that currently. Also, we connected H33 and H34 through the fire doors. I don’t know if they did that then. You can get in through the other side.” He hesitates, “Wait, I hope strangers don’t read FM….”
Like most Harvard students, these Kirkland blockmates are subject to the competitive atmosphere that thrives on-campus. “I feel like we’re going to outdo him,” says Perez about Zuckerberg. “What’s he worth, $30 billion? And he’s, like, 30 years old?”
Though the blocking group hasn’t invented a new form of social media yet, they have invented a game: “Bounce or Shatter.” “It’s where we accidentally drop things and see if they bounce or shatter,” Flesher says, as the group erupts into laughter. Bergsund adds, “Then we purposefully drop more things from higher and higher heights until they shatter.”
The group also explained the Battleship-like card game they had invented, though I didn’t pick it up well enough to explain it here. It’s a blocking group thing.Though these blockmates may not have invented Facebook, they enjoy the benefits of living in its creator’s former room. The famed Zuckerberg Kirkland dorm room hasn’t brought them start-up fortunes, but it has given them what really matters: a couple of really good Facebook statuses. “What [being in Zuckerberg’s room] really boils down to,” says Bergsund, “is that it made a great Facebook status when we found out we had this room. A lot of likes. Then Andrew put up a great photo for the tenth anniversary, and that did pretty well for us.”