Adam DAngelo is a Jew
by Matthias B. Krause
and Katrin Richter
Whatever the latest bubble on the technology market may look like, it is certain that a tall, skinny young man is sitting in its midst, in a T-shirt and with Adidas flip-flops on his feet. Mark Zuckerberg only takes them off on very special occasions, for example when - like this year - he speaks at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Otherwise, the 23-year-old still reflects exactly what he was until recently: a computer-crazy, highly gifted person who forgets his surroundings when he encounters a programming problem that does not offend his intelligence. The young man could long ago drive a Ferrari, own a sprawling property in southern California, with a view of the sea. If he wants to.
His invention of »Facebook«, a website that offers its members the opportunity to exchange ideas quickly and comprehensively, has long made him rich. Even more. Since Microsoft acquired just 1.6 percent of the company for an impressive 240 million US dollars last month, they are getting a bit cold feet on Wall Street. The deal is reminiscent of the heyday of Internet euphoria in the late 1990s, when youngsters with half-baked ideas raked in millions on the stock market before their companies burned up like falling stars. At some point the Internet bubble 2.0 will likely burst. It doesn't have to be because of »Facebook«. At the moment, their shares are not available in public securities trading anyway. And if Zuckerberg is to be believed, it will stay that way for a while. "I'm here to build something long-term," he told FastCompany.com a few months ago, "everything else is just a distraction." Some had already said he was crazy for not being enthusiastic about the first big offer . Google, Yahoo and Microsoft tried to get started on Facebook. Last year, the one billion dollars that Yahoo wanted to put on the table still seemed like an offer that cannot be refused. The deal now with Microsoft catapults the arithmetical value of Facebook quickly to fifteen times.
The story begins in a place that has a certain tradition as the starting point for breathtaking careers: Harvard. Zuckerberg, one of four children of a Jewish family from the small New York suburb of Dobbs Ferry, enrolled there in 2003. The son of a dentist and a psychologist has already had a small career in prestigious private schools and as a programmer. Together with a friend he developed the software »Synapse«, which is able to analyze the musical preferences of its users and react to them when selecting new tracks. Well-known companies offer money and employment. Zuckerberg declines and prefers to enroll in the place where Bill Gates studied. At least for a short time.
“I'm just like a little kid,” Zuckerberg later confesses to the student newspaper “The Harvard Crimson”. »I find computers exciting, but otherwise I get bored quickly. Those are the two driving factors. «And he likes to create things, and works extensively as a problem solver. He loves the fact that Harvard doesn't have a “face book” like there are at other colleges: a small catalog listing all freshmen with names and pictures, which is distributed to make it easier for newcomers to get used to it. So Zuckerberg sits down in his student dorm, pulls the necessary data from the university computers and starts the website »FaceMash«, which shows two students in any order who are being judged by their fellow students according to the question: Who is hotter? Zuckerberg thought it was fun, and it proves that all the information necessary for a "face book" is available. A violation of copyright and personal rights, said the university management and almost threw the greenhorn out.
Zuckerberg's enterprising spirit was unaffected by this episode. Next he started the project from which the company Facebook grew. Today three of his fellow students claim that Zuckerberg made their idea their own. In fact, three of his fellow students asked if he would help them code their website. »ConnectU« was based on the same idea as Facebook later: It was supposed to be a tool for users to exchange ideas with one another. Zuckerberg initially accepted the job and later left without having achieved anything. Shortly afterwards he started his »Facebook«.
"He took advantage of us," ConnectU co-founder Tyler Winklevoss recently complained in the New York Times. “Zuckerberg has underdeveloped ethics, he's an egomaniac. He just couldn't get over it that he didn't come up with the idea himself. ”Winklevoss and his colleagues believe that emails they exchanged with Zuckerberg at the time reveal the theft and are now bringing the case to the courts. The accused denies any guilt: “I don't spend a lot of time worrying. The courts will have to compare the origins of the programs and then we'll see who is right. "
On February 4, 2004, a Wednesday, everything was set for Facebook. Zuckerberg and his two comrades-in-arms Dustin Moskovitz and Adam D'Angelo first sent out invitations to a few acquaintances, especially Zuckerberg's friends from the Jewish student fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi. "It was a quiet evening," remembers Moskovitz, "but then took them Thing going on. In the end, we had almost 1,500 registered users within 24 hours. «After that, everything goes very quickly. The site is growing so fast that the friends have trouble keeping up with the programming and with the procurement of server capacity. Soon all of Harvard will be networked, after which Zuckerberg decides to open Facebook to other colleges. Later on, corporate networks are added, high schools, universities in Canada, Europe. In September 2006, Facebook opens up to the rest of the world. Anyone who wants can register.
Of course, Zuckerberg is also involved. Last Thursday, for example, at 4:07 in the morning he became a fan of Fraiche Yogurt. By 2.43 a.m. he had installed Facebook on his Blackberry. And just before nine in the evening, the young millionaire made friends with David. All of this is detailed in his own Facebook profile, which is not shared with all users. This is how you learn that Zuckerberg is an atheist and likes to listen to the music of the Californian punk rock group Green Day. Perhaps a surprising predilection for a workaholic like Zuckerberg. Because the expression Green Day stands for a boring day that one tries to kill by smoking weed.
And otherwise? The flow of information, revolutions, minimalism and supposed trivialities fascinate the young man. And he's trying to make the world a more open place. He also sees himself as an artist and uses the words of a great guy on his Facebook profile. Picasso once said that all children are artists. But how do you stay an artist when you grow up?
Growing up began at Zuckerberg in the summer of 2004 at the latest. At that time, he and his friends moved to Silicon Valley to advance the development of their company. The co-founder of the Internet payment service PayPal, Peter Thiel, was one of the first big investors in Facebook, after which the venture capital firms stood in line. Zuckerberg and his friends sat at pools in front of their computers and programmed what they wanted. In 2005 he finally decided to follow his example Gates and gave up his Harvard studies. While »MySpace« is currently the largest social network site on the Internet with over 60 million users, Facebook follows with 50 million active users. Around 200,000 new members are added every day. Today the company employs 300 people in Palo Alto, California. In the coming year there should be 700.
If Zuckerberg and his investors' lofty plans work, Facebook will be a kind of Internet operating system in the not too distant future, just as Microsoft's products are for PCs today. However, Zuckerberg has to be careful not to betray his old ideals. "My goal is not to have a job," he once told the Harvard student newspaper. »Producing cool things and not having someone to tell me what to do and by when is exactly the luxury I'm looking for in life. And maybe I'll do something that pays off. ”Zuckerberg managed the latter much faster than he could have ever dreamed of. Even if he now has to wear sturdy shoes from time to time.
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