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Moral Dilemmas and Networking: How Facebook Began

How much power and influence does Facebook have over our lives? How has it changed how we interact with one another? And what is next for the company – and us?

As the biggest social media network in the world, there’s no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in our daily life. And in light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing “fake news” accounts, the handling of its users’ personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO, never has the company been more central to the national conversation.

Award-winning tech reporter, Steven Levy presents a never-before-seen inside look into the making and building of the company. Find below an excerpt that gives you one of the many investor stories for Facebook in its early stages:


Moral Dilemma

In March 2005, Thefacebook finally moved into an office. Parker secured a second- floor space on Emerson Street in downtown Palo Alto, over a Chinese restaurant.

By then Zuckerberg had moved out of the Los Altos house. As the company was getting bigger it was less seemly that the CEO was bunking with the underlings. After crashing in different locations for a few months, Zuckerberg would move to a small apartment in downtown Palo Alto, a few blocks from the office. He had no TV, just a mattress on the floor and a few sticks of furniture. He was the CEO and biggest shareholder of a company with more than a million users and he still stacked his clothes on the floor.

In the first few weeks in the office, Thefacebook faced a financial crisis. Though it hadn’t yet spent all of Thiel’s angel money, the server bills and other costs were accumulating. The company still needed a new pot of cash, ideally coming from an investor who could act as an adviser to a CEO who had never even worked for a big company before, let alone run one. There would be no problem getting the money. But the choice of lead funder was fraught.

Zuckerberg had a strong preference for who he wanted to fill that role: Washington Post chairman and CEO Don Graham. Not a venture capitalist. Chris Ma, the father of one of Zuckerberg’s Kirkland House classmates, headed business development for the Post, and his daughter Olivia’s description of Thefacebook’s conquest of the college market intrigued him. In January 2005, Parker and Zuckerberg went to Washington, DC, to explore a business relationship. Ma invited Graham to the meeting, and the Post CEO listened in fascination as Zuckerberg described how Thefacebook worked. He wondered, though, whether privacy was an issue. Are people convinced that their posts will be seen only by those whom they want to see them? he asked.

People were indeed comfortable with sharing, Zuckerberg told him. A third of his users, he said, share their cell- phone numbers on their profile page. “That’s evidence that they trust us.”

Graham was startled at how emotionless and hesitant this kid was. At times, before he’d answer a question— even something that he must have been asked thousands of times, like what percentage of Harvard kids were on Thefacebook— he would fall silent, staring into the ether for thirty seconds or so. Does he not understand the question? Graham wondered. Did I offend him?

Nonetheless, before the meeting was over, Graham became convinced that Thefacebook was the best business idea he’d heard in years, and told Zuckerberg and Parker that if they wanted an investor who was not a VC, the Post would be interested.

Facebook: The Inside Story is crammed with insider interviews, never-before-reported reveals, anecdotes, and exclusive details about the company’s culture and leadership. In the process, the book explores how Facebook has changed our world and what the consequences will be for us all.

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