Seeing 'The Social Network' Through The Eyes Of Silicon Valley : Monkey See NPR's Laura Sydell saw 'The Social Network' with some of Silicon Valley's own. Their take: Mark Zuckerberg may not be likable, but they can relate to his desire to change the world.
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Seeing 'The Social Network' Through The Eyes Of Silicon Valley

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Seeing 'The Social Network' Through The Eyes Of Silicon Valley

Seeing 'The Social Network' Through The Eyes Of Silicon Valley

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This weekend, the movie "The Social Network" opened across the country. The film is a fictional account of the creation of Facebook, and it paints a pretty dark portrait of founder Mark Zuckerberg. While the film may not be entirely true, NPR's Laura Sydell checked in with some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to hear if they thought it rang true.

LAURA SYDELL: The critics keep saying that the film doesn't make the founder of Facebook look very good. The Zuckerberg in the film has some petty motivations for starting his company - trying to prove himself to girls and to the establishment at Harvard. But from the perspective of people working in Silicon Valley startups, the Zuckerberg in the film is a role model and a hero.

Mr. ASH RUSH: When people do big things, there are problems along the way.

SYDELL: Twenty-six-year-old Ash Rust is an engineer at Klout, a company that ranks individual influence on Twitter.

Mr. RUST: I don't think that any revolution has been completely clean, and this was a communication revolution.

SYDELL: But more importantly to Rust, Zuckerberg is portrayed as a man with a vision.

Mr. RUST: So I think they did a very good job at capturing the emotions and energy of an early stage startup. People don't sleep. But when they do, they dream of a kingdom - 500 million people. The entire world connected in some way through your product.

SYDELL: The film moves back and forth between the creation of Facebook and the proceedings of two lawsuits against Zuckerberg after the rise of his company. In one of the cases, two twin brothers from Harvard charged Zuckerberg with stealing their idea.

Ms. REBECCA HWANG (Co-Founder, YouNoodle): People are very possessive and protective of this one idea they had in the bathroom one day five years ago.

SYDELL: That's how it is in the movie, but that's not how it is in the valley where people are always throwing around ideas, says Rebecca Hwang, an engineer and one of the founders of YouNoodle, a company that uses mathematical formulas to predict the success of startups.

Ms. HWANG: We feel for people like Mark who put in the sweat and the blood and the time and the effort to make it happen.

SYDELL: Zuckerberg definitely comes off as hard working and obsessed in the film. But there's also a lot of partying, drinking, drugs. This group of entrepreneurs finds that picture a little bit exaggerated.

Mr. RUST: There's beer in the fridge.

Unidentified Man: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Man: A lot of caffeine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RUST: Red Bull.

SYDELL: Most of the women in the film are model beautiful, and they are usually partying and having a good old time. That's not quite the real women in Silicon Valley Jim Ying knows. He's with social gaming startup Six Waves.

Mr. JIM YING (General Manager, Six Waves): I definitely thought that the portrayal of women in it was sensationalistic. It definitely is kind of skewed and stereotyped.

SYDELL: But, hey, says Ying, that's Hollywood. Ying thinks if this film was meant to be a morality tale to discourage people from being like Mark Zuckerberg, it's likely to fail, the same way that the original 1987 movie "Wall Street" did. A movie about greed became an inspiration for an entire generation to enter the financial world.

Mr. YING: I'd be curious to see if people who are somewhat inclined to start startups see this as this is a cool way to kind of live your life. They may not be kind of pulling out the morals that this is not a cool way to start a business.

SYDELL: But in "Wall Street," the main character, Gordon Gecko, declares greed is good. In "The Social Network," Zuckerberg becomes a billionaire, but money isn't what drives him. He wants to change the world. That makes him a hero for a generation that sees its revolution in social games, faster video and mobile computers. And as a nation, we've seen a lot of fallout from people motivated by greed. So the motivations of this generation may seem like an improvement.

Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.

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