Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Social Networks Take Hollywood - Who’s the Gekko Now?

Who’s the Gekko Now?
Looking back, the two watershed moments of 2010 are when Facebook became the only real challenger to Google, hitting the 500 million user mark and attaining a valuation north of $20 billion. But that is nothing compared to the Oscar-worthiness of Social Network - the movie – which also came at the expense of Oliver Stone’s less than spectacular Wall Street.

Wall Street 2 is entertaining but it lacked the defining lesson of the day – so what’s the next big business principal. In 1987 the bad guys were corporate raiders – taking over old-line companies, throwing out old management and dumping workers. As it turns out, the resulting leaner, inherently efficient companies took full advantage of a computer revolution that fueled our economy for the next 20 years. The Good ol’ boy companies would probably have died off anyway. Moviegoers got a villain anyway since Gekko was an insider trader. But he was also part of the future….

Fast-forward to 2010 and we find that in Wall Street 2, Gekko is now a figure of redemption. He is out of jail and wrote a best seller that predicted the crash. He may be a crook but an old crook is better than these newfangled ones with their high frequency trading and funky derivatives. The solution? Bet everything on one big clean tech deal. Not only did this violate the rules of Hollywood redemption – give all your money to the poor and become a funky monk – but this just wasn’t visionary enough.

Social Media is Business Now
Social Network, the story of Zuckerberg’s founding of Facebook on the other hand, IS today’s Gordon Gekko movie. This villain is another overeducated high flyer but instead of a slick Wall Streeter he is a gangly student who is spurned by his girlfriend for his lack of empathy. This becomes the basis of a “who’s hot” college website. This, in turns gets him a project designing code for a group of uppity entrepreneurs who see the opportunity of creating a social site for people who want to date Harvard students.

Zuckerberg front-runs this project – coding his own version while he sandbags his clients, the old-money Winklevoss twins – and then voila, he’s in the Facebook Business. Just as Gekko 1 did, he defined the blueprint of business in the Digital Age 2.0 - the ultimate viral tool. Zuckerberg’s employers can’t compete, so they sue. They settle for a multimillion dollar sum – but as Facebook grows beyond all imaginable bounds the Winklevoss’ become increasingly restive hoping to kill the settlement and get more money.

Did Zuckerberg hide Facebook’s true prospects or were the Winklevoss’s lacking in the vision to see it? 

Either way, the message here is that every business has to find a Social Media angle or they could fade away.

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