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Facebook Family Feud

January 2nd, 2011

The plight of the “Winklevoss Twins” has been well publicized, but thanks to a renewed commitment to win damages against Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are likely to remain in the news for at least most of 2011.

Through a settlement in 2006, the Winklevoss’ received $60 Million (specifically, the amount was $20 Million in cash and $45 Million in stock, which The New York Times estimates is now worth $140 Million, with the growth of the stock). Now, the Winklevoss’ are set to lobby a Federal Appeals Court in San Francisco to have the original settlement returned and revisit the original complaint, obviously with the desire for a much larger payout.

Having appeared on 60 Minutes and in countless articles, the twins appear to be rallying around the perceived benefit of public opinions based on their image as portrayed in the popular film. Projecting an image based on moral values, integrity and principle, they continue to maintain that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook.

It’s my belief that business is indeed a matter of principle as the Winklevoss’ assert, but also, business is a matter of commitment. We live in a free market economy and of course, competition is welcome. Social media is not “trademarkable,” per se.

Presently, the Winklevoss’ are living in San Diego and training for the 2012 London Olympics. During the time that they were committed to their 2008 Olympic goals, Mark Zuckerberg was focused like a laser beam on building Facebook.

Sometimes, the things that shape the future are not at all random, but rather they are the result of clear actions, smart decision-making and the commitment level of individuals. While the Winklevoss twins were allocating all of their effort and energy on their 2008 bid in Beijing, Mr. Zuckerberg was refining and enacting a strategy to build a company — all with clear actionable steps that resulted in the success that Facebook enjoys today. The Winklevoss’ could have just as easily focused on beating Zuckerberg to entrench in the market place faster — and with a better social networking service. Surely at that point, in the early phases of development, a dorm-bound Harvard student with no capitalization could not have won in a head-to-head, “speed-to-market” competition.

Original ideas matter, but Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss seem to think that the idea is 99% of what made the company successful. Nothing is automatic and ideas alone do not make the company. Spoken as a rehearsed sound bite, they credit Zuckerberg for “not screwing it up.”

What I’d propose that they need to learn — or need to accept — is that there were actually thousands of additional, smaller, but still critical decisions that had to be made after the idea of a social networking website was conceived. It’s all that and oh, yes, a few years of perseverance and 16-hour workdays by a dedicated team.

Imagine a different kind of company and history for Facebook. Consider the risks involved and what could have happened. If Zuckerberg and Facebook had instead found misfortune and ultimately owed hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes, liens and unpaid debt, would the Winklevoss’ have been so adamant about their ownership of the original concept?

The initial judgment and award of $60 Million — escalated now to $140 Million because of the company’s performance — would seem more than appropriate and fair. In fact, to some degree the twins have ridden the coat tails of Zuckerberg and Co. By extending their efforts to achieve more, the Winklevoss’ are teetering on the brink of a mass backlash of public opinion, and I think will ultimately earn a brand image that is more about greed and privilege than principle. It’s a western ideal and as American as pie to fight stubbornly for our rights; it’s considered equally un-American and just plain petty to continue to pursue an even larger payout without the commitment to hard work and risk.

Twins’ Facebook Fight Rages On

Winklevosses Carry On Crusade Against Facebook

Looking for the Real Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg: Non-Evil Non-Genius?

Who Owns a Bright Idea if No One Signs the Papers?

Facebook Wins ConnectU Appeal

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This entry was posted on Sunday, January 2nd, 2011 at 1:16 pm and is filed under Business, Media, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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