He's CEO, bitch: Young Zuckerberg and the early days of Facebook revealed

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Valley of Genius.
Valley of Genius. Credit: Grand Central Publishing

"Everyone who has seen 'The Social Network' knows the story of Facebook's founding," Adam Fisher writes at the start of "Sex, Beer, and Coding: Inside Facebook's Wild Early Days" in Wired. Fisher's intro sets up an excerpt from "Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley," his new book hitting bookstores this week. "What people tend to forget, however, is that Facebook was only based in Cambridge [at Harvard] for a few short months."

As soon as TheFacebook.com, as it was then called, took off, Mark Zuckerberg and friends "decided to move to Silicon Valley after finals and spend the summer there rolling Facebook out to other colleges, nationwide." The story of that portion of Facebook's history is less well-known, which Fisher decided to remedy. As he writes of his project, "For this oral history of those critical months back in 2004 and 2005, I interviewed all the key players and talked to a few other figures who had insight into the founding era."

You should go ahead and buy the book, but to get you started, here are some choice bits from Wired's excerpt:

• Zuckerberg's first business card. "The whole enterprise began as something of a lark, it was an un-corporation," Fisher writes, "an excuse for a summer of beer pong and code sprints. Indeed, Zuckerberg's first business cards read, 'I'm CEO … bitch.' The brogrammer 'tude was a joke … or was it?"

• Remember, Facebook (born 2004) arrived in the Friendster (born 2002) and MySpace (born 2003) era. "So MySpace had almost a third of their staff monitoring the pictures that got uploaded for pornography," Mark Zuckerberg tells Fisher. "We hardly ever have any pornography uploaded. The reason is that people use their real names on Facebook."

• The culture: "The early company culture was very, very loose," Ezra Callahan, one of Facebook's earliest employees, tells Fisher. "It felt like a project that's gotten out of control and has this amazing business potential. Imagine your freshman dorm running a business, that's really what it felt like."

• The office, uh, decor: Graffiti artist David Choe was commissioned (and famously paid in Facebook stock) to decorate Facebook's first official office space, which the staff moved into in February 2005. Callahan tells Fisher: "So then we move in, and when you first saw this graffiti it was like, 'Holy shit, what did this guy do to the office?' The office was on the second floor, so as you walk in you immediately have to walk up some stairs, and on the big 10-foot-high wall facing you is just this huge buxom woman with enormous breasts wearing this Mad Max–style costume riding a bulldog. It's the most intimidating, totally inappropriate thing."

Wired's full book excerpt can be found here.

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