Read “more comments”:http://gigaom.com/2007/07/16/facebook-founder-vs-founders/ on this story at the “Mothership”:http://gigaom.com/, under Om’s byline.
This morning I read with interest the blog and media coverage of a three-year-old lawsuit against “Facebook”:http://www.facebook.com/ founder “Mark Zuckerberg”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg brought by three of his former Harvard classmates. Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, claim “here”:http://ecf.mad.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_case_doc?pdf_header=0&magic_num=MAGIC&case_id=94034&doc_num=13&att_num=0&got_receipt=1&de_seq_num=62 that Zuckerberg stole the idea, source code and business plan for their own social networking site hatched in 2002, then-called HarvardConnection, after he worked with them on the project in November 2003. They claim Zuckerberg failed to complete his work for them, and then went incommunicado, only to launch Facebook four months later, in February 2004. The trio has since “regrouped” and renamed their site “ConnectU”: You can read their own description of its origins “here”:http://www.connectu.com/about/short.php, which includes this quiet stab at Zuckerberg:
_”Over the course of development, we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve cycled through several programmers, even one who stole our ideas to create a competing site, without informing us of his intentions. But we’ve been troopers. At first we were devastated and climbed into a bottle of Jack Daniels for a bit, but eventually emerged with a bad headache and renewed optimism. We weren’t going to lie down and get walked over like this. So we regrouped, reassessed, and the end result is ConnectU, albeit a couple of months late.”_
Unbowed, “Zuckerberg has counter-sued”:http://ecf.mad.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/show_case_doc?pdf_header=0&case_id=94034&doc_num=14&att_num=0&got_receipt=1&de_seq_num=64 lobbing some pretty unflattering charges himself: that plaintiffs’ claims aren’t justified due to their own “estoppel” (inconsistency); “laches” (negligence); “unclean hands” (hmmm…); “abandonment”; “misconduct;” and because “Plaintiff is not the owner of the alleged copyright.” (OK, now we’re with you.)
We’re not going to handicap this dogfight just yet — though in their early forms, the similarities betweent the two sites are too great to ignore.
*But this tangle over who owns what raises an important question for founders* and gives renewed relevance to the old debate over *what matters more, invention or innovation?* The academic analysis says that “invention” is defined as the creation of new things. “Innovation” happens when these new things are delivered to the marketplace for the benefit of consumers/society.
*So tell us what you think:*
*1) What is matters more, the idea* (HarvardConnection) *or the innovation of the idea*(Facebook)?
*2) What would you rather be known for as a founder — the idea, or the innovation?*
*3) Should ideas and innovations have equal value, theoretically and remuneratively?*
If Zuckerberg didn’t have the original vision–and he may have to pay for this eventually–Facebook must be credited with adjusting to the changing business landscape faster and better than the team at ConnectU. It is only since Facebook expanded beyond its university focus that users tipped 30 million, traffic began pacing Google’s, and the company began summoning buyout bilds worth $6 billion and up. Five years on, ConnectU _still_ focuses on university communities.
So the future holds a big payday for Zuckerberg, et al. Whether it will mean the same for Team Winklevoss is to be determined. (There is an important hearing later this month.) But heck, at least the founders of ConnectU seem to have their priorities straight:
_”We have learned a lot over the year and a half it took to bring our idea to fruition. We have developed a healthy sense of skepticism, learned to be smarter in our dealings with people, but most importantly learned *the importance of doing something you love.*”_
Read more about the dispute from “VentureBeat”:http://venturebeat.com/2007/07/15/the-facebook-lawsuit-that-hasnt-gone-away/ ; “TechCrunch”:http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/07/16/the-ghost-of-zuckerbergs-past-may-haunt-facebook-ipo/; and “Portofolio”:http://www.portfolio.com/views/blogs/daily-brief/2007/07/13/facebook-in-litigation-20.