The Real Cameron Winklevoss Says 'The Social Network' Is 'Nonfiction'
By Rebecca Macatee Posted Oct 1st 2010 06:45PM
We love a good geek to chic, nerd-next-door who makes it big, story. That's why Mark Zuckerberg, cofounder and CEO of Facebook, has been largely perceived as a likable, brilliant young entrepreneur.
But today's nationwide release of, 'The Social Network' is very likely to change our perception of our programming pal, Mark Z. As we all know from the dramatized trailers and media buzz, 'The Social Network' shows a darker, backstabbing Facebook founder than the down to earth, brilliant billionaire we've grown to love.
In the movie, golden boys Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, along with their friend Divya Narendra, are royally screwed over by socially awkward Mark Zuckerberg when he steals their idea for a Harvard-based social networking site.
The real Cameron Winklevoss, who's played by Armie Hammer in the movie, told me confidently, "The film is nonfiction. I think [the creators] David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin did a great job getting their facts right."
I was fully prepared not to like the 6'5" hunky Olympic athlete. Would socially awkward Mark Zuckerberg really steal an idea from this JFK Jr. lookalike and his handsome brother? Cameron said he understood how the whole, "jocks versus nerds thing" had an effect on how people perceived his dispute with Mark Zuckerberg. "I mean, I'd say I'm a nerd, too. This is nerds versus nerds," he said.
As is portrayed in the movie, Harvard seniors Cameron, Tyler, and Divya approached Mark, a sophomore, to partner with them in developing their social networking site. He said, "We'd been developing this idea for a social network for a while. The guy we hired to be our programmer was just overloaded with schoolwork, and he referred us to Mark Zuckerberg."
Cameron said when they first discussed their idea for a Harvard-based social networking site with Mark, he "got it" right away. "There are some people who have a particular skill set but don't really grasp the broader picture. But right away with Mark, you could see a spark in his eye. He totally understood the concept. That's really shown in the movie-it was like a meeting of the minds."
Rather than paying Mark to be just the technical executor of their website, Cameron said they hired him as an "equal partner" of the site. "It was a sweat equity type situation. He didn't ask for money. If he had said, look, 'I want a couple hundred dollars,' we would've had that discussion. We didn't just contract out a piece of the site for him. We wanted a guy who was part of the team."
The Winklevoss brothers and Divya had, "no reason not to trust Mark." They fully incorporated him into their idea, looping him in on their detailed execution plan. He said, "We had several meetings with Mark, the first being over Thanksgiving break. There's a lot of vacation time around then, plus exams. so a large part of our correspondence then became over email. There are 52 documented email interactions. At a certain point, he became kind of distant, and things were taking longer than we planned. But he said he had schoolwork and needed to study, so of course we weren't going to say, 'NO! Do our programming and fail out of school.' He was giving us progress updates the entire time of the work he was doing for us."
Cameron said when he, Tyler and Divya saw in the Harvard student newspaper that Mark Zuckerberg had launched his own version of the social networking site they'd been developing together, they were blindsided. "At first we were like, 'Wait! WHAT? Is there another Mark Zuckerberg on campus?' We couldn't believe it. This was our idea, and here he was completely stealing our same execution plan. He'd fraudulently lead us on for 50 days. The treachery and deceit was just mind-blowing."
Cameron wanted to make it clear that their idea "wasn't something scribbled on a napkin," and that they had a fully developed execution plan and had put over one hundred hours of work into, "a rigorous code base" they'd given to Mark to work on.
"Our idea did not stop at Harvard. We were adamant about Harvard being the starting point, but this was a full-fledged business. We definitely intended to scale it up to include other campuses across the country," he said.
"I can't speak for Mark, but I don't think you put that much at risk and act that way towards three classmates you've worked with on a partner level unless you think there's a whole lot at stake," Cameron said. "I think we were all aware that this social networking site we were working towards had the potential to be very big, and there was a definite advantage to whoever got there first. If Mark thought this was just for fun or he thought it wouldn't expand the way it did, I don't think he would've acted the way he did."
As is reflected in the movie, Cameron, Tyler and Divya didn't want to take legal action against Mark. He said, "At first we tried reaching out to him. He kind of denied it. Then we tried to settle it with the Honor Court at Harvard, thinking that was a fair, efficient way to mediate it, but they didn't really want to get involved. Taking legal action is really expensive and time-consuming, so we didn't want to go that route. Ultimately, though, that was our only option."
Divya and the Winklevoss twins sent Mark a "cease and desist" court order, then battled it out through the legal system. They ultimately settled out of court for a $65 million settlement and a "stake in the company."
Cameron said, "The lawsuit is still ongoing, because they haven't kept up their side of the agreement. We asked for a portion in equity and that hasn't been seen through."
Since graduating, Cameron has continued pursuing legal action, placed sixth in rowing in the 2008 Beijing winter Olympics, earned an MBA from Oxford in London, and launched a popular gossip blog, guestofaguest.com.
"We've all definitely moved on with our lives," he said. "But it's something that gets to me still. I'm actually developing a new project as we speak. I'd tell you about it, but you know, I don't want to get Zuckerberged and someone run off with my idea."
Cameron said although he, Tyler and Divya weren't directly involved in the creation of, "The Social Network," they've been to a few premieres and have enjoyed seeing the process. He said, "It's really entertaining. I think we're portrayed in a fair and positive light. Myself and Tyler and Divya are going to premieres, and that shows we're okay with how we acted. The fact that Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg don't want anything to do with it says a lot."
It's obvious there's still a lot of animosity towards Mark Zuckerberg. Cameron told me, "Mark isn't unhappy about how he acted. He and Facebook are unhappy it's being told. He's not saying, 'I misbehaved. I'm not proud.' He's just saying, 'Don't tell this story.' The movie definitely shows a moral battle ground, with the guys on one side who are trying to work in the system and believe you don't have to step on people to build value, and then Mark, a guy who takes the exact opposite approach."
Cameron said the movie's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg's character is pretty spot on. "He really lacks integrity. World domination is his MO. Everything is in double speak. He never refers to money. His shtick is, 'I'm the hoodie guy with flipflops who doesn't really care about money. I just wanna make things fun and cool.' No. What he means is, 'All I care about is the money.' Everything he says, turn it around and get the actual answer. "
Despite his qualms with Mark Zuckerberg, Cameron, Tyler, and Divya are all now on Facebook. "We stayed off for many years, mainly on principle," he said. But once we reached an agreement in 2008, and we were off at the Olympics meeting people from all over the world, we decided it was time for us to get benefit from this idea. We wanna keep in touch. I stand behind the idea. I think Facebook has done a fantastic job with it. My issue is an ownership issue. I have no agenda or issue with the product. At the end of the day, my joining Facebook isn't really relevant to my issue with Mark Zuckerberg. It would just be adding insult to injury if we couldn't have a little Facebook fun."Cameron and Tyler have also both joined Twitter and are embracing the micro-blogging site as another means of social networking.
And of course, with his recent notoriety and attachment to, 'The Social Network,' Cameron and his brother seem to be quite the eligible bachelors. "I am single," he laughed. "So, I guess I'm a bachelor. How eligible... I'll leave that up to you. We're pretty busy guys, so I'm not sure how much we'll be out and about or showing up on Page Six. But, if people find us interesting, I'm not gonna raise a red flag."
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