November 2, 2010 4:00:33 pm
Indian-American entrepreneur Divya Narendra,one of the three Harvard graduates who sued Mark Zuckerberg for stealing their idea for Facebook,says in hindsight he feels that he would not have brought the latter on board for his social network venture had he known web programming.
Narendra,28,says the six-year long legal dispute with Zuckerberg has made him more disciplined and “more conservative in developing relationships with potential partners.”
“When I was 21,I never expected to be embroiled in litigation with a fellow college classmate. I was just another student excited about a start-up idea looking forward to bringing it to the market,” Narendra said in an interview to Poets and Quants,a website about business school programmes.
Looking back,”when I think about it,had I known how to programme,I would not have had the need to contact Mark in the first place,” Narendra said.
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Narendra along with twin brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss had sued fellow Harvard student Zuckerberg in 2004 alleging that he stole the concept of their online community project ‘ConnectU’ and developed the hit social networking site Facebook.
In 2008,Narendra and the Winklevosses signed a USD 65 million settlement agreement containing a mix of cash and Facebook stock. The settlement is still in dispute due to lack of disclosure regarding Facebook’s stock valuation.
During his junior year at Harvard in around 2002,Narendra had come up with an idea for ConnectU,an online community aimed to provide a platform for Harvard students to connect with one another regarding academics,student life,campus news and events.
ConnectU could benefit students and alumni at Harvard as well students at other colleges in the Boston area,Narendra added.
“Thinking long-term,I knew ConnectU could also be used by students at colleges across the country.”
Narendra roped in the Winklevoss brothers for help on the project and their team had a “good mix of technical skills and entrepreneurial spirit.”
But the trio did not have web programming expertise and “Mark Zuckerberg was brought on board to fill the missing link.”
“Little did we know,while he was supposedly developing ConnectU,he was using our concept as the foundation for a competing venture of his own. Three months later,we were stunned to read about thefacebook.com.”
Insisting that the entire episode has not left him bitter,the New York City native says he is keeping himself busy with his new internet venture for investment professionals SumZero,which he co-founded in 2008.
Besides SumZero,which is an online platform for hedge fund managers to trade ideas about equities,credit and other types of securities,Narendra says he is busy pursuing an MBA at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.
Narendra says his advice for young entrepreneurs is that they should think about ideas that can have a far reaching impact on the world,”but also think about what can go wrong given the inherent risks of business.”
He has also been portrayed in ‘The Social Network,’ the movie based on Facebook.
Narendra,who had attended the movie’s premiere in New York,describes the experience of being featured in a movie as “surreal.”
“Initially,I was surprised by the actor (Max Minghella) they chose to portray me because he did not look anything like me. But I thought the film was entertaining and had a lot of funny one-liners. The writers also did a good job of telling the story from multiple perspectives,” he said.
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