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Sean Parker is a hacker, co-founder of Napster, Plaxo and Facebook, a billionaire and investor

After watching the movie " The Social Network, " I wondered how real the character of Sean Parker, as pictured in the movie. An article in Vanity Fair largely satisfied my interest, and Parker turned out to be even more curious than I thought. So I could not resist and translated the article - all of her "many letters" are worth it.

Those who have not watched the movie, but are only planning, please note, there will be a little spoiler in the text.

At 19, Sean Parker helped create Napster. At 24, he became co-founder of Facebook. At 30, he is a party lover, a genius, a social network connoisseur, shy of the press, a promising billionaire. And now a celebrity after Justin Timberlake played him in David Fincher’s The Social Network.
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Sean Parker was in a class on world civilizations at his school in Virginia, when suddenly someone handed him a note. His father, it was said in her, was waiting for him to go to see an orthodontist. On the back of Parker ran a chill. He did not have an orthodontist. When he came out, his father angrily shoved him into a family minivan. By the time they arrived at their modest country house, a group of FBI agents were carrying documents and desktops from Sean's room.

In just a few years, Parker has turned from an arrested 16-year-old hacker who hacked into computer networks of various international corporations and even military databases, into a world-class Internet entrepreneur. In 1999, he became famous for the first time, at the age of 19, thanks to his help in creating a Napster to his even younger friend, Sean Fanning. This service for the free exchange of music has fundamentally changed the music industry. Parker later played a significant role as co-founder of Facebook, a social network in which 500 million people spend 700 billion minutes a month. If he had not joined the founder, Mark Zukenberg, in Palo Alto in the summer of 2004, when Facebook had existed only 5 months, the service most likely would not have been as huge as it is today.

Parker is considered by many to be a web oracle; repeatedly his colleagues and acquaintances used the word "genius" in relation to him. He understands not only computers and networks, but also how people would like to introduce them into their lives. And, as a result, he became incredibly successful. But there is, of course, a downside. Parker is also famous for not meeting deadlines, misses meetings, can disappear for several weeks and avoids the press. (His decision to work with Vanity Fair is a rather unprecedented exception). He was expelled from Facebook after being arrested for possession of cocaine in 2005 (no charges were made). Even among those who support him, he is known as a man who loves to go on a spree.

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Now he is on the threshold of a new level of fame due to the release of the film The Social Network. The film is about the first year of Facebook, partially describing the “dark side” of Parker's personality. Justin Timberlake plays the smarmy and treacherous Parker, who in the film and in life was the main mentor of Zukenberg during the formation of Facebook. But according to the scenario of Aaron Sorkin, Parkin is also an assertive, greedy and far-sighted manipulator. " A million dollars is not cool, " says Parker at some point in the film. - Do you know what's cool? Billion . " Zuckerberg, played by Jesse Eisenberg, is portrayed as self-confident, spiteful, and a little sexually obsessed.

This Parker is more complicated and interesting, despite the excellent skills of Sorkin and the director, David Fincher. In particular, Parker is an exquisite dandy, as well as a rather unique and unusual personality in the annals of business in the 21st century. At 30, his fortune had almost reached a billion dollars, mainly due to Facebook’s shares that still belong to him. Self-taught, who barely finished school, he is nevertheless very smart. Being a painful child, whose asthma attacks periodically sent him to the hospital, he began to read a lot from an early age. His father, an oceanographer, began teaching his son programming when he was 7 years old. There is practically no topic - in literature, politics, medicine or technology - for which he could not keep up the conversation and express his opinion.

He concentrated and directed his knowledge and instincts in the field of Internet business strategy, in order, as he himself says: “to restructure society. Now technologies, not business or the state, are the real driving force in large-scale changes in society . ” Parker is also known for being able to predict well where the next round of technology is going (and what type of product or service consumers will need), so companies often invite him just to use his brain. “ Few people are as smart as he is ,” says 26-year-old Zuckerberg, who still often consults with his former partner.

But, despite all his experience in the web, at times it seems that Parker is only attracted to entertainment. He is a “programmer-as-rock-star”, who often spends time among real rock stars and leads a lifestyle that corresponds to this. He usually gets up very, very late, actively discusses things that interest him or attends parties - and then sleeps most of the next day. According to his longtime friend, an IT investor from San Francisco, Ron Conway: “ The fact that Sean is so distracted and at the same time so talented is an infrequent combination. He will probably create five more “fateful” companies before he gets tired of doing this . ”

Parker's experience in hacking in high school is also in itself cinematic: some kind of home version of the scene with Matthew Broderick from WarGames.
Teen all night sitting in his room, deeply immersed in the depths of the company from the Fortune 500, the name of which he refuses to disclose. At that time, he said, he had a hobby — hacking various kinds of organizations, collecting a collection of .com, .edu, .mil, and .gov domains into which he had penetrated throughout the world. His goal was to hack into each type of money laundering list of companies. He claims that when he got inside, he usually informed the system administrator by a letter (sent from his own administrator mail) about the vulnerabilities that he had found.

Unfortunately, this very night his father went downstairs at 5 am. Parker didn’t do well in school, occasionally earning even the highest score, but more often he refused to attend, receiving appropriate grades. “ Everything was thought out, ” he says. “ I wanted to prove to myself that I was in control — that I was not a puppet.” I did not want to grovel before the system . ” Seeing his son in front of the computer, Parker's father, angry, realized that another day at school would be a waste for the cat. “ Well, ” Parker recalls, “ he snatched the keyboard out of my hands, pulled it out of the computer, and took it upstairs. I began to shout at him: “Father, you do not understand what you are doing! I have to log out! ", But he did not allow me ." Due to the inability to hide the traces of his stay, the hacking of Shaun Parker was discovered, and his whereabouts were ascertained with the help of his Internet provider. Ultimately, thanks to his young age, he was only obliged to community service.

One aspect of this story explains Parker's attitude toward the idea of ​​“rebellion” and the absence of negativity. He did public work appointed by the court in the library, along with other teenage offenders. There he met a girl who he described as a “punk rock princess”. Once she wrote her phone number on Parker's hand — with a ballpoint pen, he remembers with certainty — and after a few months with her he lost her virginity. “ I thought it was incredible, amazing irony. It was the most romantic experience in my life, and all thanks to the fact that I was captured by the FBI . ”

At about the same time, Parker online met 15-year-old Sean Fanning, another talented hacker. Fanning recalls their first conversation: “ Almost immediately we began to discuss things like theoretical physics. We found that we have a lot in common . " Together with a couple of comrades, they soon opened a company called Crosswalk, which provided Internet security services, and offered consulting services to companies that could otherwise be their goal. They did not succeed. Parker, meanwhile, began working as a programmer at a large Internet company not far from his home, while at the same time finishing his high school graduation class.

Contrary to the wishes of his parents, Parker decided not to go to college, and when Fanning told him about his plan to create a Napster, he instantly agreed to participate, becoming a co-founder and bringing in a few key ideas. He packed up and moved to San Francisco, although he had never lived outside his home before, according to his mother.

In its first year of existence, the music sharing network involved tens of millions of enthusiasts. Parker soon became addicted to nightclubs and rave parties. Soon, however, Napster infuriated the record companies, and they began to prosecute the project. Fourteen months later, a federal court banned users from downloading copyrighted files. Parker's emails, in which he carelessly discussed the likelihood that users violate the law, were brought to court and used by industry lawyers. However, as a result of the appeal, the judge allowed the service to continue to exist, and this was the beginning of the long and painful death of Napster. Parker, however, was expelled from the company by other partners, Fanning, older. Thus began a cycle of dizzying success, followed by a humiliating fall.

In early 2001, he tried to establish his own Internet company, and restore his name. “ She had the potential to become as much as Napster ,” he says. “Otherwise, I just wouldn't be interested .” He realized that his email address book was outdated. Perhaps everyone would benefit from a service that would help keep it updated. Could this be a company? However, the idea took time to form, and even longer time to search for funding. “ I lived on couches (friends) for about six months ,” says Parker. - I did not have a home. I was completely broke. I lived at home with a friend for two weeks and then moved because I didn’t want to become a freeloader . ” His girlfriend at this time persuaded him to give up and go to work at Starbucks.

In the end, Parker and several of his partners were able to get some funding from Sequoia, a prestigious investment company. A company called Plaxo opened its doors in November. Pretty quickly, it became the most famous, due to its annoyance, Internet service, bombarding innocent Internet users with requests to update information in their friends' address books. For Parker, it was a victory - a triumph of viral marketing. But soon followed and defeat. The unreliability of Parker began to affect his colleagues and investors of the company. Sometimes he could not come to work at all. In early 2004, he was fired. The board of directors of the company subsequently hired a private detective to find out if there were true rumors that Parker, in particular, supplied drugs to colleagues. Parker, who calls these accusations "ridiculous, dirty campaign" - once again found himself on the street, and again was ruined.

He began to chat with some of his new friends from San Francisco, including Jonathan Abrams, the programmer who founded Friendster in 2002, to help people get to know each other. Parker was fascinated by Friendster, which became the first social network that year, with more than a million members. However, the service began to burst at the seams when the system stopped coping with the volume of traffic. Parker, however, felt this was a great opportunity.

Once, - this scene is present in the film, - Parker saw Thefacebook, as he was then called, on the computer of his girlfriend, a student of Stanford. (In the film, she is presented as a random girl for one night). Parker at this point has already concluded that the greatest success is waiting for a social network running in a relatively closed community. College seemed like the perfect medium. He investigated the site, and sent a letter to the guy who launched it - Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard sophomore, with a proposal to meet.

Matt Kohler, who came to Thefacebook right after Parker, admires when it comes to this historical letter. " Napster and Facebook are two of the most significant companies in the Internet industry, and in both cases, Parker noticed them earlier than anyone else - except people, that they were actually invented ."

Parker unexpectedly went to New York, where he met with Zuckerberg for dinner, and they quickly found a common language with each other. A few months later, in June 2004, they accidentally ran into a street in Palo Alto, where Parker, unemployed (but still driving around on a BMW 5th series), lived with another girlfriend. Zuckerberg suggested he move into a summer house rented for Facebook. At first, Parker was sleeping on a rug, on the floor in the room of co-founder Dustin Moskowitz, until, according to Moskowitz, “the relationship with my girlfriend was not more serious, and I had to put it on.” Perhaps, at that time, Parker more than ever in his life focused on one project.

At that time, Parker believed in the potential of the company almost more than Zuckerberg himself. Peter Thiel, a billionaire hedge fund manager and co-founder of PayPal , who became Thefacebook’s first investor, said at the time: “ Sean constantly assured that Facebook will be something really big. And even if Mark had some doubts, Sean was the one who stopped them . ” In late August 2004, Zuckerberg and Parker went to the Silicon Valley Bank department to open an account for the company. Two months before the beginning of autumn, Zuckerberg still continued to talk about returning to Harvard, and these two continued their dispute, even while in the bank, recalls its senior vice president, Ken Lovles. Parker was confident that Zuckerberg should not return (and he dropped out). Moskowitz says: " Sean probably did for Facebook, not as much as he thinks, but more than others think about his role ."

In addition to the role of comrade Zuckerberg, Parker also worked to strengthen his partner position so that what happened to Parker in Plaxo would not be repeated in Thefacebook. In the financing that Parker negotiated with Peter Thiel, and during a larger deal seven months later with investment company Accel Partners, Parker managed to bargain for Zuckerberg what was unheard of for a venture start-up: the absolute control of the company's founder. Because of this, Zuckerberg until this day controls three of the five seats on the board of directors (including its own). Without this control, Facebook would certainly have been sold to either Yahoo or Microsoft, whose director, Steve Ballmer, offered $ 15 billion for the company in the fall of 2007 - and in response received only a puzzled look from 23-year-old Zuckerberg.

And again, Parker's behavior led him to collapse. During a 2005 North Carolina vacation, he was arrested at a party at his home on suspicion of cocaine possession. And although he was not formally charged, some of the investors and Facebook employees felt that Parker could no longer work effectively as the company's president. Despite his great regret, he agreed to leave.
However, even considering the humiliating care, Parker, by this time, had learned to better cope with the blows. Evidence of this is the fact that Zuckerberg never personally renounced it. “ I don’t think that Sean really left Facebook ,” said board member Til, “ he remained involved in many aspects of the company’s operations .”

Working with Parker, according to several of his colleagues, can not only be a pleasure, but also lead to frustration. Joe Green, Zuckerberg's Harvard classmate, who is now Parker's partner in a Facebook application called Causes - helping people donate funds to non-profit organizations - first met Parker 6 years ago in that same summer house in Palo Alto. “ I slept on the couch ,” Green recalls, “and then Sean came to borrow money for a haircut .” Once, according to Green, when the two of them were late for the plane, Parker simply refused to let go of his email. " He said he was busy with a very important thing that was worth it ." At times, Green assures, the only way to get to Parker is by “ringing”, you need to call him 10-20 times, until Parker, who rarely listens to messages on the answering machine, does not realize that someone really wants to talk to him.

Reid Hoffman, long-time friend and founder of LinkedIn, who together with Parker takes seats on the board of directors of Gowalla - a geo-service for social media - recalls Parker proposing a new intriguing concept to the company during their conversation in Davos, Switzerland. " I said," Dude! You should start coming to the board of directors more often! "This is Parker's style - a great idea, workaholism, and then temporary disappearance."
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Source: https://habr.com/ru/post/106768/


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