How To Party Your Way Into a Multi-Million Dollar Facebook Job

This news article by Ryan Tate is an amazing bit of sociology:

If you want Facebook to spend millions of dollars hiring you, it helps to be a talented engineer, as the New York Times today [18 May 2011] suggests. But it also helps to carouse with Facebook honchos, invite them to your dad’s Mediterranean party palace, and get them introduced to your father’s venture capital pals, like Sam Lessin did.

Lessin is the poster boy for today’s Times story on Facebook “talent acquisitions.” Facebook spent several million dollars to buy Lessin’s, only to shut it down and put Lessin to work on internal projects. To the Times, Lessin is an example of how “the best talent” fetches tons of money these days. “Engineers are worth half a million to one million,” a Facebook executive told the paper.

We’ll let you in on a few things the Times left out: Lessin is not an engineer, but a Harvard social studies major and a former Bain consultant. His file-sharing startup was an also-ran competitor to the much more popular Dropbox, and was funded by a chum from Lessin’s very rich childhood. Lessin’s wealthy investment banker dad provided Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg crucial access to venture capitalists in Facebook’s early days. And Lessin had made a habit of wining and dining with Facebook executives for years before he finally scored a deal, including at a famous party he threw at his father’s vacation home in Cyprus with girlfriend and Wall Street Journal tech reporter Jessica Vascellaro. (Lessin is well connected in media, too.) . . .

And the connections continue from there. (Click on the article above to get all the links.)

There are two interesting parts of the story. First, the network of connections and free money. It makes sense: if you’re a rich businessman and your kid wants to follow in your footsteps, you’d help him out, right? Second, the way that the New York Times (and the news media in general) missed the story.

This is a perfect illustration of James Flynn’s point that meritocracy is self-contradictory.

Also a good argument for a multiplicity of news sources.

2 thoughts on “How To Party Your Way Into a Multi-Million Dollar Facebook Job

  1. The Sam Lessin story exemplifies how meritocracy can lead to plutocracy. I think Robert Nozick’s essay, Invisible-Hand Explanations (originally published in the AER) is also relevant here. Most of the essay is available through Google Books . Here’s the relevant blurb :

    Hidden-hand explanations, the opposite of invisible-hand ones, tend toward ruling-class (or, more extremely, conspiracy) theories. What a ruling class aims at and produces or maintains is not given an invisible- hand explanation. However, the existence of a ruling class might itself be given such an explanation, if it did not arise as the result of some individual’s or group’s actions intending to bring this about.

    Here is a sketch of how this might occur. Start with a society containing no ruling class, where the most powerful and wealthy individuals want their children and grandchildren to be equally or more advantaged and so place them in environments (schools, vacation places) that make more likely their children’s marrying similarly advantaged people. Marriages forge alliances of mutual interest, making more likely the sharing of information and coordinated activities for mutual benefit. Allies and employees will tend to be recruited from similar schools and social networks, because their families arc directly known, or because the similar molding of their values, tastes, and modes of behavior makes them easier to work with, more predictable, more congenial, less likely to create conflict. Directors of companies will be recruited from among similar persons already successful elsewhere; studies of boards of directors would show similar social backgrounds and much interlocking.

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