“You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.” It’s one of the more often quoted lines from David Fincher’s The Social Network, and fits in rather well with Facebook’s recent acquisition of Instagram, for which it paid $1 billion in cash and stocks.
The deal was huge news at the beginning of April, mainly due to it being so unexpected, but became even more fascinating when it was revealed Mark Zuckerberg had taken the reigns and brokered the deal himself.
A reported three days of negotiations took place between Zuckerberg and Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom, primarily at Zuckerberg’s Palo Alto home, and were said to include the price being beaten down from $2 billion.
Facebook’s board didn’t know anything about the deal until an email from Zuckerberg told them it was about to be signed, and although he is still in control of the company, the discussions arising from that email must have been fascinating.
This story is a little one-sided, and makes Systrom out to be a pawn in Zuckerberg’s master plan. However, a report by Venturebeat.com indicates it wasn’t quite as clear cut as we first thought.
Social Network 2
One of the possible reasons for Zuckerberg moving so fast on the Instagram deal was a fear another company would swoop in and take Instagram for themselves; a threat Facebook wanted to neutralize. It seems this was perfectly justified, as Systrom had already been approached by Twitter, who offered “hundreds of millions” in return for Instagram.
Playing one offer against another to gain a better one sounds like standard business practice, but what makes this story more “cinematic” is Venturebeat’s hint of Systrom playing against Zuckerberg’s paranoia surrounding any decline in Facebook’s status or market share. They also say Facebook was Systrom’s preferred destination for Instagram anyway.
So why The Social Network 2? Well, aside from Facebook’s involvement in the story, it can be read that this time it’s Systrom who emerges victorious — a man who perhaps early on looks like he was intimidated by Zuckerberg, but turns out to have played him to potentially double an existing offer, and get his own way with where his company ends up.
Aaron Sorkin’s Social Network script is a thing of beauty, and he’d surely be able to weave his magic here too, although there’s a chance he could be busy negotiating a deal of his own, as he’s rumored to be considering penning the Steve Jobs biopic.
If a talented writer were to add a little more spice — and take the necessary artistic license — to the corporate triangle of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the paranoid figure of Zuckerberg who is desperately trying to maintain his stature, and a manipulative pretender-to-the-throne in the form of Systrom; it’s an almost Shakespearean tale in the making.
Who knew company acquisitions could be this intriguing?