You can, if you want, see Mark Zuckerberg's social network on Facebook. Here is his profile. But while those might be the folks that Zuck hangs out with on weekends, what's potentially more important is are his work connections, the web of people who serve on boards and invest in the five major social web startups: Twitter, Zynga, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Groupon. These companies are creating so much stock value, whether real or imagined, and are becoming the major drivers in our economy (the city of San Francisco just gave Twitter an enormous tax break so the company won't move its headquarters). To help clarify where all the money and decisions in this corner of Silicon Valley is coming from, the New York Times Dealbook blog made this handy graph of the network of social tech companies. Think of it like Zuckerberg's LinkedIn connections:
Facebook is the belle of the ball in the tech world right now, and you can see that from its central position in the chart, with 17 notable investments from everyone from banks (like Goldman Sachs), important VC funds (like Greylock Partners), and individuals (like Sean Parker, i.e. Justin Timberlake in The Social Network):
And then there are board seats. All these guys are on each others boards. Just take a look at Twitter, where board seats are occupied by Fred Wilson (also an investor in Zynga), Peter Fenton (whose partner in Benchmark Capital used to work at both Facebook and LinkedIn), and Mike McCue (formerly of Netscape and Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in Zynga, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook). At the board meetings, you'll also find Jack Dorsey and Evan Williams, both former employees now back to working with the company:
To illustrate just a little bit of the six degrees of separation you can play with these companies and their investors, let's trace a path (deep breath). Sherly Sandberg, a former Google employee, is now the C.O.O. of Facebook. She also serves on the board of Starbucks, whose CEO, Howard Schultz, is the founder of the VC firm Maveron, which has invested in Groupon, where Schultz sits on the board. He's joined on that board by Kevin Efrusy, partner at Accel Partners, the former employer of Benchmark's Fenton, Benchmark has invested in Twitter, and, you'll remember, Fenton sits on the board. Twitter's creative director is Biz Stone, who used to work at Google, the former employer of Sheryl Sandberg. And round and round we go.
Is this different from any other close-knit industry? Probably not. Is it important to know that a relatively small cabal of decision makers is pumping more and more money into a pretty small industry--though it's an industry we all happen to be eating up? If these five companies and the smaller companies that are floating up on their rising tide become to corporate juggernauts of the future, the IBMs and the GEs, well, then this will look like a web of geniuses. And what if this turns out to be another tech bubble that brings our economy down with it if people decide to stop playing FarmVille? Well, in that case, come back and find this graphic for your list of people to blame. They'll all still be rich.