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Divya Narendra, Facebook Forefather, on Profit, Perjury and Parties

MBA student and Social Network star sees market in making investors publish their ideas

By  Rob Kirby

Mon Feb 21 2011

BusinessBecause
Divya Narendra has plenty under his belt. At 28, he’s already graduated cum laude from Harvard, allegedly helped spawn the idea behind Facebook, been played in an Oscar-nominated film and set up SumZero.com, the ideas-sharing wiki for mutual fund and hedge fund investors.

On top of all this, Divya is currently studying for his joint JD-MBA at Northwestern Law School and Kellogg. The decision to apply came when he realized his company wouldn’t reach its full potential without help.

“I determined that a JD-MBA was the best way to gain practical business skills and a legal foundation that would help me as an entrepreneur. Northwestern University’s JD-MBA program was the perfect fit for me, given its selectivity, location in Chicago, and accelerated three-year time frame. ”

Divya has also received advice from faculty on how to take his web startup, which he still considers “a work in progress”, to the next level.

To become a member on Sumzero.com you must submit a thesis (minimum 500 words) detailing an investment idea. Your application can be rejected: SumZero will only accept quality, actionable ideas. But jumping this hurdle will allow you to view everyone else’s theses and contact the authors.

“Though some analysts are averse to sharing ideas, many are very open to it and value the feedback from fellow peers who are experts in valuing companies,” says Divya. “We've found that the larger the SumZero community has become, the more open analysts have become open to joining.”

SumZero currently now has nearly 5,000 members and is starting to receive coverage on major business news channels in the US.

“Our next steps include building a compliance framework that enables even more analysts from around the world to join the community, and also monetizing what we've built so far.”

Of course, the sharing of ideas hasn’t always been a fully successful enterprise for Divya.

While at Harvard, he was involved in setting up a social networking website with fellow students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.

“From 2000 - 2003, online social networks such as Friendster and MySpace became increasingly popular but both had significant shortcomings in terms of quality control. Sensing the need for a more vetted online community was the inspiration behind HarvardConnection.”

HavardConnection was the same website over which Divya and the Winklevoss twins later accused Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg of intellectual property theft, as seen in The Social Network. Divya’s account of events is basically the same as the movie. So is Divya happy with it?

“I thought the film was entertaining,” he replies. “The script got certain things right and certain things wrong but that's to be expected given that Hollywood was trying to craft a story for the masses. I thought my character's role in the film was quite functional with Max Minghella acting as an agent to convince my partners to pursue recourse in court.”

Divya originally received an out of court settlement of $65m in 2008, which he shared with the Winklevoss twins. They are now said to be re-pursuing Facebook for more, gambling the original amount to try and secure a new settlement more indicative of Facebook’s value, which has since risen to $82bn

But at least for the time being, the focus is outwardly on the Academy Awards on February 27th. “Hopefully someone will hook me up with tickets to the Oscars! If not, I'll throw a fun awards night party in my apartment in Evanston.”

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