I had the great fortune to meet some of the world’s social marketing thought leaders at IMS ’11 Boston. One of those was Ben Mezrich, a true raconteur and author of the book The Accidental Billionaires which formed the basis for the movie, The Social Network. Mezrich, unlike the other presenters who used all kinds of glitzy power point presentations, simply stood on the stage and told stories. The audience was mesmerized.
He said that he was not an “overnight sensation” as some would portray him, rather he has been writing since 1995. He shared with us how the fact that he did not know how to drive limited him to certain neighborhood pubs in Boston. With his writer’s powers of observation he watched at one pub as numerous M.I.T. students handed over $100 bills to the bartender. “I don’t know about where you live, and in Las Vegas they come out of the ATM machine, but in Boston people don’t use $100 bills. So I asked the guys where they were getting them.” Thus began the story of Bringing Down the House a tale of MIT students who game the Vegas blackjack tables. “Blackjack is beatable,” asserted Mezrich who even traveled to Vegas with the hard-working (but now banned-from-casinos) students who practiced up to three hours a day to beat the odds.
Because of the fame he gained from that book (he accidentally hung up on Kevin Spacey thinking he was an MIT student playing a prank) people began approaching him with story ideas. One such person was Eduardo Saverin, Mark Zuckerberg’s now famous Harvard room-mate and business partner. “Why should I write fiction when non-fiction is this good?” asked Mezrich who had almost completed his book when a court ordered Saverin to never speak with him again. “For five percent of Facebook I wouldn’t speak to me again either,” Mezrich noted.
With tales as colorful as his book and the movies that follow, I can’t wait to read Mezrich’s next book, Sex on the Moon, a story of astronauts who, let’s just say do some interesting things with moon rocks. Since fact is stranger than fiction, guess we’ll all have to read the book won’t we?