If you want Facebook to spend millions of dollars hiring you, it helps to be a talented engineer, as the New York Times today 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 drop.io, 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 drop.io 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.) Facebook platform chief Dave Morin was at that one, and at another exclusive party with Lessin in Cancun, which also featured Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz.
Morin and Moskowitz had both left Facebook by the time Lessin's company got bought in October 2010. But Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who took a reported personal interest in the drop.io deal, had his own reasons to be grateful to Lessin: While still in college, Zuck took a tour with Lessin around New York and got introduced to venture capitalists and media executives who might be able to help his nascent social network and who were, go figure, cohorts of Lessin's investment banker dad. (Zuckerberg may actually have repaid young Lessin twice: Lessin was reportedly "instrumental" in convincing Zuckerberg to buy Hot Potato, a Lessin investment and another supposed talent acquisition highlighted by the Times.)
We mention all this not to begrudge Lessin his wealth but to use him as an educational case study, and a much fuller one that the Times presented this morning. With the right connections, some face time at the right parties, and perhaps the right father, maybe you too can unload your unprofitable startup, get a sexy new job at Facebook, and even somehow become a national newspaper's poster child for "talent" along the way.