“People said I started the site just to meet girls," says Jonathan Abrams, founder of Friendster, one of the earliest social-networking companies. "But if I wanted to do that, I'd have opened a bar or started a rock group." Now the poster child for missed opportunities, he was the belle of the ball for a while: The site went live in March 2003 and with virtually no marketing had more than 3 million users by the fall. Every publication from
Today, Abrams, 37, owns a bar (but has a girlfriend) and is starting a new networking site, Socializr, which will be a cross between a networking site like Friendster and an events-management site like Evite. He has raised about $1 million, some from former Friendster investors. And he's keeping things small until he knows the technology works. "I plan to make it scalable and well designed from the get-go." As for Facebook, he says, "Clearly, Mark has already done a lot of smart things." Keeping control and having a board he can work with are the critical issues. "Everyone hopes for a story like Facebook," Abrams says, but most stories are about entrepreneurs persistently failing before they find success. What's happened to Facebook is "like winning the lottery."
A version of this article appeared in the May 2007 issue of Fast Company magazine.