A picture in a recent shows Mark Zuckerberg at a Stanford frat BBQ surrounded by Fritos, Budweiser cans, and a canoodling couple.It’s 2006, around the time Zuck has come to Stanford to speak to aspiring entrepreneurs.
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To understand how he rose to fame as a prominent backer of virtual reality startups before becoming mired in allegations of fraud and mismanagement, Backchannel interviewed more than two dozen former employees, limited partners, portfolio company CEOs, and other people who knew and worked with Rothenberg.
The story of how Rothenberg built, nearly destroyed, and now hopes to save the startup that, until recently, bore his name is a morality tale for this generation of Silicon Valley’s investors and entrepreneurs. Founding a company has become the stuff of entrepreneurial myth in which everyone ends up a billionaire.
Many investors say they did not know — nor was it disclosed in annual reports — that he was founding and funding his own business with their dollars, despite the fact that the investment was roughly 50 times the size of the seed investments the firm normally makes.
Rothenberg insists that his accounting is in order, and he has hired an outside auditing firm to help him back up this claim.
In mid-August, Rothenberg put every remaining employee except his lawyer on unpaid leave.