Pointed toward his 18-acre compound in Marin County, Sean Parker rips through the night fog on the Golden Gate Bridge in a stealthy Audi S6 that masks a Lamborghini engine, one pale hand on the wheel, the other toggling through thousands of songs uploaded on the car’s sound system.
Facebook’s former president has had a busy, typical day. Over the last ten hours he’s interviewed two potential VPs for his new video startup, answered hours’ worth of e-mails about the music platform he’s backing, Spotify, and met with a potential CEO for his Facebook charity app, Causes. He’s also booking bands and wrangling vendors for his engagement party, scheduled in New Jersey the same night Hurricane Irene looks to hammer the Northeast (with Lenny Kravitz grounded in North Carolina, he eventually subs in the Cold War Kids). He breaks from work to dine with Jack Dorsey, the chief of Facebook rival Twitter and payment service Square. After dinner, at the restaurant bar, he interviews another potential boss for Causes. By the time he drops me off at my hotel, it’s 11:30 p.m. Parker’s day is about half done.
For the next six hours Parker fires off e-mails, then turns to his private Facebook page. The previous afternoon—or earlier the same day, if you’re on Parker’s body clock—the world had learned that Steve Jobs resigned from Apple. Around 6 a.m. Parker posts this Schopenhauer quote: “We can come to look upon the deaths of our enemies with as much regret as we feel for those of our friends, namely, when we miss their existence as witnesses to our success.” It immediately leaks. Gossip site Gawker accuses him of dancing on Jobs’ grave. He e-mails Gawker that the quote was a tribute to Jobs—his longtime idol and more recent rival (iTunes versus Spotify). Just before 7 a.m. he goes to bed.
Four hours later he’s up, ready to do it all again. Flighty, manic and unpredictable, Parker grates on investors—he’s been jettisoned from the three companies he helped create, soon after they lifted off. “He’s seen as an unknown quantity, and VCs love for things to be very much in control,” says Facebook cofounder Dustin Moskovitz. But VCs also love big ideas, and Parker has those in spades— LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman calls him a “big-ass visionary.” And in terms of boardroom scheming, he’s nothing like his fictional portrayal in The Social Network. “The movie needed an antagonist, but that’s not what he was,” says former Facebook growth chief Chamath Palihapitiya. “He’s really the exact opposite of his portrayal in the film.”
Boiled down, Sean Parker is a human accelerant, an idea catalyst who, when combined with the right people, has fueled some of the most disruptive companies of the last two decades. At just 19 he blew up the record industry as the cofounder of the music-sharing site Napster. Two years later his address book service, Plaxo, demonstrated the potency of digital propagation, something he took a step further as the 24-year-old president of Facebook, helping the social network become the most important Internet Company since, well, maybe ever.
Yes, all three companies eventually bounced him, but not before, at just 31, he tucked away enough equity to boast an estimated fortune of $2.1 billion. And he’s just getting started.
Article by: Steven Bertoni, Forbes Staff .
Pictures and Video: Ben Baker/Redux for forbes