Inside the Palo Alto 'Facebook House' where Mark Zuckerberg lived, that's now a Mecca for wannabe-entrepreneurs

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la jennifer facebook house Rob Price/BI

  • In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and the early Facebook team moved into a five-bed house in Palo Alto, California.
  • It was run like a "frat house," and would later be made famous by the 2010 film "The Social Network."
  • Today it's a haven for budding entrepreneurs and business students, and Business Insider got a look inside.


Before Facebook was a $500 billion behemoth with 2 billion users and the power to reshape society, it was just another scrappy startup.

Founded in the halls of Harvard, the Facebook founders moved west to Palo Alto, Calif. in the summer of 2004 - a relocation that was made famous by the 2010 film "The Social Network."

In those early days, the Facebook team lived and worked in a nondescript five-bed home in Palo Alto, building their fast-growing social network in a setting that one former executive likened to a "frat house." Today, the company's offices are still nearby, in Menlo Park - while the "Facebook House" has become a mecca for budding entrepreneurs and business students with dreams of following in Zuckerberg's footsteps.

Business Insider took a tour of the property to see the historical location in Silicon Valley history up close - and to meet the people living there today.

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The "Facebook House" where the social network's team lived in the summer of 2004 is located in a sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood in Palo Alto, California — about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

The "Facebook House" where the social network's team lived in the summer of 2004 is located in a sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood in Palo Alto, California — about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

819 La Jennifer Way is a five-bedroom bungalow, and outwardly shows no signs of its key role in Silicon Valley history.

819 La Jennifer Way is a five-bedroom bungalow, and outwardly shows no signs of its key role in Silicon Valley history.

It's a "pass down" house for people studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business — each year, a group of students rent it for a year, before passing it down to the next. Current residents include Derek Tsoi and Shalva Daushvili.

It's a "pass down" house for people studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business — each year, a group of students rent it for a year, before passing it down to the next. Current residents include Derek Tsoi and Shalva Daushvili.

The house is famous, and has a cult appeal for some of those that live there. "I did not even look at the house," Daushvili said. "When I was told it was the Facebook house I was like, 'I'm paying whatever the price is.'"

The house is famous, and has a cult appeal for some of those that live there. "I did not even look at the house," Daushvili said. "When I was told it was the Facebook house I was like, 'I'm paying whatever the price is.'"

One of the few obvious signs of Facebook's presence at the property is a kind of shrine or memorial left by the owners commemorating its history as the "Facebook House."

One of the few obvious signs of Facebook's presence at the property is a kind of shrine or memorial left by the owners commemorating its history as the "Facebook House."

It's very likely that the house looks the same as it was during Zuckerberg's residence. It hasn't been redecorated in years, a current resident said.

It's very likely that the house looks the same as it was during Zuckerberg's residence. It hasn't been redecorated in years, a current resident said.

The house is fairly spacious and gets nice light.

The house is fairly spacious and gets nice light.

Out the back is large patio and a pool — which Zuckerberg and co. once built a zipline to, destroying the chimney in the process. The landlords have explicitly forbidden residents from trying to recreate it.

Out the back is large patio and a pool — which Zuckerberg and co. once built a zipline to, destroying the chimney in the process. The landlords have explicitly forbidden residents from trying to recreate it.

Here's the famous pool zipline, as recreated by Hollywood in 'The Social Network' film.

Here's the famous pool zipline, as recreated by Hollywood in 'The Social Network' film.

"It was run like a frat house," ex-Facebook president Sean Parker once said. "Kids sleeping 2 or 3 to a room, basically just like mattresses on the floor, people crashing everywhere."

"It was run like a frat house," ex-Facebook president Sean Parker once said. "Kids sleeping 2 or 3 to a room, basically just like mattresses on the floor, people crashing everywhere."

Source: YouTube

But despite this, the owners didn't even realized it had been the Facebook founder who was living there until a subsequent group of tenants asked them about it, Daushvili said. (The owners declined to answer any questions about past residents.)

But despite this, the owners didn't even realized it had been the Facebook founder who was living there until a subsequent group of tenants asked them about it, Daushvili said. (The owners declined to answer any questions about past residents.)

The current residents have still thrown a couple of big parties, they said — though there's been no complaints yet. "It's a party house, but when it's not a party house it's pretty chilled out," Daushvili said.

The current residents have still thrown a couple of big parties, they said — though there's been no complaints yet. "It's a party house, but when it's not a party house it's pretty chilled out," Daushvili said.

The tenancy starts in June, but term time doesn't kick off until September. So GSB tenants tend to sublet the property over the summer — when it turns into a short-term entrepreneur hub. "It's the tradition that in the summer there are lots of startups. Lots of startups, just because of the vibe of the house, want to move in and work on their startup in the summer here," Daushvili said.

The tenancy starts in June, but term time doesn't kick off until September. So GSB tenants tend to sublet the property over the summer — when it turns into a short-term entrepreneur hub. "It's the tradition that in the summer there are lots of startups. Lots of startups, just because of the vibe of the house, want to move in and work on their startup in the summer here," Daushvili said.

In 2017, one of these residents was Joshua Browder, the founder of DoNotPay — a startup trying to democratize access to legal services by automating them. "Hundreds or random tourists, students and even professors from across the country would stop by the house over the summer to see if they could look inside. I actually hired one of them part time!" He said. "So I suppose the best part of being in the house was that the networking came to you!"

 

Another of these subletters, back in 2012, was the startup Amicus. It had a more stereotypical startup vibe, with post-it notes plastering the walls and standing desks made out of coke boxes.

Another of these subletters, back in 2012, was the startup Amicus. It had a more stereotypical startup vibe, with post-it notes plastering the walls and standing desks made out of coke boxes.

It's not clear which room Zuckerberg stayed in, though Daushvili suspects it's the master bedroom, which is now his. (A spokesperson for Mark Zuckerberg declined to provide more information.)

It's not clear which room Zuckerberg stayed in, though Daushvili suspects it's the master bedroom, which is now his. (A spokesperson for Mark Zuckerberg declined to provide more information.)

Both Daushvili and Tsoi say they're attracted by the idea of entrepreneurship — but will likely get more traditional jobs upon graduating to make sure they're financially secure first.

Both Daushvili and Tsoi say they're attracted by the idea of entrepreneurship — but will likely get more traditional jobs upon graduating to make sure they're financially secure first.

While most of the rooms are tidy ... some are less so.

While most of the rooms are tidy ... some are less so.

But for the most part, between the bottles of Soylent, "Settlers of Catan," and ski gear lying around, it feels like a fairly typical suburban Silicon Valley home. It just goes to show how even the most successful projects can have some very inauspicious beginnings.

But for the most part, between the bottles of Soylent, "Settlers of Catan," and ski gear lying around, it feels like a fairly typical suburban Silicon Valley home. It just goes to show how even the most successful projects can have some very inauspicious beginnings.
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