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“After the movie came out, people started looking differently at me,” JD-MBA student Divya Narendra (left) said in a Feb. 17 discussion with Kellogg entrepreneurship professor Steven Rogers at Wieboldt Hall.

Divya Narendra and Professor Steven Rogers

Setting things straight

Kellogg student and 'The Social Network' figure Divya Narendra discusses lessons learned and new ventures

By Sara Langen

2/25/2011 - For the record, Divya Narendra does have a Facebook page, but he’s thinking of taking it down.

The Kellogg JD-MBA student has had the strange privilege of seeing himself portrayed on screen in the Oscar-nominated film “The Social Network,” which details the story behind the beginnings of Facebook and the subsequent legal battles Narendra and his Harvard roommates waged against Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing their idea. Narendra discussed the movie and his new venture SumZero with Gordon and Llura Gund Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship Steven Rogers Feb. 17 before an audience at Wieboldt Hall, home of Kellogg’s Part-Time MBA Program.

“[In the film], it’s not always exactly what happened,” Narendra said. “But overall they did a good job of not assuming too much or taking sides.”

Narendra told the audience of Kellogg students that he feels that being associated with the Harvard elite and the exclusive, expensive clubs portrayed in the film has given viewers an inaccurate idea of who he is.

“After the movie came out, people started looking differently at me,” he said.

But the privileged background they assumed to be his couldn’t be further from Narendra’s real childhood as the son of immigrant parents in the New York City borough of Queens. In interviews, he talks about the ancient Toyota Corolla his dad drove for years until it was stolen, because he wants people to know his real history.

Today, Narendra is more careful in his business dealings with his new venture, SumZero, a social-networking platform he co-founded in 2008 for professional investors and private equity analysts to share ideas and buy-side research. He came up with the idea while working at a Boston hedge fund, where he developed the financial and business expertise that helped him launch his new venture.

“When I came up with the idea for SumZero, it was a very natural progression,” he said. “It’s really fun to do something that’s innovative and reaches a lot of people and is disruptive to the way the world is today.”

Niche-market platforms like SumZero that serve specific groups, such as doctors or lawyers, are the future of social networking media, Narendra said.

“[You’re going to see] networks that cater to specific needs in a way Facebook never could or LinkedIn never could,” he said.

As long as there are areas where he feels he has a product that can serve the needs of consumers, Narendra said, he’ll stay on the entrepreneurial path.

“You could always burn in flames, but that’s not stopping me,” he said. “You have to reevaluate what’s happening in real time. I never get to the point where I think, ‘This isn’t worth it. I’ll go get a real job.’”