Stephan Paternot

“Like a modern-day Dickens, Stephan Paternot witnessed the best and worst of times.” —Los Angeles Times

A decade before Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, Stephan Paternot and Todd Krizelman created the first social network in their college dorm room. After a meteoric rise, became world-famous for its billion-dollar IPO, only to quickly plummet toward the depths. This very personal history details what it was like to build a successful start-up and witness the chaotic birth of the internet industry.

One of the poster boys of the dot-com era, Steph Paternot rode the wild high of seeing his digital dreams come true, only to confront the sometimes-ugly reality of being the youngest-ever CEO of a public company. As Paternot navigated a fledgling and cutthroat industry, he struggled to keep his company afloat.

Chronicling a surreal, upside-down period in American corporate history, A Very Public Offering tells the dramatic personal story of a young entrepreneur’s rocket toward success, and what happens when the dot com bubble breaks.

Reissued to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of’s IPO and adding powerful and practical lessons for a new generation of start-up founders, this new edition expands upon Stephan’s story featured in the National Geographic TV series Valley of the Boom.

Part morality tale, part fairy tale, and part college diary. This story is hard not to like.
— Wall Street Journal

 “In this giddy, fast-moving memoir, [Paternot] wisely focuses on the day-to-day mania of the mid and late 90s Internet Revolution, vividly showing what it felt like to run a brand-new company racing headlong across unknown terrain.”

Publishers Weekly


It’s a first-person account by somebody who lived through the roller coaster.
— Entertainment Weekly


“Stephan Paternot, former CEO of and world-famous instant millionaire, offers up an engaging memoir that documents the dramatic rise and precipitous fall of the online company he founded. Although Paternot generously shares his personal experiences and struggles, his book also serves as a capsule history of a particular moment in American culture, a moment in which Wall Street’s mania for Internet ventures allowed capital to be invested with a seeming disregard for consequences or common sense . . . The next chapter in Stephan Paternot’s life is bound to be interesting, and probably successful as well.”

Barnes & Noble Review


It was the greatest Cinderella story in Silicon Alley history.
— New York Post