Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning are both pioneers in the tech world. In the late 90’s it were these two boys (not men yet) that made one of the most profitable industries at the time go on it’s knees, the music industry. What they started with Napster was a landscape changing earthquake and it made sure that the world of music would be changed forever. In the 2013 documentary “Downloaded” you can see exclusive interviews with Sean and Shawn regarding Napster and the lawsuits related to the music sharing platform.
Where It All Began
Sean Parker was arrested by the FBI for hacking when he was 15, he was charged as a minor and he had to do community service. It was around this time Parker met Fanning, who was also 15. The two boys met online and talked about common interests like hacking and computer security.
Fanning remembers their first online conversation. “Right away we were talking about things like theoretical physics. We realized we had a lot in common.” The pair did not only befriend each other, they also talked and collaborated with various different people from around the world. Sean Parker stated “If we would have gone to the same high school, we might’ve never been friends. We wouldn’t have known that we shared these interests.” He further recalls that people reacted shocked that the two teenagers tried to set up a business without ever meeting each other in person.
In those days meeting with strangers on the internet and working together was something unheard of. People weren’t used to relationships being built without face-to-face meetups. What Fanning and Parker did was a very advanced form of networking, something that to this day is a big obstacle for people.
What Happened Next
Parker and Fanning launched an internet-security company called Crosswalk, which protected companies against hacker attacks. The business was not a success, but it laid the foundation for one of the most famous and disruptive partnerships in the history of the internet.
After the failure of Crosswalk, they would launch Napster. Napster was the first big peer-to-peer music sharing platform and would ultimately lead the two from worldwide recognition to the courtroom.
After Napster the two went their separate ways. Sean Parker ultimately became notorious because of his involvement with Facebook, Spotify and several legal and personal issues. Shawn Fanning was involved in some less known ventures. But in 2011 the two paired up once again to start Airtime.
In conclusion the story of Fanning and Parker is one of two kids with a shared interest, that challenged authority and came out as victors. They are a perfect example of how an online network can bring people who live miles away together, to discuss, to connect and ultimately to collaborate. I would love to hear your thoughts on online networking and what collaborations inspired you? Let me know in the comments!