Terry Cross: Michigan Needs to Break Down Its Proverbial Silos

It’s Oscar weekend folks! Come Sunday, we’ll know if a stammering King outshines a boozy U.S. Marshal or whether a crazy ballerina edges out a lesbian mother. God, I love the movies!

But one actor won’t be taking home any hardware because…well, he wasn’t nominated. And that’s a damn shame because he was really good, at least according to one prominent local investor.

“I’m not a big Justin Timberlake fan,” the seventy-something Terry Cross says without a trace of irony, “but he really captured the essence of the guy.”

The guy Cross was referring to is Napster founder Sean Parker, so memorably portrayed by Timberlake in The Social Network. Unless you lived in self-imposed seclusion these past few months, you would know the Oscar-nominated movie chronicles (more or less) how Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg founded the insanely popular social media website Facebook. (Zuckerberg and Parker, it should be noted, have disputed the accuracy of their characters.)

Cross is quite familiar with the real life Parker and the culture that produced him. The Michigan native spent a considerable chunk of his career in Silicon Valley, managing high-tech funds and joining an angel group that eventually backed Google and Napster.

Parker, at least as Cross recalls, was very much how Timberlake portrayed him: a brash, supremely confident kid who talked big and thought bigger.

Part entrepreneur, part anarchist, Parker delighted in disrupting industries dominated by what he called patronizing grownups whether they be music or venture capital. He didn’t particularly care about things like business models and profit projections, Cross adds, but VCs kept … Next Page »

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