Jack Dorsey, cofounder of Twitter and Square, recently tried to disabuse the tech industry of its infatuation with the word ‘disruption.’ “We don’t want ‘disruption,’ where we just move things around. We want a direction. We want a purpose,” he said on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, humbly suggesting the biannual conference change its name. But it’s more than just semantics. The tech sector’s claim to produce world-changing products and services often gets drowned out in a chorus of me-too companies solving problems no one ever complained about. The umpteenth nightlife-recommendations tool or empty real-time dating app can obscure the whirr of a nascent robotics sector in Manhattan or a futuristic, even revolutionary, experiment in manufacturing in Queens.
PAUL CEGLIA IS A PUDGY 38-YEAR-OLD, with greasy black hair and creases around his light brown eyes, a serial small-time entrepreneur who could sell you the Brooklyn Bridge. “He’s got tremendous confidence,” said Bill Castle, an upstate hotelier and one of Mr. Ceglia’s many bilious former business partners. “Smiles all the time, got this award-winning smile. Even when under pressure, he continues to smile.”
Mr. Ceglia piqued the nation’s curiosity when he filed a lawsuit last year in the Supreme Court of New York’s Allegany County claiming 84 percent ownership of Facebook; he piqued Betabeat’s when we read that he had been arrested for felony possession of magic mushrooms in Texas, claimed to have founded a natural burial cemetery in Ithaca and once operated an ice cream shop.
He also ran a video rental store, flipped real estate on eBay and owns a wood pellets company that was shut down by the Attorney General due to allegations of fraud. He’s currently working on a prototype of a “refrigerator/cookstove for use in developing nations,” he told the Wellsville Daily Reporter.
While none of his schemes have been especially lucrative so far, one failed venture may yet make him rich: StreetFax.com, a database of street photographs that Mr. Ceglia intended to license to insurance companies for use in evaluating claims, was built in part with code written by a young for-hire developer named Mark Zuckerberg. A 2003 contract with the programmer, now better known as the founder of Facebook, is the basis of Mr. Ceglia’s claim that he is entitled to half of the company.