The technology industry is a place where an idea scrawled on the back of an envelope in a college dorm room can become a multimillion-dollar company overnight.
Maturity, social skills and being a team player are meaningless, as long as you're a whiz coder or can invent that app people didn't know they needed.
Last week, Yahoo's chief executive, Marissa Mayer, fired the company's chief operating officer Henrique de Castro just 15 months after she persuaded him to follow her to the struggling internet company from Google. Rumours of a personality clash were already circulating a couple of months into de Castro's time there, and this week we learned that when he joined Yahoo in 2012 he was paid more than his boss, Mayer.
Tensions could have stemmed from this fact, with Mayer earning $36.6m annually, compared with de Castro's $39.2m. For the 15 months he's worked at Yahoo, he'll have received – including severance – a figure somwhere between $88 to $109m.
And it's not the first time huge stakes have failed to stop conflict tearing though a successful tech business.
As with most classic tech bust-ups, this one involves American Ivy League students and a fraternity – in this case, Stanford’s Kappa Sigma. Snapchat co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy were taken to court by fellow Stanford student Reggie Brown, who claims he came up with the idea of disappearing photos, designed the logo and thought of the company's original name, Picaboo. Each day on Snapchat, 400m photos are now shared and current CEO Spiegel has reportedly turned down buyout offers from Google and Facebook for as much as $4bn.
Brown claims disagreements led his co-founders to secretly create a new company that cut him out. Spiegel and Murphy called the lawsuit "frivolous". The lawsuit is ongoing.
The idea for Twitter is said to have come out of a conversation between two college dropouts in a car one rainy day on San Fransisco's Mission Street. Seven years later and Jack Dorsey, one of those college dropouts, pocketed $1.5bn in the company's initial public offering. Noah Glass, the other, received, erm, about as much as Dorsey's secretary. Twitter's market capitalisation is nearly $40bn.
According to Glass, he was pushed out by Dorsey in his bid for more power over the company. In a notorious Bussiness Insider interview, Noah Glass opens up about the conflict: "I didn’t create Twitter on my own. It came out of conversations. I do know that without me, Twitter wouldn’t exist." Noah Glass's Twitter bio still reads: "I started this".
Dorsey denies he was responsible for Glass being fired, saying he "didn't have that leverage" in the company.
Paul Allen met Bill Gates, almost three years his junior, at Lakeside high school in Seattle. The two bonded over their shared love for computers and, in 1975, when Allen was 22 and Gates was 19, the pair founded Microsoft.
In a book released in 2011, Paul Allen claimed Gates tried to cheat him out of his fair share of the company – to make matters worse, Allen was suffering from cancer at the time. He describes overhearing Gates discussing ways to dilute his stake in the firm and says he burst into the room, shouting, "This is unbelievable! It shows your true character, once and for all."
"While my recollection of many of these events may differ from Paul's, I value his friendship and the important contributions he made to the world of technology and at Microsoft," Gates wrote in a statement to the Wall Street Journal.
The relationship never recovered and Allen refused to sell his stake in the firm, which was a wise move. After Microsoft went public in 1986, he became one of the richest men in the world. He has fallen slightly in the rankings since then, but he is still worth an estimated $15bn.
4) Apple and Google
The rift that emerged between Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Eric Schmidt has developed into the biggest brand war in the technology industry. Schmidt was forced to abandon his role on Apple's board in 2009 after he entered Google into the mobile phone market with its competing Android products.
Schmidt still maintains that Google's Android project began before Apple started developing the iPhone. Before his death in 2011, Jobs was adamant that Google's Android ripped off the iPhone. A biography of the Apple CEO quotes him as saying, "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40bn in the bank, to right this wrong... I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has been surrounded by feuds since the social networking site's inception in 2004. First there was Eduardo Saverin, the company's chief financial officer and business manager. Brazilian-born Saverin met Zuckerberg at Harvard and invested around $15,000 of personal wealth in the project. He claims Zuckerberg later tried to secretly dilute his share in the company (see the clip below). Saverin filed a law suit against Facebook, which was settled out of court and a non-disclosure contract signed.
And, of course, there were the Winklevoss twins who founded the Harvard social networking site ConnectU while they were students with Zuckerberg. They claim he stole the idea for Facebook from them and, in 2004, the brothers also filed a law suit against Facebook, winning an estimated $65m.
The various spats in Facebook's comparatively short history are portrayed in the film The Social Network, which Zuckerberg apparently still refuses to watch.
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image: © Crunchies2009