App for That
The Year Observed
Fresh off the Christmas Day SEO snafu that had Google leaving their site for dead (to Google’s own detriment), the guys of Rap Genius have launched an app.
The app, called Genius, connects to users’ iPhone music players, allowing them to read and annotate lyrics while listening to songs. A button allows users to get the lyrics for what they’re listening to, or the songs in their iTunes Library.
Funding rounds and IPOs come and go, but one thing we can always count on is the quirkiness of the tech sector’s execs. Herewith, a smattering of the weirdest things our favorite CEOs did (at least publicly) this year.
Teach Me How to Startup
The bros from Rap Genius opened up the final day of TechCrunch Disrupt NY with a very special announcement. They’re launching soon a new vertical called News Genius, which follows the paradigm of Rap Genius. However, instead of analyzing 2 Chainz lyrics, the site will explain news-related clippings and documents. That sort of sounds like journalism!
“I want Barack Obama to explain the news, the constitution and Jay-Z’s ‘99 Problems,’” semi-joked cofounder Mahbog Moghadam, adding that “there has to be a legal explanation behind that.” The site, which was the idea of investor/”godfather” Ben Horowitz, has already softly launched judging by its Twitter account.
Mark Zuckerberg is hardly the first billionaire turned off by the antics of Rap Genius cofounder Mahbod Moghadam. As Betabeat learned while reporting a feature on the startup’s $15 million investment round from Andreessen Horowitz, Mr. Moghadam’s career in tech began only after he yapped his way out of an internship with Warren Buffet.
In the midst of the recession, Mr. Moghadam was given a year off–with reduced pay–from the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf. Only Berkshire Hathaway found his personal blog, Beneficent Allah, where he wrote a satirical billable memo referencing the “Ballstate Insurance Company.” Allstate was a client of Dewey’s, the offer was rescinded and long story short, Mr. Moghadam now gets to dine with Nas.
Love in the Time of Algorithms
Real Genius Andreessen Horowitz invested $15 million in Rap Genius to help its Ivy League cofounders to annotate the Internet. But how much will they have to pay to rein in the braggadocious Mahbod Moghadam?
In a recent issue of Wakefield, a newsletter covering “tech and startup insight not captured elsewhere,” Maboo was up to his old shenanigans, volunteering information about a “feud” with Mark Zuckerberg, who also happens to be backed by Andreessen Horowitz.
Apparently, Mr. Moghadam was at Ben Horowitz’s home, “chilling” with Zuck and Nas as is the new mode of Silicon Valley socializing. (Mr. Horowitz happens to be close friends with Steve Stoute, Nas’ former manager.) Despite Zuck’s heightened privacy concerns (it’s complicated?) Rap Genius cofounder couldn’t resist Instagramming his good fortune.
Teach Me How to Startup
The cofounders behind the lyric annotation database RapGenius are kind of like a trio of Tom Haverfords, albeit with a $15 million series A instead of a couple hundos from a certain mustachioed grump. In an attempt to further solidify their reputations as a cartoonish reimagining of the college ex-boyfriend who thought 808s and Heartbreak was “revolutionary,” RapGenius’s cofounders Ilan Zachory, Mahbod Moghadam and Tom Lehman submitted to an interview with Cosmo about sex and dating.
Teach Me How to Startup
Last Friday, Betabeat followed up on reports from author Byron Crawford about offensive racist IMs shared in one of Rap Genius’ editor chatrooms. (For those of you unfamiliar with Rap Genius: A. Where the hell have you been? And B. Here’s our contribution to the cacophony on their $15 million investment from Silicon Valley powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz.)
In response to our questions about the racist chatter, cofounder Mahbod Moghadam dismissed the notion that this was reflective of the Rap Genius community, telling Betabeat that users can gain entry into “Editor Chats,” without being vetted by earning Rap IQ points on the site and that users have used voting rings to game the system in the past. He then blamed hackers for the offensive content, before recanting and saying the parties responsible were merely exploiting a loophole in the system that allowed members to impersonate another user’s name in chat, rather than hacking into the company’s code.
Visitors who search for Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’ breakout hit, “212,” on Rap Genius, an online platform that crowd-sources explanations of hip-hop lyrics, will find nearly every verse annotated by the site’s users, who clocked more than 2 million monthly uniques in August, according to comScore. Click on the line “Now she wanna lick my plum in the evening / And fit that ton-tongue d-deep in,” and a pop-up immediately appears explaining that Ms. Banks is employing a metaphor for cunnilingus and that “She stutters the words tongue and deep to mimic the stuttering that occurs when one receives such a gift.” That exegesis received 11 upvotes, earning the contributor jamima-j, a female “slam poetry writer,” a healthy bump in “Rap IQ” points on the site.
Readers might find her analysis either amusing or unnecessary. But the reigning kings of Sand Hill Road, venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, view Rap Genius as “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded,” co-founder Ben Horowitz told Betabeat last week. The prominent V.C. firm, which clawed its way into the Silicon Valley firmament in just three years by aggressively plowing millions into fast-growth tech start-ups like Facebook, Pinterest, foursquare and Airbnb, often at towering valuations, were the sole investors behind the site’s $15 million Series A.
“We need more uppers in our verticals,” joked Mahbod Moghadam, co-founder of Rap Genius, sipping water from a gallon jug at the Modca coffee shop in Williamsburg. The site is akin to Wikipedia, with a community of users explaining and annotating rap lyrics for one another. “Weed verticals are really a downer. We need more meth, more country music, something to keep us going.”
Mr. Moghadam was fresh off a red eye from the West Coast. His co-founder Ilan Zechory will be heading out to LA in a few weeks for a meeting with Nas to discuss the possibility of creating verified artist accounts on Rap Genius. “Artists are really interested in connecting with their most passionate fans, and who is more into your rap than the people who spend days dissecting the meaning of your lyrics.”
The duo, are full of an infectious energy. Their company has been growing like mad, more than doubling its monthly traffic since this may, according to Compete. And while they are largely still focused on their original goal of explaining rap lyrics, their ambition is now much wider.
“People are on the site explaining the Bill of Rights, parts of the Bible, the poetry of Emily Dickinson. When a rapper drops a verse from the Old Testament, people go in and explain the religious context too,” said Mr. Zechory. “Lyrics account for 2% of all searches on Google, so you’re talking about a massive market. We want to annotate it all.”