Teach Me How to Startup
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.
Oh You Fancy Huh?
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.
Earlier today, New York City startup The Fancy* emailed Betabeat to let us know that “One of our favorite users stopped by the office today :).” Oh, yes we’d noticed. And retweeted.
We’ve documented Kanye West’s interest in The Fancy–a fast-growing startup that turns posted photos into a consumerist’s dream–before. But what exactly was Yeezy doing palling around the office?
12Society, the lifestyle startup founded earlier this year, came out of stealth mode today–and, as TechCrunch reports, so did all its celebrity cofounders, including Nas, Nick Cannon, last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, former New York Giant Michael Strahan, the Timberwolves’ Kevin Love, and the San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum. And no, this not a deleted scene from an episode of Entourage. This is what passes for a tech startup these days.
The company was conceived of by Sameer Mehta and Nadir Hyder, the duo behind JungleCents, a daily deals startup acquired by Mark Cuban, who previously invested in JungleCents’ seed round. 12Society’s business model sounds an awful lot like Birchbox–or any of its legion of monthly subscription-service competitors. Users pay $39 a month to get four to six “premium products from tech, fashion, apparel, and athletics.” The items are “hand-picked” by 12Society’s “style board,” which is how the company refers to its famous cofounders. Said celebs have also promised to blog about what “propels, inspires and engages them,” which we imagine could mean a lot of work for their assistants, already tired from all that hand-picking.
“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.”