It’s hard out there for a startup, what with the tech talent crunch and all. A different kind of hardship than the one faced by America’s millions of underemployed, of course. But how are you going to recruit a programmer when Facebook can throw more money at almost any candidate worth having? At the seed-stage level, you’ll need more than the promise of equity and the ability to work from home.
Well, two well-funded companies have figured out one way to stand out from the pack: cutesy job postings!
Rose-Colored Glasses Warby Parker just released its annual report for 2012, and it’s a pretty fun slideshow to click through. The glasses empire now has 113 full-time employes and 42 part-time employees. Of those bespectacled folks, 108 have company-sponsored gym memberships. In other Warby Parker health news, 2,507 pounds of salad were eaten in the office this year. Although there are not too many exact sales figures in the package (besides the fact that 296 monocles were sold this year) a diagram on the last page shows that sales from the first quarter of the year to the last one have nearly tripled. Warby Parker says it gave out 250,000 pairs of glasses this year, some of which went to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Love in the Time of Algorithms
Do you ever look upon a gaggle of teenagers crowding up a subway car and marvel at the unlocked potential of youth? Do you wonder whether the acne-plagued youngster standing before you grow up to be a butcher, or baker or technology maker? Or alternatively, a platinum-selling rapper, or a web entrepreneur who tells Cosmo that his perfect date would end with some lovely lady eating sushi off his penis?
Or, you know, a scientist?
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
Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian hosted a talk at NYU last night featuring a slew of fellow Y Combinator grads. The Rap Genius guys were all there, as was Shoptiques founder Olga Vidisheva, and Tutorspree founders Aaron Harris and Josh Abrams. The conversation mostly revolved around all of their transitions from the business world to the tech scene, but the night got interesting when Mr. Ohanian urged the panel to hate on Silicon Valley.
“We were hating on the Bay Area,” he said. “And I think we should do that a little more.”
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.
If your week was as
hellish hectic as ours, you must be in need of a stiff drink. Pour yourself a cocktail and get comfy: here comes this week’s rumor roundup.
Step Away from the Crackberry! In case you missed all the Instagrams, Mayor Bloomberg performed some titillating acts of Startup Theatre on the stage at Gracie Mansion Tuesday night. The crème of tech society, including MakerBot’s Bre Pettis, General Assembly’s Adam Brimer, Yipit founder Vinny Vacanti, Google trends & insights editor Caroline McCarthy, Sailthru’s Aubrey Sabala, chief digital officer Rachel Sterne Haot and her husband, LiveStream founder Max Haot, gathered on the lawn for canapés and cocktails to celebrate NYC Connects 2012.
To enhance his usual Silicon Alley cheerleading, Mr. Bloomberg opted for props on the podium, like an array of Warby Parker sunglasses and a Seamless delivery guy, who shlepped takeout up on stage. The spotlight was enough to lure Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky out of Twitter hiding. Besides one of the guests complaining about a scripted “Hello world” joke that fell short, everyone seemed to eat up the promotional opportunities.
Rap Genius, the Brooklyn-based site that lets the hive mind take a stab at explaining hip hop lyrics, announced today that they have received $15 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz. The powerful venture capital firm is run by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen and rap fanatic Ben Horowitz, notorious for starting his business-minded blog posts with a hip-hop epigraph. Read More
“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.”