Mahbod Moghadam, who rose to fame because the co-founder of Genius, has died


Mahbod Moghadam, the controversial, never-boring co-founder of Genius and Everipedia, in addition to an angel investor, handed away final month at age 41 owing to “problems from a recurring mind tumor,” in response to a put up attributed to his household and printed on Genius.

The startup world seems to have caught wind of his passing simply this weekend, with quite a few tributes arising on the X platform, together with by former TechCrunch writer-turned-investor Josh Constine, who as soon as interviewed Moghadam and his founders at Genius when the corporate was nonetheless in its relative infancy and referred to as Rap Genius. Wrote Constine: “RIP to Mahbod. A posh, edgy, and at instances problematic man, but additionally genuinely humorous, sensible, and all the time distinctive.”

Moghadam was most not too long ago residing in Los Angeles, the place, after spending roughly 20 months with the enterprise agency Mucker Capital as an entrepreneur in residence, he was targeted partially on determining schemes to assist creators receives a commission extra instantly for his or her work.

A kind of latest efforts was HellaDoge, a short-lived social media platform that supplied to pay its customers dogecoin for contributing dogecoin-related content material for the good thing about the remainder of the platform’s customers. The ostensible concept was that, not like a Fb or Twitter, which generate advert income for themselves based mostly on the engagement of their customers, HellaDoge’s customers would profit instantly from their participation.

In an interview 11 months in the past with the web media outfit In accordance 2 Hip Hop, Moghadam talked a couple of comparable concept for an organization referred to as Communistagram the place, he mentioned, “you’d join your Venmo and [as a creator] simply receives a commission for utilizing it,” somewhat than depend on Spotify or YouTube to obtain cost.

Moghadam’s curiosity in how folks can and may receives a commission dates again to 2009. After graduating from Yale after which Stanford Regulation College, he grew to become a lawyer simply because the economic system was crashing in 2008. In that very same interview from final yr, Moghadam mentioned he was “simply, like, tiptoeing” across the places of work of the legislation agency the place he landed his first job and praying he wouldn’t be fired.

When the inevitable occurred – Moghadam mentioned the legislation agency “ended up principally simply giving us some cash to go away” – he used the cash to co-found Rap Genius with two of his Yale buddies: Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman.

Initially, the positioning invited customers to annotate and clarify hip-hop lyrics, finally turning into so well-known that rappers gravitated to the platform to clarify their very own lyrics – in addition to to appropriate customers who’d mangled them – together with the rapper Nas, who grew to become an advisor and one in every of its first buyers.

By the point that Rap Genius graced the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in Might 2013, the three had landed funding from Andreessen Horowitz and have been on the verge of rebranding Rap Genius as Genius and increasing its remit.

However Moghadam additionally started attracting consideration to the annotation firm for belligerent habits, each private and non-private. In November 2013, he attributed his poor conduct to a fetal benign mind tumor that was eliminated in emergency surgical procedure. He saved pushing the envelope, nevertheless. Certainly, in 2014, after posting provocative feedback as annotations after a assassin’s manifesto was posted to Genius’s platform, Moghadam resigned on the urging of Lehman, who was the corporate’s CEO.

Moghadam later co-founded Everipedia, a now-defunct decentralized, blockchain-based encyclopedia that allowed customers to create pages on any matter so long as the content material was impartial and it was cited.

Because it was winding down, he joined Mucker Capital.

Trying again, Moghadam expressed dismay that Genius contributors weren’t paid for serving to to construct out the platform. “The one cause Genius can get by with doing slave labor for lyrics is as a result of folks love music a lot,” he mentioned throughout final yr’s interview with In accordance 2 Hip Hop.

Both manner, the corporate fell in need of its ambitions, failing to increase far past its core viewers of rap followers and unsuccessfully suing Google for copying and posting its lyrics on the high of search outcomes to seize customers who may in any other case have visited Genius.

In 2021, it bought for $80 million – lower than half it went on to boost from enterprise buyers – to a holding firm.

Whereas Moghadam by no means reached the identical heights professionally as in the course of the early days of Genius, he remained extremely regarded by lots of Genius’s most ardent followers, showing on a wide range of podcasts the place enthusiastic hosts fawned over him.

Moghadam additionally by no means forgave Lehman and was nonetheless attempting to sue the corporate as of final yr in an try to “squeeze some juice from this rock,” he mentioned in that interview final yr.

Slamming the brand new house owners of Genius, Moghadam had added that “no less than the [original] CEO [Lehman] straight up constructed Genius together with his personal two fingers. He’s a nerd. That’s the one advantage of him.”