Mahbod Moghadam is an internet entrepreneur who is known for his involvement in founding Rap Genius (now Genius) and Everipedia. Over the past several years, he has graced the internet with his wisdom and antics. I had the chance to correspond with him with the goal of asking distinctive questions that previous interviews had missed.
From writing a satirical article about stealing from Whole Foods to interviewing naked with NextShark, your humor often blurs the line between what is acceptable. Taking this into account, what is your opinion about the increasing influence of political correctness on college campuses and in our daily lives?
I welcome it! I attended Yale University (graduated ’04) at a time when you could pretty much say whatever you wanted.. and, wow, I was saying some really stupid shit! I weep about my own ignorance at the time. Luckily going to law school taught me to check myself – I started getting into trouble for saying stupid shit there. At Rap Genius, I had a reputation for saying very stupid things too, but it’s because my co-founders Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory would intimidate me and force me to play that Sambo character. They’d be like “come on Mahbod, do another naked freestyle!” smh…
I really don’t want to piss people off! Every time I do it, I’m ashamed of myself. I think it’s good that colleges are teaching kids to be more circumspect – even if it limits “academic freedom” or whatever, it teaches the kids not to be dumbasses when they grow up.
When someone first googles your name, the first links that in the results are about how you were fired from Genius. You have said repeatedly that you resigned because you were not feeling the corporatization of the company. How do you feel now? Is founding Everipedia a redemption for you? Do you even care anymore?
Yes I care a lot! That article is a lie, Kara Swisher wrote it, I want to fight her. She is literally the ONLY wack lesbian I have ever encountered – every single other lesbian has been cool except for her. That article smearing my Google search is what gave me the impetus to join Everipedia – my dream is for my Everipedia page to replace my Google search as the #1 place where people get their information on me. That way they won’t be fed LIES!
A few year back you had a brain tumor removed. How has that affected your outlook on life?
In some ways, it sucks! I have constant seizures and headaches – it’s not an easy life! Also Everipedia has made it worse because I’m working full-time again, which I really should not be doing. However (and I’m sorry if this sounds corny) I’m still grateful for it because brain surgery was the ultimate test. It taught me to appreciate life and have no fear of death. It’s funny, in 2012, Tom (Rap Genius CEO) got knee surgery, and I was looking after him when he got out of the hospital. He was acting like SUCH A BITCH! That’s when I truly lost all my respect for him, he was like a 5 year old. After my brain surgery, I didn’t act like a bitch. I handled my shit. Tom always used to tell me how embarrassed he was to compare his own behavior after knee surgery to my behavior after brain surgery. It’s because Tom is a spoiled little shit only child.
What advice would you give to people who are in the same situation?
You mean to people with brain tumors? I say to them: “REMEMBER, Mark Ruffalo had a brain tumor too!”
For people who are not familiar with the site, what is Everipedia and how is it going to change the world?
Everipedia is the better version of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is really big, but it’s shitty. It is 15 years old, and was built by a bunch of nameless, unpaid volunteers who have no say in how their software is governed. It is a rotting shell. Even their editors complain about Wkipedia’s “toxic culture”. 87% of Wikipedia’s editors are white males under age 30 – basically, the 4Chan crew runs Wikipedia! The biggest problem is that Wikipedia editors are “deltionists” – they delete stuff to flex their muscles. That’s why women and minorities find it so hard to get pages about their topics on the site. Everipedia is more open, and takes a lot of cues from sites like Genius, Quora, and StackOverflow. You get IQ for your contributions, and celebrities can get Verified Accounts. Even the FOUNDER OF WIKIPEDIA has a Verified Account on Everipedia – check out Larry Sanger’s account! He puts up some great stuff – he’s tight with us because he is disappointed in what Wikipedia has turned into as well, even though it’s his baby!
How did you get involved with Everipedia?
I was giving a talk at UCLA and my co-founder Sam Kazemian came up to me after and showed me my page. I flipped out! I had wanted my own Wikipedia page for years, but they kept deleting it. That’s why when I saw my Everipedia page, I had a “Eureka!” moment. I figured, if I feel this way, millions of others probably do too. I begged Sam to let me join as a co-founder and I even got us seed funding from my friends at Mucker Capital. He let me in! (BIG MISTAKE SAM…)
What kind of pages are blowing up on Everipedia?
Since Wikipedia is sexist and racist, a lot of pages on women and minorities get lots of traffic! Our highest-traffic pages of all time are Mariah Lynn and Cardi B from VH1’s “Love and Hip-Hop” – these women are a big deal, but Wikipedia won’t let them have pages because they aren’t white men who work in tech. How fucked up is that? Sabrina Pasterski aka “Female Einstein” was the first page we ever beat Wikipedia to creating, and then Wikipedia ripped our content without attribution. This is the funny part tho – if you go to Sabrina’s “Talk” section of her Wikipedia page, the editors are debating its deletion! That’s why we’re not afraid of Wikipedia just copying all of our shit – their bigotry won’t let them think clearly! Wikipedia editors don’t get paid – their “compensation” is being allowed to keep women and minorities off of Wikipedia. That’s all they seem to care about.
What is the best way for someone to keep up with the hottest pages being created on Everipedia?
You have described your role at Everipedia as not being crucial, but you are good are making a lot of noise. It sounds like you’re the hypeman for the company. Can you explain this further? What do you think the value is for a start-up to have one?
Yeah dude, I’m just the pretty face, my co-founders are the people running this ship. Just like how it was at Rap Genius. I’m not sure there is a value – Instagram never had a “hype man” for example.. but whatever! I just do whatever I can. I planned on retiring after leaving Rap Genius, because of my health, the only reason I’m working full-time on Everipedia right now is because I think it’s the coolest shit ever, and I’m hoping that others will continue to share my vision.
What strategies do you use to build a community of users for the start-ups you have worked?
I don’t really have any strategies LOL – I think I scare people off! I hustle hard tho – right now, I have the 2nd-highest IQ of anyone at Everipedia. At Rap Genius, where I’ve been banned for OVER 2 YEARS, I still have the 4th-highest IQ! I am a prolific genius, no one can fuck with me, and I think that inspired others to do their best as well.
Looking back, how would you describe your time at Genius? What did you learn from it? Where do you see Genius going in the future?
I think Genius will become a fixture of the Internet. I’m sure I’ll end up getting enough money out of it that I won’t have to worry about money anymore. The only reason I’m doing Everipedia is because I think it could be much, much bigger than Genius. In a sense, Everipedia is a refined version of Genius. Genius is too brainy – it is not accessible to everyone. Everipedia is “Dumb Genius” – anyone can appreciate it, and it’s really easy to contribute too.
In a few sentences, how would you describe yourself?
Chiseled abs. Big dick. Full of love.
It has been documented that you were a Fulbright scholar in France. What was that experience like and what did you learn from it?
The best part of living in France was I made friends with this dude Remi, he’s awesome! He taught me about art and philosophy. He turned me into a oenophile. Now, Remi runs a clothing brand called Editions M.R. and I get all of my clothes from them.
Being Iranian and Jewish sounds like a contradiction given the tension that Israel and Iran have right now. How does this factor into your identity? Do you even care?
I dunno, I think Iran and Israel are low-key homies. They both have beef with Arabs! I, however, love Arabs. I studied Arabic for 3 years in college! I consider myself to be Jewish, Muslim and Christian. I have studied all 3 religions a great deal and adhere to all of them. My CEO Sam is a devout Muslim, whereas my old CEO Tom is a Jew. In a professional setting, Jews are more likely to be annoying, whereas Muslims are more likely to be unpredictable. Overall, I’d say I prefer working with a Muslim CEO, just because that way we can bring diverse viewpoints to the table.
In your opinion, how accurately does the show Silicon Valley depict the real thing?
I’ve only seen the first episode! I was invited to the premiere – I don’t watch TV. I remember getting pissed at the depiction of the Indian character on the show. You could tell all the writers are white guys. Also I have zero respect for Dan Lyons, who is a writer on the show. He is a has-been tech reporter – he was in the news a few months ago cause he wrote a book called “Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Startup Bubble” in which he shits on his former employer. He seems like a scumbag, I’m very upset that he’s found success with his TV show.
A recent New York Times article reported that the SEC approved new rules for companies to crowdfund from small investors who put up at least $2,000 to buy equity in a company. These new regulations will allow virtually anyone to be a venture capitalist. What do you think of the new ruling? How do you believe that this will affect the tech start up community? Has Everpedia considered funding like this?
I think it’s very cool! It’s just the start – I think that in this day and age, you should be allowed to do whatever you want with your money. We were talking to WeFunder about doing it, but they kind of just left us hanging, and now we’ve raised enough money that we’re not really looking for more.
From your experience, where do you predict Silicon Valley and the tech start-up community be ten years from now?
Good question dude! I have no idea. On the one hand, a lot of the Silicon Valley power players piss me off. On the other hand, look at all the shit that is brewing! Y Combinator is a global force now, everyone around the world talks about it. I think the U.S. will continue to dominate tech forever. Only thing we gotta fix is Visa restrictions – the government needs to make it easier for us to steal skilled developers from foreign countries! Once that happens, U.S. dominance will be secured for centuries to come. Yeee!
It has been reported that you are an avid piano player and try to play at least an hour a day. From Tupac’s “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” to Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade,” the piano has been used countless times in Hip-Hop. Which songs in the genre do you think utilize the instrument the best?
Haha, I think you named my two favorites! I can’t even think of any other songs that have a piano. I’m not really into “lounge piano” however, I only play Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert. My love of hip-hop is more as a poetic form, which is why I spend so much time parsing the lyrics.
Top Five Rappers of All Time, Go-
#1 IS 2PAC. He’s not just my favorite rapper, he is my favorite thing that ever existed except for Bach. The 2pac Everipedia page gets a lot of traffic for some reason, even though he has a Wikipedia in every language. It makes me so happy! I think of it as God’s way of telling me “I approve”. #2 is Gucci Mane. #3 is Killa Cam (first rapper ever annotated on Rap Genius!). #4 is my friend (and former investor) Nas the Don. Those are the 4 rappers who mean the most to me. I won’t name a 5th because I can’t think of anyone worthy of placing next to these gentlemen.
Do you have any last words, anyone you want to shout out or call out?
YOUNG WORLD: if you want to be rich, get involved with Everipedia! Imagine if you could have gotten involved in Facebook right at the creation. This is your opportunity to basically do that! http://everipedia.com/register – hit me up tell me your username and I gotcha! Start making pages – make one for yourself, for your mom.. it’s a lot of fun!