Late Night FB Chatz: Mahbod Moghadam

This is the first of a series of late night Facebook chats with our founders who I think are cool. This one is with my bud Mahbod, the founder of Rap Genius.

 

Sam Parr

So let’s start now

I wanna talk about procrastination, because it’s something I’m struggling with right now.

Procrastination and focus.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

You should take adderall!

jk

Sam Parr

Also, make sure to spell check your shit – because I don’t wanna go back and fix it.

I don’t do adderall, or any drugs.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

dude, my orthography is on FLEEK!

“I don’t do the drugs, baby I move the drugs” – killa cam

 

Sam Parr

So you’ve started this business that’s kinda big. Rap Genius. You MUST have been productive, ya?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

shit man, I look back upon it…

 

one difference between rap genius time and everipedia time is back then I could take adderall, and the naked adderall work binge sessions with tom lehman, my ex co-founder, were def based..

 

 

Sam Parr

 

I don’t know what def based means.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

BUT – at the same time – during the rap genius era, I always felt like I’m sitting around, not doing shit…#based

 

like, fleek, good

 

Sam Parr

 

Ok cool. For being a Yale grad, sometimes you talk like a moron.

 

But ANYWAY

 

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

based is a very spiritual word homie

 

Sam Parr

 

What time would you wake up in the AM?

I know, I know – you’re smarter than me. I kid, I kid.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

smarter than I AM

not me..

n.e. wayz

I don’t really have a set wake up time.. I do whatever.. thug life

 

Sam Parr

 

But my man, I have a team. I need to wake up and work. Surely you had that to, eh?

 

What time were you at the office?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

My “team” has always been and always will be mahbod moghadam yeeee!!!

 

I am a 1-man show

 

 

Sam Parr

 

Cut the crap. You had like 300 employees.

I’m sending this to thousands – they want tactics. As do I. Stop acting tough!

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I didn’t really work with them – there was this dude Ronald Metellus – I fux w him heavy.. but most of the employees had nothing to do with m

 

also I didn’t have to “go to the office” because I always lived in the rap genius HQ

 

 

Sam Parr

 

That’s mind boggling to me. So you were never a manager. What time would you wake up?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I never have really had a set waking/sleeping schedule – I am a huge napper, I think that’s why…

 

also keep in mind I was only at RG HQ half the year the other half I was Master of the RG Mansion in LA

 

Sam Parr

 

How much money has Genius raised now?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

$60M

 

Sam Parr

So let me get this straight.

Mahbod Moghadam

also top 1000 sites on alexa now! yee

Sam Parr

You’re telling me that a guy can start a company, raise $60m, and not have a set wake up time?

 

 

I think you’re acting.

 

 

Mahbod Moghadam

sammy baby…

 

Sam Parr

 

This is just me and a few thousand of my friends. Be real!

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I think most people, even quote unquote “corporate” people – the ones who get to office at 9 am, wear a suit, etc. – don’t actually do shit at work

 

people just sit on their ass

 

I am a weirdo, but I am PROLIFIC

 

the work I do isn’t even that good, but I’m always hustling, always churning shit out!

 

Sam Parr

 

How do you define prolific?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

for example, those articles I write for the hustle

 

some are good, some are bad

 

but ALL of them take me about 10 mins to write!

 

LOL

 

 

most people would take 2-3 days

 

 

Sam Parr

 

Yes, I can tell, but that’s interesting.

Here’s why

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

yee

Sam Parr

 

When I write things, it takes forever. I think because of fear.

you know?

Like every word needs to be perfect.

You don’t have that?

 

 

Mahbod Moghadam

exaaaactly

Harold Bloom wrote a book “The Anxiety of Influence”

 

Sam Parr

 

And?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I DONT HAVE THE ANXIETY

 

 

LOL

 

 

if somebody asks me to play piano at a party, or sing, or whatever – even when I was 5 years old – I don’t give a fuck, I’ll do whatevefr

 

 

somebody asks me for a dickpic, I send it, I dont’ care…

 

Sam Parr

 

Didn’t we publish a post of your’s recently and you texted me saying “sam I’m freaking out right now!”

 

Mahbod Moghadam

I don’t sit there and massage it and try to make it look nice

 

Sam Parr

What’s your cell number? I want people to ask you for that pic.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

646 276 3043

holla at me

it’s listed on my fb too LOL

Sam Parr

I promise you at least 1 person will ask you for your pic.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

if you have 10K IQ on everipedia, I will give you a dickpic – NO QUESTIONS ASKED

Sam Parr

Ok, so back to your daily routine.

 

 

Well, I guess I should say this is about your OLD routine.

Because that’s what people wanna know about.

How you built a $1b company

 

Another thing I’m struggling with is how to prioritize my day.

You ever suck with that?

Mahbod Moghadam

I don’t even think about it

I just do whatever

 

Sam Parr

 

Do you think that you are strange? Because what you’re telling me is odd.

Mahbod Moghadam

 

Tom and Ilan would yell at me and say “WHY DONT YOU USE GCAL” bla bla bla and I’d be like “ugh shut up white guys..”

 

 

I think other people are strange – they have weirdo OCD and shit

but really it’s a cover-up for not wanting to do any work

Sam Parr

 

I just feel like you’re either too relaxed or just crazy.

You told me that you’re a workhorse

Mahbod Moghadam

 

like, a corporate guy says “ok, time to make my schedule! bla bla bla” – but meanwhile it’s just an excuse not to do any actual work

Sam Parr

 

Then you told me that you have no anxiety. So I guess the key to productivity is no anxiety.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I think I get a lot of work done, but in a chaotic way that makes it more chill

 

Sam Parr

In the old days how many hours a day would you work?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

about getting work done I have ZERO anxiety

my anxiety is coordinating with other peeps, like when you edited my shit or stuff like tha

or managing people etc

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

in a sense, I would work zero hours a day, in another sense, 24 hours a day – you feel me?

 

Sam Parr

How many hours a day?

 

 

No, I don’t really feel you.

 

I feel like you are being nebulous on purpose.

Mahbod Moghadam

 

it’s like, on the one hand, I’m always doing productive things..

 

on the OTHER hand, I’m always just chillin.. I’m not being all corporate about it..

 

so I never really feel like I’m working

ok, so, funny story

Mahbod Moghadam

 

when we FIRST STARTED rap genius, before we got into y combinator, I was dating this girl, katie kadue

Sam Parr

BTW – we started this at 12:20. We will end it around 12:50. This will be the first of a bunch of 30 min shows.

Katie. Ok.

Her name is great.

Katie Kadue.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

katie’s dad was a law firm partner, she was from a strict christian family, her grandfather had gone to yale, etc.

 

VERY corporate girl

yeah great name! she’s great

Mahbod Moghadam

 

anyways, one day I was chillin w her working on rap genius, and I did all off these annoying “housekeeping” tasks tom wanted me to do, and at the end I say to her “wow that was hard work katie!”

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

and she says to me “yes, if you want rap genius to succeed mahbod, you’re going to have to do a lot of hard, unpleasant work!”

I don’t even remember LOL – like, putting up pop songs, editing peoples’ shit, stuff like that

Sam Par

 

And what did you say?

Mahbod Moghadam

anyways, after that day, I NEVER did unpleasant rap genius stuff again

also, when we got into YC, katie dumped me

 

Sam Parr

Well that stinks.

Mahbod Moghadam

 

so, I totally disobeyed her white corporate rules and rap genius still blew up

 

so HA!

 

Sam Parr

You have a chip on your shoulder.

Mahbod Moghadam

 

all the work I did on rap genius was 100% fun, I would have done it for free

I was just playing a video game

 

Sam Parr

 

I think most successful people do.

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I didn’t do any “chores” except for that one day

Sam Parr

I feel like I would pay money to have my job.

But it’s like running a marathon

I get scare before I start, it sucks doing it, but I’m excited afterwards and am proud.

And wanna do it again.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

I’ve never done anything that sucks or scares me or anything bad

I just fuck around online

 

Sam Parr

But when you’re growing a company, how can your cofounders possibly put up with you then?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

well I guess the thing is, I don’t really “grow” the company

 

Sam Parr

Why didn’t they fire you sooner? And why did you raise so much money? Or why would any smart adult work for you?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I just got rap genius its initial traction

 

 

but that’s the part that nerdy corporate peeps can’t do

 

so it makes sense for me to team up with corporate nerds – that’s kinda what I’m doing w everipedia too altho these guys are slightly more chill than tom and ilan

 

Sam Parr

 

So you were good for getting the first say, 1,000,000 monthly users?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

but tedde and travis are pretty fuckin corporate and sam is getting more and more corporate he is turning white I swear…

 

the first 5 million I’d say…

 

Sam Parr

 

How many months from start to 5 million did it take?

Mahbod Moghadam

2 years roughly

a little bit more

 

 

Sam Parr

Ok cool – I’m gonna beat that with The Hustle.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

but its cause I didn’t know what I was doing, for everipedia it will take a year I predict

 

Sam Parr

How many are you at now

 

Mahbod Moghadam

there are 4 of us and everyone is a killa engineer except for me

everipedia has more engineering talent right now than genius had until after raising $17M crazy right???

 

Sam ParrThere is no way that you guys were that successful with this attitude. Maybe I think it’s crazy people are so serious and try so hard to achieve but you’re acting like you don’t give a damn but it’s still working.

 

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

it’s cause I’m telling you

all the “corporate” people who get to the office at 9 etc. don’t actually do shit – they just read gawker and watch TV

the entire corporate lifestyle is just a charade, I saw it when I was working at the law firm too

it’s the 6 foot tall corporate wihte guy who is actually dragging his feet the most, but he plays the role so he’s going to make partner, it’s bullshit

 

 

Sam Parr

I’m 6’2 white guy bro – be easy.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

also there’s not even that much work to do.. a law firm charges millions for an IPO, I bet you it takes a total of 10 hours to do the ACTUAL work involved in an IPO

you just fill out some fucking forms! and you have precedents to copy too…

the entire corporate world is a charade and everyone is sitting around not doing shit

 

Sam Parr

You’re like Tucker Max. Did you read the stuff he wrote on The Hustle about being a lawyer?

 

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

my homie is a MD at goldman, it seems to me like he’s in bali/thailand/etc. every fuckin week, sending us photos

 

Sam Parr

 

That boggles my mind. I have no idea how that banking culture works.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

how much work can he actually be doing? LOL – and meanwhile he has pretty much the most prestigious job in all of Capitalism…

 

oh shit he went to law school? I had no idea

 

Sam Parr

Duke law

 

Mahbod Moghadam

noice

 

Sam Parr

 

but he tells people to never EVER go.

He’s actually a cool dude.

 

 

Read his stuff on our site, he’s good.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

I always recommend it – law school is the shit, very good for learning life skills

 

Sam Parr

Did you take on debt?

Mahbod Moghadam

de tocqueville said lawyers are the aristocracy of the U.S. and I think that’s true

yeah but stanford gave me some help too, they were nice, I had to take about 120K debt

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

because my parents are poor and I come from the street

Sam Parr

 

You know I can easily research this so don’t lie!

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

yes the first thing I ever did was pay it off, and I will never take another loan in my life – not for a house, not for anything

 

Sam Parr

You piad it off with lawyer salary?

 

How much were you making?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

starting pay for all firm lawyers is $160K

 

Sam Parr

that’s nice.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I think it’s still 160K, but in the years before I started they kept bumping it up like crazy

 

 

Sam Parr

Ok – we only have two more minutes

 

rapid fire questions

 

Fav book

Mahbod Moghadam

War & Peace

Sam Parr

That’s a long one

 

 

Ok

 

Mahbod Moghadam

yeah but you can’t put it down

 

it’s a fast read believe it or not

 

Sam Parr

Ok, fav meal

Mahbod Moghadam

I only go to sushi

I don’t go to non-sushi restaurants

 

Sam Parr

That’s wild

 

Mahbod Moghadam

but I mostly just eat vegetables at hom

I don’t go out much

 

 

Sam Parr

 

I’m like that but with hot wings.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

thug…

 

Sam Parr

two more

what’s 1 thing that you’re better than everyone else at?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I’m a very good bach pianist

 

 

Sam Parr

 

are you being serious

Mahbod Moghadam

also lets face it my rap genius annotations are GOAT

 

Sam Parr

that’s amazing.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

yeah check out my youtube!

 

Sam Parr

okok

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I put some videos up of me playing

Sam Parr

what’s 1 more thing that’s your amazing at, in terms of your profession.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

I am an amazing masseuse

Mahbod Moghadam

A lot of people say I have healing hands

Sam Parr

Amazing.

Ok last question

 

Mahbod Moghadam

my mom wants me to study faith healin

yee

LAST ONE…..

oh shit……

I’m nervous!

sam I don’t think I can answer I’m too anxious! jk

 

Sam Parr

What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you were 25 about starting a startup?

Was that a weak question?

Mahbod Moghadam

LOL no it’s good!

 

Sam Parr

 

No it’s a good one.

What do you wish you knew when you were 25

Mahbod Moghadam

well, in the case of rap genius specifically, I wish I knew what bullshit fakers everyone else in startups is

Sam Parr

how so?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

we were too modest, we should have raised money at higher valuations

Sam Parr

 

but you raised from the two most powerful institutions. you think you could have bullshitted them more?

Mahbod Moghadam

 

all of these fakers get good deals because they are full of bravado, at the time we didn’t realize that rap genius is the only good thing and that everyone else is just faking and will never even build a product

 

I guess I mean even earlier than that

 

Sam Parr

So you’re in favor of bravado?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

like, when we applied to YC, we were thinking “we’re not good enough for YC!!”

 

and then in YC, we were voted “most likely to succeed!”

yes! the problem is this: the people who are ACTUALLY talented don’t have the bravado, and the fakers have it in spades!

 

Sam Parr

 

Anyone in particular who comes off like a confident successful person/company but really has no idea what’s going on?

Mahbod Moghadam

the everipedia guys are the same – they are very modest, they don’t realize the extent of their own talents and how much better they are than everyone else

 

well, CLINKLE is the meme example

 

Sam Parr

ok, besides them.

everyone knows that.

Mahbod Moghadam

 

Clinkle will go down in history as how little you need to have to raise money if you’re a confident white guy

 

 

a lot of people dude – in every YC batch, I’d say over half of the companies are total fakers.. and these are the people who were selected as the “Top .00001%”

 

 

Sam Parr

Any particular company who’s crushing it now, you remember being like “these guys have no idea what they’re doing”

 

But they were great at hiding it.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

no def not.. that’s the other thing, since talent is so rare, as soon as you see it, you know it

 

like I’m saying, our peers in YC voted rap genius “most likely to succeed” – they all instantly knew that what we had built was extraordinary

 

Sam Parr

 

Right but I’m asking about your peers at YV

 

some of them are huge now. but did you think they’d be huge or when they hit is were you like “how did those morons pull that off?

 

YC

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

I think Underground Cellar is really the shit, only a matter of time before they blow the fuck up…. one of my favorite all time YC co’s

 

Sam Parr

I know that guy. He’s sharp and really nice. I like him.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

 

oh good shit! yeah dude, he is inspiring – the whole team is amazing

 

Sam Parr

 

I forget his name, but he’s great.

Yeah they are ex poker players or something.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

Jeff Shaw

Sam Parr

yeah!

cool dude

 

 

Mahbod Moghadam

yeah! also a lot of people don’t know this, but Tom and Ilan were heavy into poker too

Sam Parr

That freaks me out.

Online poker is bad.

Mahbod Moghadam

one of my earliest bonding experiences with Ilan was in 2005, when I had just started law school, I helped him research the tax options for his winnings on Party Poker

 

Sam Parr

how much did he have?

Mahbod Moghadam

they made a lot of money on it

 

Sam Parr

 

how much?

Mahbod Moghadam

he had like 100K

 

Sam Parr

haha!!

 

That’s stupid and awesome!

 

Mahbod Moghadam

but he was not the leader from his crew, our homie Ariel Schneller who was one of the unofficial “founders” of Rap Genius too btw, he made like a million bucks playing online poker in college

and then he quit poker and went to harvard law

 

Sam Parr

ha!

Mahbod Moghadam

when rap genius started, it was a competition between me and ariel

Sam Parr

so answer my final question

Mahbod Moghadam

we were the two most active users of the site, we were competing to see who can get the most IQ – that’s how rap genius started

 

Sam Parr

about which of your YC peers blew up and you’re like “REALLY??”

Mahbod Moghadam

I’m telling you dude, it’s not like that. true talent is so rare that as soon as you see it, you know it’s not the standard deal…

 

everyone in YC knew rap genius was going to blow up by the 2nd week – they knew it before we knew it! LOL

Sam Parr

So every YC company from your class that’s popular now, you knew it would happen because they had real talent?

Mahbod Moghadam

cause they had been around the tech scene longer, they had seen a lot more bullshit than we had seen, so they knew rap genius was something special

 

yeah, everyone also knew codecademy was going to blow up.. fuckin Zach Sims aka “Wolfman Zach” is an ace – and they blew up

Sam Parr

He’s a youngin’. Seems nice.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

everyone knew Parse was going to blow up – Kevin Lacker was on the team and he used to work on google SEARCH so he was tech illuminati, anything he touches turns to gold

Sam Parr

That’s awesome.

Mahbod Moghadam

in fact, he’s the one who gave us statistics on how much of google search is for lyrics!

Sam Parr

ya

anyone else?

Mahbod Moghadam

MongoDB is huge now

I’m forgetting a lot we had a very strong YC batch

 

Sam Parr

ok

Let’s end this.

Anything else you wanna say?

 

Mahbod Moghadam

Ryan Lackey‘s security company was bought, he’s a fuckin genius

Sam Parr

I’m gonna send this out tonight!

Mahbod Moghadam

I wanna say this: I RESPECT YOU SAM. you’re my favorite white boy.. I feel like you are a white guy who is corporate/etc., but at least you still understand the “chill side” of things too

 

Sam Parr

Yeah OK!

 

Mahbod Moghadam

If I wasn’t doing everipedia I’d be working for you

and you would be yelling at me for coming to work late, and I would tell you to fuck off

 

Sam Parr

You’re the Yale law guy. I’m from missouri. You’re the corporate one here!

 

Mahbod Moghadam

no dude…

LOL

YOU are the corporate one

Sam Parr

Ok yeah ok. Fine I’ll be corporate.

 

Mahbod Moghadam

be real

 

Sam Parr

ok and we’re OUT