Rap Genius with News | Disrupt NYC 2013 | Summary and Q&A

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May 1, 2013
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Rap Genius with News | Disrupt NYC 2013

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Summary

In this video, the founders of Rap Genius, a website that allows users to annotate rap lyrics and other texts, discuss the origins and goals of their platform. They explain how Rap Genius works and how it evolved from a small community project to a popular website with over 500,000 contributors. They also discuss their relationship with investors Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, as well as their plans for expanding into other verticals and working with universities.

Questions & Answers

Q: Can you explain what Rap Genius is and how it works?

Rap Genius is a website where users can annotate rap lyrics as well as other texts, such as news articles and poetry. When users encounter a line they are confused about, they can search for it on the site and find explanations, additional context, and links to related content. The annotations are crowdsourced, with over 500,000 people contributing to the platform.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Rap Genius and why did investors like Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz find it fascinating?

The founders explain that Rap Genius was inspired by the vision of Marc Andreessen, who originally built a web browser with the ability to annotate any content on the web. They believe that the web is full of information but lacks depth and context. Investors like Andreessen and Horowitz saw the potential of Rap Genius to provide a second layer of information to enhance understanding and engagement with texts. They were also personally interested in rap and related genres.

Q: How has Rap Genius evolved over time and what sets it apart from other similar platforms?

The founders describe how Rap Genius started as a small project with just the founders and their friends annotating rap lyrics for fun. As they opened it up to the public, the community grew and the site became crowd-sourced. They emphasize that what sets Rap Genius apart is the interplay between the technology and the community. The platform is not just about storing information, but also about fostering a passionate community that adds value and engagement. They also mention the recent addition of verified artists explaining their own lyrics.

Q: What is the long-term intention for Rap Genius?

The founders believe that Rap Genius has the potential to bring a second layer of information and depth to all types of texts on the web, not just rap lyrics. They see it as a platform for crowdsourcing knowledge and providing contextual understanding. They also mention plans to expand into other verticals, such as news, and to work with universities to bring annotation to classic texts.

Q: How has the relationship with investors like Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz influenced the development of Rap Genius?

The founders explain that while Ben Horowitz is a big rap fan and has been involved in the project, it was actually Marc Andreessen who had the same vision for a web browser with annotation capabilities and who saw the long-term potential of Rap Genius. The founders express their admiration and gratitude for their investors, describing them as part of the Rap Genius family and praising their contributions to marketing and strategy.

Q: Can you talk about some of the controversies or challenges you have faced?

The founders describe their experience with Heroku, a hosting service, which initially misrepresented their product and caused them to waste time. This led to some public disagreements and blog posts, but they ultimately maintain a positive relationship with the company. They also mention the Nas and Mark Zuckerberg party incident, where they took photos in a "no photos" zone and made inappropriate comments. They express regret for their actions and emphasize their admiration and respect for Nas and Zuckerberg.

Q: Are there any plans to expand Rap Genius into other areas like education?

The founders mention that Rap Genius is already being used in education, with teachers and students incorporating the platform into their classrooms. They also mention plans to work with universities, such as Columbia, to have freshman classes explain texts on Rap Genius. They see Rap Genius as a tuition-free university and a tool for educating the youth.

Q: How do you attract verified artists to explain their own lyrics on Rap Genius?

The founders mention that they have had success in attracting verified artists to the platform. They describe instances where artists like Mac Miller and Ab-Soul visited their office, and they explain that it is not necessary to wine and dine the artists, but rather to create an environment where they feel comfortable and excited to explain their lyrics. They highlight the example of Nas using Rap Genius to annotate his own work.

Q: Do you think entrepreneurs should conform to a certain image or can they be more expressive and true to themselves?

The founders believe that entrepreneurs should not worry too much about conforming to a specific image. They emphasize the importance of being true to oneself and not being afraid to be expressive and unique. They share their own experiences and express their belief that being authentic and passionate attracts the right people and leads to greater happiness and success.

Q: What advice do you have for new entrepreneurs or those applying to programs like Y Combinator?

The founders stress the importance of not getting caught up in worrying about money, investors, or programs like Y Combinator. They believe that traction and building something cool should be the primary focus. They also emphasize the importance of showing love to co-founders and fostering a positive and supportive environment. They urge new entrepreneurs to not worry about conforming and to pursue their vision and passion wholeheartedly.

Takeaways

Rap Genius started as a small community project and evolved into a popular website with a passionate community and over 500,000 contributors. It aims to bring a second layer of information to the web, providing depth and context to texts. The platform has attracted notable investors like Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, who see its potential for enhancing understanding and engagement with various types of content. Rap Genius has plans to expand into other verticals and work with universities to bring annotation to classic texts. The founders emphasize the importance of being true to oneself, not worrying about image, and focusing on building something cool. They also stress the value of showing love to co-founders and fostering a supportive community.

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