Interview with Mahbod Moghadam
Today, we are interviewing Mahbod Moghadam. @Mahbodpedia – Mahbod is an entrepreneur and investor, co-founder of Genius (formerly Rap Genius), a fast-growing annotation startup that raised $40 million at a valuation of under $1 billion in 2014. Most recently, he’s the co-founder of startup Everipedia a wiki-based online encyclopedia, where he worked as the Chief Community Officer for several years. He is now an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the venture capital firm Mucker Capital.
Question: What are the biggest tech trends that you see defining the future?
Mahbod: The biggest one by far is BITCOIN and other cryptocurrencies. I got into bitcoin in 2013 because I was fed up with users on Genius being expected to work for worthless points – I thought it would be cool to make the points worth money. Now with smart contracts it’s even better because the points can function like stock – not only giving money, but also control over the platform. My 2nd company Everipedia is the most advanced platform of this kind, where users get IQ tokens for writing encyclopedia articles about anything cool, as opposed to Wikipedia where, like Genius, users are expected to volunteer. Eventually I think that everything on the internet will work the way Everipedia does. My biggest dream is for Facebook to start functioning like Everipedia – Zuck should be giving me “Facecoin” (a token equivalent to facebook stock) every time I make a viral post with lots of upvotes! I think eventually it will happen. I pray, I pray…
Question: What important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Mahbod: I think that all uppers, especially caffeine, are poisonous. When you drink it, you think it makes you smarter, but that is only temporary. Eventually you crash and it makes you dumber, and overall it keeps you dumber. The crash is twice as bad as the high. I don’t think anyone should ever drink energy drinks or coffee. However, pretty much everyone in tech uses these awful drugs, especially developers. I’m always trying to get the developers who I work with to quit! But it’s hard. The dudes who built both of my companies are addicted to caffeine. I think that’s why we still have so many bugs! I hope Zuck doesn’t drink it.
Question: How ambitious are you?
Mahbod: I am enormously ambitious! I’m the only person in my family who was born in America, everyone else was born in Iran, so I have wanted to be President since I was a kid. Now that all of these eccentrics are running I hope I can do it someday too. This year I’m campaigning for Brock Pierce because he’s my idol – both in entrepreneurship as well as politics, he is a source of many of my life philosophies. The most important issue to me is creating a “crypto economy” where everyone has enough money to eat well, live in an apartment, and visit the doctor when necessary. The 2nd most is starting a radical environmental revolution where we stop destroying our planet! We need to stop burning fuel and making plastic. I am ambitious enough to believe that I can make both of these happen within my lifetime.
Question: What one thing would you most like to change about yourself or improve on?
Mahbod: I’m trying really hard not to start beef. But it’s HARD! You get a lot more eyeballs by starting beef with your enemy than by simply stating your own thoughts. It is tempting, I have been tempted many times before and gotten into trouble because of it. But now I’m thinking, slow and steady can win the race. I can convince others without resorting to beef – it takes more effort but is worth it!
Question: What question would you most like to know the answer to?
Mahbod: I want to know when self-driving cars will become the only legal cars! I hope it will be soon. As much as I love driving, I’m waiting for the day when humans are no longer allowed to drive. I think this could be a huge leap for humanity, almost as big as bitcoin taking over. So many deaths will be avoided, so much less wasted time commuting and less pollution. I even read an article about how self-driving cars could eliminate many types of crime, like burglaries, because the criminals will be easier to track. I’m hoping that Elon can make this a reality ASAP!
Question: What’s the best thing you got from your parents?
Mahbod: My mom is a natural-born entrepreneur, even though she never got the chance to start a company. She didn’t get the chance because she was born and raised in Iran, which unfortunately is an extremely sexist country – far, far worse than the U.S. In the work my mom has done, such as working with my sister’s non-profit, she is always a leader. So many random people hit me up on Facebook and tell me things like “your mom saved my life! Your mom changed how I think.” I am like her – I love talking to people and trying to help them, that’s basically what I do. My role at both of my companies has been to use the platform to get users to learn and teach. If my mom had been born and educated in the U.S. I think she could have become a major tech executive like Sheryl Sandberg.
Question: For you, what makes a good start-up founder?
Mahbod: Well the most important thing for me is if you build your product yourself! If you are looking for a “technical cofounder” then that is a very bad sign. Even if you aren’t a coding expert, you have to at least know enough to launch the MVP yourself if you want to succeed. Otherwise, how will you even be able to make good technical hires? This might sound hypocritical since I don’t know how to code, so by my own definition I am not a “good startup founder” lol – but I think I’m successful because I know that the technical peeps have superior skills to what I have. HOWEVER, I think the other important part of being a good founder is having passion for your product. That’s what I bring to the table. Although the technical skills are more important since they are more rare, the successful technical founders will recognize the necessity of non-technical skills and will also be bringing passionate non-technical people like me onboard. My technical cofounders at both Genius and Everipedia recognized this, which is why they made me a cofounder, allowing me to help them succeed. Another person who recognized this is ZUCK – that’s why he is my idol. He had so many cofounders for Facebook – some of them weren’t even that valuable, like Eduardo. But the fact that he was generous shows that he knew he can’t just do it alone. Solo founders who want to keep all of the equity for themselves rarely succeed. The whole point of building a company is you need to get lots of people to work together – if you are selfish then you won’t be a good leader.
Question: What is your motto for life?
Mahbod: YOLOOOOO! That’s the motto. Shouts out to Drake.