Reza Jafery

@RezaJafery

How Everipedia is Decentralizing History with Blockchain

Interview with Mahbod Moghadam, CoFounder of Everipedia and Genius.

I was working with a friend of mine a few weeks ago when I heard him start to chuckle behind his laptop.

He spun his MacBook around and showed me a Facebook status from a man named Mahbod Moghadam.

“All I care about is my crypto and my abs”, it read.

This guy is my spirit animal, I thought to myself. Laughing as I scrolled through some colorful statuses he had shared.

My friend, Nathan Raffel, explained to me that Mahbod was an acquaintance of his. He founded Rap Genius, and was now working on a Blockchain project called Everipedia.

Rap Genius is the fastest growing startup to ever go through Y-Combinator. As a self-proclaimed Hip-Hop Head, I’ve been using the site for years. It’s the first Wiki-esque platform to allow artists to verify the meaning of their lyrics (something Mahbod later told me was his idea).

I spent a lot of time on Rap Genius (now referred to as, “Genius”) in college. I still remember when “10 Day” by Chance the Rapper came out.

I went on to Genius and discovered that this little-known artist had actually created an account and verified his own lyrics.

My mind was blown.

I wanted to meet Mahbod as much for his part in Genius as I did to learn about his new venture, Everipedia.

A site who’s bold mission is,

“to modernize, consolidate, and decentralize governance of the online encyclopedia.”

Before sitting down with Mahbod I was pretty ignorant to the world of Online Encyclopedia’s. At first I wasn’t even sure if there was a genuine need for the product. I didn’t understand Wikipedia’s flaws well enough to grasp the demand — flaws that Mahbod was all too familiar with.

While we may not realize it, we’re creating history every single day. Every startup that’s founded, every musician who releases a project, every writer that takes pen to pad.

We’re all making history together.

History is now recorded on the internet — but who controls that history?

Are the gate keepers to sites like Wikipedia secretly controlling the narrative that our children will be told?

Who’s perspective will be shared with the next generations?

— — — — — — — — —

Fast forward a few weeks and Mahbod and I are sitting down over drinks at Soho House in West Hollywood.

Mahbod has quite the reputation. He received a lot of attention after leaving Genius for a series of articles titled, “How to Steal from Whole Foods”. A series rating Whole Foods locations based on variables like: how easy they were to steal from or how hot their customers were.

The series went viral.

It gained so much attention that Mahbod received a letter from Whole Foods. Threatening to ban him from their stores for life.

There are plenty of words that come to mind when trying to describe Mahbod, boring is definitely not one of them.

— — — — — — — — — — —

THE INTERVIEW

Q: How did you get involved with Everipedia?

A: The way that Sam knew about me was because I started Genius. Genius in some ways is the inspiration for Everipedia.

It’s (Genius) a Wiki site, everyone comes in: from famous people to fans to share their knowledge on lyrics.

Sam was a big big fan of Genius and he was basically thinking to himself,

“How is it that there is a sophisticated and fun-to-use Wiki site for rap lyrics — but the Wiki site for everything (Wikipedia) is old and hard to use”.

So what if we build the Rap Genius of Wikipedia.

What if we Rap-Geniusify, or Quora-ify, or Stack Overflow-ify Wikipedia.

What if we take Wikipedia and put it in the skin of a Web 2.0 site.

Q: Sam is one of the Co-Founders?

A: Yes, Sam is the president of the company. He and Theodore (the CEO of Everipedia) built the original MVP when Sam was finishing up at UCLA.

I gave a talk at UCLA about Genius. Sam came to me at my talk and showed me my Everipedia page.

It meant a lot to me because someone made me a Wikipedia page once. I was really excited about it, but Wikipedia deleted it because they decided I wasn’t “notable” enough.

So, Sam Showed it to me and I had a “Eureka moment”.

I thought, if I wanted one of these so badly and they wouldn’t give it to me I’m probably not the only one.

Sure enough, Everipedia is now one of the top 10,000 sites.

Pretty much all of our traffic comes from people searching the word “Wiki” for things that don’t have Wiki’s.

For example, Mahbod Moghadam Wiki.

Or, “some startup they just heard of” Wiki.

Q: How does Everipedia address the issues and pain points of Wikipedia?

A: It’s hard for startups to get a Wiki page, so what is there?

There’s Crunchbase.

Crunchbase is a stop gap to fill the hole created by Wiki’s Notability Requirement.

The problem with Crunchbase is, if you’re on a startups page and it says this startup operates in San Francisco. You can’t click on “San Francisco” and load a page on it. That’s the whole point of Wiki, the rabbit hole.

We want one Wiki. Combine Crunchbase, Investopedia, Murderpedia, Star Wars-pedia, and Star Trek-pedia, with the mother — Wikipedia. So that everything is connected.

Those are the two visions behind Everipedia:

1) To make the software modern sleek and sophisticated.

2) To broaden the scope — to end what the Wiki community refers to as deletionism.

Q: Do you feel like Wikipedia has the ability to curate history in that sense? By saying what is and what isn’t notable are they in charge of what people are going to deem important 100 years from now?

A: Wikipedia is a very powerful site and is the only site that is both a pillar of the internet and a non-profit. In some ways that creates virtuous incentives. It also creates perverse incentives.

The company isn’t serving a client. They’re trying to compensate contributors by making them feel powerful.

So a lot of contributors exercise this power in messed up ways.

One thing we’ve noticed is that its very hard to get a Wikipedia page if you’re a rapper.

Of Everipedias top 10 pages, over half of them are pages for rappers, and a lot of those are female rappers.

If you’re urban, a minority, a woman, or anything that goes against Wiki’s contributor demographic: you’re going to have a hard time getting on Wikipedia.

Q: What is the Wikipedia contributor demographic?

A: White men living in the Bay area.

Q: What is the biggest barrier stopping Blockchain technology from mass adoption?

A: Like any technology, the biggest problem is going to be government regulation.

We have to figure out how this is going to fit into the existing world.

I think it will happen. The last disruptive breakthrough from an economic and legal standpoint is ride sharing.

It was illegal when it started. People figured out it was valuable and now there are big lobbyists supporting it. They changed the paradigm.

That’s the biggest challenge for crypto.

Im not too worried. With anything that adds tremendous value, it takes time. You have to bribe the right people. There’s a lot of corruption. There are a lot of Illuminati powers behind crypto.

As it happens, when there is a tech that can really change everything, it’s really hard to hold it back. The biggest challenge doesn’t become the “computer stuff” it’s the “legal stuff”. I’m a pretty optimistic person, and it’s very difficult to kill technology through regulation.

Q: Hasn’t china tried to ban cryptocurrency 3–4 times in the past?

A: Well China has a lot of people who have made a lot of money in crypto. China has more bitcoin billionaires and millionaires than anybody.

The way it was explained to me is that there is a civil war going on over crypto in China. The establishment is threatened. They worry that the Chinese people becoming rich off crypto are going to take over.

Q: So this “civil war” is starting over one of the reasons that crypto was created? To disrupt traditional distribution of wealth?

A: Yeah, well you still have to bribe them.

I’m a big fan of the book, “A People’s History of the United States”, Howard Zin. It’s a socialist history book, it says that there is a “steam cooler” built into American history.

In Europe, the poor get treated so badly that they eventually revolt.

But in the US, we figured out that a way to keep lower classes from revolting is to share a little bit of the wealth with them.

He says it like it’s a really bad thing, you can look at it in an optimistic way — that’s kind of the way technology works. You make something new and then you have to bribe the existing people to adopt it. It’s not going to be 100% progress, it’s gradual. It’s a conservative, slow and steady progress.

Q: What drew you into crypto? At what point did you fall down the crypto rabbit hole?

A: Well my Eureka moment was just seeing my own page on Everipedia.

I wanted a Wiki page so badly. I thought there must be people who feel the same. At the time, I didn’t know there was a multi-billion dollar black market filled with people bribing their way onto Wikipedia.

That’s honestly what drew me in, wanting a page so badly. Before my page was deleted I thought anyone could go on Wikipedia and make a page about anything. I didn’t know they had all these rules.

That’s what most people think, they haven’t actually tried to make a page.

Have you ever tried to make a page on Wikipedia?

A) good luck trying to figure out how to make a page

B) they’ll just take it down.

They take down something like, over 99% of pages submitted.

It’s a lot of wasted effort, and Contributors aren’t even getting anything from it. Whereas we give them tokens.

We give them tokens, they get paid, and they actually own the site they’re building.

Q: What’s the “high-level” business model for Everipedia?

A: We used to run ads until we decided to launch our token and now we’ve raised money via the air drop.

The plan is to have monetization built into the token.

People who are using the token as a vehicle for investment will pay a tax that funds the entire operation of the site. And since the site lives on EOS we don’t have any server costs.

That’s how EOS works, it’s digital real estate. Instead of wasting electricity building tokens, it uses it to power the website.

Eventually we think this is going to become a pillar of the internet. Then who knows — the monetization possibilities will be endless.

Q: Does Wikipedia’s unwillingness to cater to “non-notable” subjects create an opportunity for Everipedia?

A: Yeah, a lot of our traffic is from the word “Wiki”. People search the word Wiki, and a lot of those searches go to Wikipedia. For stuff that doesn’t have a Wiki there are all these weird sites, these “Other-pedias”.

How Genius got rid of all these shitty lyric sites, we’re getting rid of all these shitty Wiki expansion sites.

We can coexist with Wikipedia. But why do Startups have to go to Crunchbase, which sucks and isn’t part of a bigger network?

Why do Han Solo fan-boys have to go to Star Wars-pedia?

There’s a site that creates Wiki pages for famous people who don’t have them called “Famous Birthdays”. It’s one of the top 500 sites in the world and it’s not even written in proper english.

These are, to Everipedia, what AZ Lyrics and Metro Lyrics were to Genius.

There is so much crap on the internet that someone needs to go out and get rid of.

Q: Is that a part of your business development process? Approaching these other-pedia’s and telling them to come onto your platform?

A: No no, we’re only building it.

Larry Sanger joined Everipedia as our Chief Information Officer six months ago. He’s the original founder of Wikipedia.

He’s interested in the notion of a greater Wiki, an encyclopedia blockchain that other encyclopedias can use too. They have been talking to Britannica and what not, but I don’t really see the point in that. Everipedia already does everything. Any encyclopedia page you want to make you can make on our site.

Then again, I’m not really good with understanding abstract concepts. I need the actual software in my hands to play with it and really understand it.

I’m not a very technical person, but I value technical people. Someone who is a hype man isn’t valuable to me, I can do that myself.

What I do at Everipedia, is I sit there and I work.

Developers have this word called “Dog-Feeding”. Which basically means using your own product. Which shows something messed up about developer culture. That they are so reticent to use there own product that there’s a name for it. Using your own product should be called “life”.

Look at Zuck, he’s all about Facebook, he does Facebook live, he posts a lot of statuses. That’s awesome. I’m like that, not a day will go by where I’m not contributing to my own site, making Wiki pages. A big part of my job everyday is, anything that I see that I think “this could use a wiki page”, I go home and I make it.

Q: What are you the most excited about in the future of Everipedia?

A: Well the air drop is the big big news, we’re some of the first people using this method of fund raising.

We think this may become the official method of fund raising for startups, like how ICO’s blew up last year. Air drop is the more safe, legally sound version of the ICO.

What happens is a Venture Capitalist (VC) buys all the tokens you want to sell. So you raise capital as if a VC were investing in you, but they (VC’s) take those tokens and distribute them to their interest holders. In our case, everyone who owns EOS.

So everyone who owns EOS is going to get 30 million dollars worth of our tokens from Galaxy Digital. They’re the ones who bought our tokens and are facilitating the air drop.

You can find information on how to participate in the airdrop in the video above.

Q: I’m not extremely familiar with using air drops as a method to fund raise. What’s in it for Galaxy Digital?

A: The price of EOS goes up because:

A) Everyone who holds EOS gets free IQ.

B) They’re saying, “this is what happens when you hold EOS”. Galaxy Digital has the capital to fund plenty more projects like this. EOS token holders will be silent partners in all of them.

Q: Why did you choose EOS over Ethereum?

A: EOS is digital real estate, so you know, as a Persian I’m in love with real estate.

The most exciting part of it to me is, like I was saying, we’re not just burning electricity. We’re actually hosting our site on EOS. It’s more environmentally friendly. We’re using everything instead of wasting resources to create the tokens.

This also means its impossible to censor Everipedia.

It’s not hosted on an Amazon server somewhere. So it’s impossible for China, Iran, Turkey, or any of the countries that block Wikipedia to block Everipedia.

Everipedia has Wikipedia imported, all Wiki lives inside of Everipedia.

So those 20 countries that block Wikipedia — we’re bringing Wikipedia to those countries for the first time.

That’s the power of EOS!

One of our big inspirations for moving onto the blockchain is Steemit, which is the crypto Reddit. The founder of Steemit is also the founder of EOS, Dan Larimer.

He built Steemit on Ethereum and realized it had problems. He decided to build his own protocol to fix all those problems. He basically built the protocol he wished Steemit was built on.

That’s what made him launch EOS, and that’s kind of what we’re building.

Steemit is 40% of all blockchain transactions in the world. It’s a top 1000 site, the market cap is well over a billion dollars, and we think we can be much bigger than that.

We think Steemit is the crypto Reddit whereas Everipedia is the crypto Wikipedia.

We’re helping Dan and the EOS team build the air drop software — so he sees the vision too.

He understands that it’s inspired by what he did with Steemit, but we’re going for something with a bigger scope.

Q: What made Larry Sanger want to join your team?

A: It’s all because of blockchain. Blockchain technology is something they wanted in 2001, when they built Wiki. Back then, they thought it would have been a better product if the people who built it also owned it.

This completes the original vision. It reminds me of what Marc Andreessen told me when he invested in Rap Genius. When he first built Netscape, he wanted an annotation function, but it was too difficult to store the data. Cloud storage wasn’t advanced enough at the time to handle it.

Genius was completing the vision for the original web browser in Marc’s eyes, and that’s how Larry feels about Everipedia.

This is the original vision of Wikipedia.

We’re building something where people who contribute value receive value in return.

Q: Is there any bad blood between Larry Sanger and the Wiki team? Is that seen as him turning on them?

A: Larry is a legend to the Wikipedia community. If you’ll let me be obnoxious…

He is to Wikipedia what I am to Rap Genius.

Neither of us were at the companies very long, but we’re the guys who gave them their voice.

He invented the word Wikipedia like I coined the word Rap Genius.

He set the whole tone of the community.

It’s not an accident. We had a pretty big community before Larry came on but they weren’t Wiki editors. Now we’re getting a lot of editors coming to our platform from Wiki — and it’s because of Larry.

Q: What is the process of becoming an editor or contributor to Everipedia.

A: You request an invite, you make something, and we vet you. Once you’re vetted, you’re good.

One thing we encourage is for people to create original pages. A lot of people only want to edit whats already there. What we have to figure out is how the site is going to interact with wikipedia. What I’m most interested in seeing is pages like mine.

For example, my page. It’s an Everipedia page that needs to exist, people search for my name and the word “Wiki” and I don’t have a Wikipedia.

My page has about 30,000 views, it’s not breaking the bank but its something! There’s millions of people like that.

You’ll meet people like actors who don’t have Wiki’s but their name redirects to their TV shows Wiki page. That’s what happened to me, I wasn’t deleted, I was recycled into the Rap Genius page.

Q: I learned from your Everipedia page, that you invested in Coinbase — when did you invest in it?

A: 2014.

Q: Holy shit, do you know how many users they had at that time? I imagine most who read this know Coinbase as the go-to place to buy crypto with fiat. What was it when you found it?

A: Me being a consumer internet guy the most interesting thing about Coinbase to me is their Alexa rank. They’re top 40 in the US, they’re getting more traffic than the Wall Street Journal, so it’s like “My God what’s going on!”.

It was very small. Forget about when I invested, when I first met Brian Armstrong — the CEO of Coinbase — was at Y Combinator demo day.

They were in Y-Combinator right after Rap Genius. It was the first time I took Bitcoin seriously. I had heard the word before but I thought it was a joke, I thought it was a video game.

I consider myself a good judge of character. I can tell when I meet someone who’s brilliant, thats how I start my companies. I met Brian and thought he was absolutely brilliant. So if he’s doing a cryptocurrency company and its in Y Combinator than that means Bitcoin is legit, and I was wrong.

Q: That reminds me of something I read when I was studying stock trading, “There are two types of people — people who care about being right and people who care about making money”.

A: A big part of my philosophy is not getting bogged down in the weeds. A lot of people want to understand everything before taking action. You can run into people who aren’t tech savvy, that won’t invest in Blockchain until they 100% understand it.

I don’t understand the technology, I’m not technical at all. I base my decisions on psychology. Im good at knowing who knows what they’re talking about

So I follow and support people who know what they’re talking about.

It’s kind of a law school mentality, the legal jargon that speaks to this concept is “scrutiny”. Sometimes a court will say, “we’re not here to make this decision. We’re here to make the decision of who can make the decision.”

I try not to apply extreme scrutiny. I find smart people and apply what the Supreme Court calls Rationality Review.

I let them do whatever the fuck they want.

Q: Any last thoughts you’d like to share?

A: I want people to join the community. I’m a easy person to reach out to so if anything I’m talking about is up your alley — come check us out. Come make your own Wiki page. More often than not, when I ask someone to make their own page — the response I get is, “Im not important enough”. That’s not the right way to think.

People are looking you up, even if you don’t think so, everyone has at least one creepy person googling them. You need an Everipedia for that one person if nothing else!

[End]

— — — — — — — — — — — — —

I stopped recording, both of our drinks were finished so I offered to grab another round.

“Let’s stop by my office so you can meet the guys, we can have some drinks there”.

We got into his car and headed over to the Everipedia offfice near UCLA. As the valet pulled up his Audi he off-handedly joked, “I know I know, what kind of Persian doesn’t drive a BMW”.

The Everipedia office reminded me of the original Facebook house depicted in, “The Social Network”.

Half finished liquor bottles sprawling on the kitchen counter. The living room filled with desks and monitors. There were two bunk beds in a back room, but besides that it was hard to know if anyone at Everipedia ever slept.

I was later assured that no one did very much sleeping.

After pouring us another drink, Mahbod sat down at his computer.

“Let’s make you an Everipedia page so you can see how it works.”

A little timid to speak objectively about myself and my accomplishments, I hesitated. Before I had a chance to interject he had already clicked his way to my Facebook and LinkedIn. Taking my profile picture from Facebook, and companies I had worked with from LinkedIn.

A few minutes later I had my own page, and I was captivated. After speaking with him about his project for the past 45 minutes it was interesting to see it in action.

It made me feel more important, seeing that there was a un-censorable record of my existence somewhere. It made me want to become a contributor.

It made me want to take history into my own hands.

“Where do you live?”, Mahbod asked, fingers still whirring away as he crafted my Everipedia page.

I let him know what part of town I lived in and he smiled.

“Oh, did you know you live down the street from the hottest Whole Foods in America?”.

— — — — — — — — — — — —

Disclaimer: I am not invested in Everipedia and this is not a paid promotion. If you’d like to be interviewed, reach out to me on Twitter — but if I think you’re product is shit I’ll say so :)

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