TAMID at USC hosted Genius — previously called Rap-Genius — co-founder Mahbod Moghadam to speak about his company and how to effectively create start-ups on Wednesday evening at the Salvatori Computer Science Center.
TAMID at USC is a business organization that focuses on Israeli business and is established on campuses throughout the United States.
As part of its education component, TAMID invited Moghadam to speak about his success as an entrepreneur with Genius, a website that allows users to break down nearly any kind of text, from song lyrics to news stories, with line-by-line annotations. Currently the number one lyrics website in the world, Genius has raised over $56 million from many investors, which include Y Combinator, Andreesen Horowitz, Dan Gilbert, Alexis Ohanian, Nasir Jones and Betaworks.
Moghadam attended Yale University as an undergraduate and Stanford for law school before founding Rap-Genius with his friends Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory. He resigned from Genius in May 2014 after making his own controversial annotations on the manifesto of Elliot Rodgers, who shot and killed six and injured fourteen near University of California, Santa Barbara in May 2014.
“I’m blocked from my own site,” Moghadam said. “It’s heartbreaking. I am the Moses of Genius, and I’m not allowed into the Holy Land.”
Though Moghadam is Persian and not of Israeli descent, he is a big supporter of Israeli businesses. Jordan Banafsheha, the president of TAMID, found Moghadam on Meerkat, a live stream application founded by three Israeli entrepreneurs.
After seeing Moghadam’s stream on Meerkat, Banafsheha, a sophomore majoring in computer science and business, asked Moghadam if he would like to speak at USC. Moghadam agreed by responding with his email over Twitter. Since then, Banafsheha and Moghadam have been planning the event for the last month.
“Mahbod supports Israeli businesses and that’s what we’re focused on,” said Danielle Fallon, vice president of operations for TAMID. “We like having high-profile figures come and educate our members, as well as the rest of USC entrepreneurship community, about their adventures and start-up stories.”
In her position, Fallon mainly handles marketing and logistics for TAMID. For this event in particular, part of her role was getting the word out to the USC community and reserving the room and sound system.
To attract a wide range of students to the event, Fallon and other board members sought out a variety of groups to participate in the event.
Following Banafsheha opening remarks, a two-student rap group called Rush Hour rapped two songs before Moghadam came on to speak.
Moghadam discussed the evolution of Genius and stressed the role Y Combinator had in its success. He encouraged start-ups with legitimate ideas to apply to YC. He also talked about his views on the technology industry in San Francisco and New York and the lack thereof in Los Angeles.
“There’s a big feud between Hollywood and tech,” Moghadam said.
After Moghadam spoke about his experiences, four groups pitched their start-ups to him and received feedback. The event ended with a Q&A session with Moghadam.
TAMID serves to educate students about the Israeli economy while also consulting for funded Israeli start-ups. The student business organization also invests in a small portfolio made up of securities listed in the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. In addition, TAMID selects a few students for its fellowship, allowing them to intern at firms in Israel during the summer. This year, six students will be interning in Israel with TAMID. Despite TAMID’s ties to Israeli businesses, it bears no political or religious affiliations.
TAMID currently has 90 active members, including one investment team and six consulting teams working with start-ups in Israel.