Before resigning in disgrace after publically annotating UC Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger’s manifesto, Mahbod Moghadam considered his Genius co-founders Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman his best friends.
Now, he says Lehman has turned into a complete “a–hole” and he considers his co-founders “corporate goons.
“Tom feels like my ex-girlfriend who has a really pretty face but needs to lose a little bit of weight — you know what I mean right?” Moghadam wrote in an email to Reeves Wiedman at New York Magazine.
Genius, which began as Rap Genius, is a crowdsourced annotation platform. While it initially focused on breaking down rap lyrics, the site has attempted to pivot itself in recent months and hopes to redefine itself as an educational resource. Genius now offers annotations on poetry, literature, legal documents, news, and film.
As the company has taken more and more funding, Zechory and Lehman have attempted to court a wider audience. But Moghadam rejects Genius’ mass-market strategy and seems to pine for the anything-goes earlier days.
When Lehman and Zechory recently announced a list of Genius company values such as “Feel It to My Face” (never be afraid to tell others what you’re thinking) and “Take the Roast out of the Oven” (unleash incomplete products into the world and see what happens), Moghadam immediately sent an unprompted email declaring “I think Tom has finally lost his f—ing mind — RIP. He was always fascinated by hitler/nazis/fascism — but now he has taken it too far!”
Moghadam then followed up with a series of tweets proclaiming, “Looking to sell some of my @Genius shares! Message me if you’re interested,” before inevitably apologizing.
This cycle of aggressive statements followed by an eventual beg for forgiveness is what led to Moghadam’s departure from the company earlier this year.
“I will always love him, he will always be my friend,” Zechory told New York Magazine, “But the project rolls on. It can’t possibly work with him right now.”
Moghadam is currently advising tech companies, one of which he says is “trying to build a huuuuge, visionary earth-shatting product in the mould of Rap Genius,” and shopping around a book proposal.
Read more about Genius’ plan to annotate the world on New York Magazine.