Startup Wasteland: Hacker Tech Culture in NYC vs LA

everipedia santa monica HQ

Human culture is a straight line — as we travel from the west to the east, things become more contained and less interesting. Technology is not nearly as important as we travel east.

In my entrepreneurial experience, I started a company in NYC (Rap Genius) and another one in LA (Everipedia). Rap Genius is a billion dollar company, and I have a lot of equity in it — but I still think Rap Genius is a failure. Even though it is the definitive internet lyrics platform, it never became the universal knowledge annotator that it could have been. It is a billion dollar company, not a trillion dollar company.

Everipedia is going to be a trillion dollar company — we are building the cryptocurrency platform for all knowledge and social networks — it will be the “crypto facebook”. I think that the main reason why Everipedia will succeed, and Rap Genius will fail, is that the companies were started in NYC — the fakest tech city in the U.S. — whereas Everipedia was started in LA — the “Minority Internet Paradise.”

I’m not going to get into SF or Silicon Valley because it’s just plain-old weird. They have a lot of huge hit companies, but they’re still way too beta. Also, I never started a company in SF. And finally, I think cryptocurrency will bring Silicon Valley to its knees, their centralized institutions like Facebook and Google singing their swansong, with LA becoming the more dominant crypto-powerhouse.

NYC Sucks

The first funding Rap Genius ever got was from Y Combinator in 2011. Although my cofounders, Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory, were living in New York before YC, I always hoped that the future of the office would be in California.

In late 2011, I was in for a rude awakening. Tom and Ilan made me salty, they said they were going back to nyc because of an office. Their excuse was because a lot of nyc investors had invested like Ben Lerer. We also got an LA beach house in Malibu, however, and I split the year between nyc and LA.

There are no good tech startups in NYC. The biggest hit of all time is Tumblr, which is an underwhelming piece of shit where the hipster CEO took his billion dollars and throws lots of cocaine parties now. He never even cared about his own platform.

No one in NYC has a trillion dollar tech vision. One major, literal problem having a tech office in NYC is that the buildings are very tall and the internet is slow. In my experience, all of the office internet at Rap Genius was a cheap, shitty experience. When the internet is slow, workers have a hard time getting inspired — nobody discovers a trillion dollar vision.

I’ve been involved with crypto since 2013, and back in the day, there was no city like NYC anywhere near as backwards as crypto. Nowadays, it seems NYC has finally bit the crypto bullet — they are becoming fairweather fans, but there seems nothing sincere in the tech. There is an impressive company called Consensys, except, Consensys doesn’t actually build anything. They have relationships with big corporations but they are, in fact, totally fake. Consensys is a metonym of the NYC crypto-tech scene, and, indeed, the whole tech scene. I don’t think crypto will have any success in nyc because, why would the crypto economy be welcomed in the city of the dirty centralized finance overlords? It just doesn’t make any sense.

LA is Chill

In 2012, right after Ben Horowitz invested in Rap Genius, he had us over for dinner at his house. It was one of the earliest times of us just hanging out, shooting the shit — opportunities that would become countless in the next couple of years.

At that dinner, I told him one thing: “BEN: you need to invest in Tinder and Snapchat”.

I knew Tinder and Snapchat would blow the fuck up, and I was particularly proud that they are LA companies. At the time, lots of people seemed to think that LA tech was mediocre, but I had not seen anything approaching consumer internet like Tinder or Snapchat from SF or SV for several years — since Instagram, actually.

Ben said no — he actually said he’d been pitched both by Tinder and Snapchat in the previous several months, and the valuation was too high.

In this respect, Ben paid a sore price for not taking my advice — and for disrespecting the LA tech scene.

Unlike NYC and (I’ve heard) SF, LA doesn’t have a lot of tall buildings, so there are lots of spaces with fast internet. LA is kind of like Silicon Valley — it is low-rise, so it’s good for the internet.

I met the “Persian Zuck” cofounder of Everipedia, Sam Kazemian, at UCLA in 2015 and it is a pretty sick hacker school — better than Stanford. Stanford has rich snobby kids, where as UCLA has fucking middle-class hacker SOULJAS. Our CTO and our lead blockchain developer both come from UCLA as well.

Persian Zuck and I were long-obsessed with cryptocurrency. I was an early bitcoin investor, and he mined bitcoin to pay his tuition in college. But it wasn’t until a year after Everipedia’s launch that we turned the “crypto-wikipedia” — an integration of the site with IQ tokens and cryptocurrenty — into our $30 million raise.

There are a lot of cryptocurrency lions in Los Angeles because the city marches to its own tune. Cryptocurrency is a huge technology, but for some reason, people in SF/SV are somewhat alienated to crypto because they know, deep down inside, that it’s going to eat their own lunch. Cryptocurrency will eventually turn centralized Silicon Valley institutions like Google and Facebook into a pillar of salt: it’s only a matter of time.

One of our fundraising mentors is the cryptocurrency genius Brock Pierce. He’s based in LA, and now, Puerto Rico, which reminds me of LA. His Venice pad is probably the most baller house in the canals, and he has a giant unicorn floaty that he purchased from his neighbor with ethereum. If Everipedia’s President, Sam, is the “Crypto Zuck”, then Brock is definitly the “Crypto Peter Thiel”.

Tinder and Snapchat, LA’s big powerhouses, aren’t involved in crypto at all. It’s a shame! Especially with Snapchat, crypto could have given them the edge to overcome Facebook.

Affirmations

One time, before our $30M raise, we even flirted with the idea of moving to Palo Alto with Everipedia — in 2016, Sam looked at Mark Zuckerberg’s “Facebook House” near Stanford where they threw cocaine parties, like the one portrayed in the film “The Social Network”.

In the end, however, Los Angeles was our home. The security deposit of the Facebook cocaine house was too high, and we raised $30 million to build a major crypto platform, something that is, indeed, anathema to Silicon Valley. It was time to stay in LA.

One one last thing: Everipedia is representative of Los Angeles because our staff encompasses a lot of weird races. No big city is “Minorityville U.S.A.” like Los Angeles — it is something that makes the city be a great representation of both the internet and crypto. The world be becoming borderless, and Los Angeles is at its cutting edge.

Everipedia just moved into our first commercial office in Santa Monica, at 201 Wilshire. It is across the street from the Bungalow. If you want to come check out the biggest LA tech company — the crypto Facebook, bigger than Snapchat — then please get involved in our community and make an Everipedia page. It is the CRYPTO FACEBOOK y’all — and nobody can build this trillion dollar company like Los Angeles can…..

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