After my post Monday about Law Genius, a crowdsourcing site for posting and annotating legal documents, someone pointed me to this Betabeat piece from 2012 that provides further details on the site’s origins as Rap Genius, its funding from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, and its transition from a site for annotating rap lyrics to one for annotating virtually anything.
The headline of the piece is that Andreessen Horowitz invested $15 million in the Genius site. Why would a firm that has invested in Facebook, Pinterest and Foursquare invest its money here? Well, co-founder Ben Horowitz tells Betabeat he considers this “one of the most important things we’ve ever funded.” In a post on Genius, Horowitz and partner Marc Andreessen offer this:
It turns out that Rap Genius has a much bigger idea and a much broader mission than that. Which is: Generalize out to many other categories of text… annotate the world… be the knowledge about the knowledge… create the Internet Talmud.
The Betabeat article also has information of particular interest to the legal world. For one, one of the site’s founders, Mahbod Moghadam, is a Stanford law school grad. In 2009, while on deferral from the law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, he wrote a satirical memo about law firm billing that got him fired from the firm (and from an internship with Warren Buffett), freeing him to turn his attention to Rap Genius.
Moghadam has since been ousted from Genius, but it was he who saw the potential for bringing legal materials into the site, analogizing it to “footnotes on crack”:
“We are gonna do the dopest ads of all time,” Mr. Moghadam declared, but they have other potential revenue streams in mind as well. “Law firms will pay $100K a year for Law Genius Premium,” he insisted over email. “Lexis and Westlaw are jank—you go from one case to another, and it’s sloppy and wack. … Law Genius will be legal footnotes on crack! Also it can include anything—video, audio—instead of simply citing a Supreme Court case, you can embed the oral arguments!”
OK, I’ll admit I had to look-up “jank” in the Urban Dictionary, but even I got the point. It will be interesting to see whether Law Genius’s brand of crowdsourcing legal materials takes off.