We had raised about $500k of the $1.5M we had told everyone we planned to raise, but we had hit a string of “no’s” and we weren’t feeling amazing How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

In some sense the fact that this stressed us out at all is totally insane – $500,000 is a ton of money! 6 months earlier I would have killed to just have enough money to work on Rap Genius full-time

Plus there’s not thaaaaat much difference between raising $500k and raising $1.5M – in both cases you need to raise a Series A to stay alive. Having $1.5M gives you more time and lets you hire a little bit (but not that much – people are expensive!), but $500k would have been enough to finance the founders' work for long enough to raise more IMO

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It’s about whether you project energy, excitement, and confidence How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

This seems like cliché bullshit, AND YET many YC demo day presentations will leave you wondering “is this person even excited about his own product?”

And of course this is after all the practice and advice, etc – the first cuts are way worse (PG is basically a genius at giving presentations to investors)

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We could have given our exact demo day presentation before YC even started How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

This is basically true.

During YC we started emphasizing the “social annotation platform for all of text” aspect more than the “new take on lyrics” thing (which, I STILL think the world doesn’t quite understand what’s going on w/ us and lyrics, but whatever) and we learned that the size of the lyrics search market was way bigger than we even thought (which, gettier, investors don’t care about lyrics anyway), but other than that we had all the tools we needed to raise a ton of money before YC – we just didn’t (even) know it

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The traffic graph had the same shape How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

The traffic graph we brought to the interview:

Not bad, right? (We joked about showing up in FULL ON hockey gear but then chickened out.. and then we joked AGAIN about doing this for demo day and again chickened out)

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The site was definitely bigger than it was at the start of YC How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

About 3.5x bigger – we grew faster that summer than any other time in RG history thanks to Watch the Throne and “Blog Fam 1.0” (which was Maboo’s SEO strategy at the time – of course back then it was just called “Blog Fam”)

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Rap Genius was one of the hottest, fastest-growing companies in YC’s latest batch How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

The meme line from our demo day presentation was “we have more traffic than any other Y Combinator startup in history has had on demo day”

Of course if 9Gag was telling the truth in their presentation the following year they blew us out of the water by like 20x

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Trying to be a business How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

I remember several “if only Rap Genius could make just $5,000 / month maybe we could quit our jobs!” conversations (I’m still not sure how you make $5,000 / month from a website)

The “real business” at the time was BombSheets.com (“great sheets, no hassle”), which never took off (despite at one point winning the search for [great sheets])

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June 27th, 2013

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Rap Genius was a side project How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

The first commit (which was just a copy-paste of the BetterMetroNorth code) was on 8/19/2009, so more like 1.5 years before Y Combinator

I built the first version of the site that day, which, though minimal, did have the crucial “click orange lines for annotations” feature, which experience informed my philosophy that ANYTHING you build on the internet should be “done” in some form in a few days (or a week max)

Here’s what the first few commits looked like:

(To this day I’m still not quite sure how to put an exclamation point in a commit message lol)

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A few surmountable objections How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

When an investor’s response to your pitch is to point out x or y problem or worry he has, it’s almost definitely a “no” rather than an invitation to convince him

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Fred Wilson’s reply to your cold email from 6 months ago How Rap Genius Raised $1.8M in Seed Funding Without Knowing What We Were Doing by LEMON (Ft. MetaWorldPeace & Rap Genius Founders) 40

I think lyrics is a very crowded space and almost entirely reliant on Google for traffic

(Granted our pitch back then was a bit too lyrics-focused..)

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