Rap Genius: Make Shitty Products First

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TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 Day Three

From First Round Capital

At 12:30 p.m. on August 19, 2009, Tom Lehman entered the first line of code that would eventually become Rap Genius. By 6:22 p.m. the same day, he finished the first NibzNotes28version of the site. It took less than six hours to build something that now attracts 40 million new users a month, raised $17 million in VC funding, and very recently stirred up and survived an internet-wide controversy (which may only make it more popular).

That first day, breaking down the meaning of “Killa Cam” by Cam’ron, Lehman designed and implemented what are still the site’s most-used features. So of course, we had to have him speak at First Round’s last Design+ Conference, where he shared the three words that made Rap Genius possible, then and now.

“The first version of Rap Genius was really bad — it sucked, and I’m glad it sucked,” he says. “Only in its sucking could it have taught me the secret of how to build things on the internet, and that secret is ‘worse is better.’”

What does this mean in practice? Lehman, like the website he co-founded five years ago, is only too happy to explain.

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