How launching the “worst version” of a site led to 40,000,000 monthly users

This is a story of an entrepreneur who took less than six hours to build a site that now attracts 40,000,000 monthly users. His name is Tom Lehman.

He is the co-founder of Rap Genius, a company dedicated to annotating and interpreting lyrics. I invited him here to talk about how he did it.

Tom Lehman

Tom Lehman

Rap Genius

Tom Lehman is the founder of Rap Genius which is a website dedicated to the annotation and interpretation of lyrics.


  • “Perfect is the enemy of good” is something I have to keep reminding myself of. Get the MVP up as quick as possible. If you find a market you can always come back and do it better, if not at least you didn’t waste too much time.


  • Arie at Mixergy


  • Internet

    Very interesting! My company does annotated lyrics too, getting an insight like this is very valuable. We had annotated lyrics for all genres before RG expanded out to all genres but they have that vital traction.

  • for some INSIDER MEMES, check out the ANNOTATED TRANSCRIPT on some pretty cool website i programmed once a long time ago:

  • Niceeeeee, this is an awesome idea, i.e. to have every interview annotated. I’m in!

  • What is your company?!

  • Internet
  • MHealx

    But your company sucks

  • Internet

    Nice. Thank you for that. That’s not very constructive is it?

  • MHealx

    Is this the real or fake Andrew Warner? Am so confused right now

  • moonmist

    eh, I thought you would’ve dug deeper into the problems with ” Google ” or how they really grew the user base.

  • JDwilliams21

    What’s up Tom?… Heard the interview and it was dope….”Same damn Lo sweater” and Cash Rules Everything Around Me too , so that’s why I’m grindin through interviews “caught up in the MIX(ergy) tryna make a dolla outta 15 cents”……. but the legal way of course…

  • dean_l

    Great interview. At first I was thinking its just a few guys trying everything till they pock the golden cart, buy as interview progress there is so much to learn from Tom. he’s vision, passion, system that come out from creative chaos – very interesting and inspiring. I believe Tom is CEO 2.0, new generation of people who can build great companies and the new web.

    One thing I missed is Google ban? It was mentioned, but not explained, would love to hear details…

    Keep up the amazing work, Tom!

  • I can totally relate to you with the whole “wearing sunglasses on stage” thing. I still have to dress “business causal” for my 9 to 5 which usually includes a button up and khakis. Pretty much makes me want to puke. The second I leave work I wear “funny tees” as I call them. Basically, I should own shares in Urban Outfitters because that’s all I wear.

    The thing is with these t shirts I get people all the time telling me they like them or “that’s a funny shirt”. The way I look at it is if I can brighten up one persons day for even 10 seconds by wearing a shirt like that, I’ve accomplished something.

    I’m working real hard to develop my own thing so I can speak at colleges to inspire other young entrepreneurs that you don’t have to wear a business suit to become successful in life. Of course, there is more too it than just the way you dress, but that’s the start. The best part is I will, while wearing a funny tee, hold my own in a serious business conversation with anyone out there. I learned very early on that absolutely anyone can put a suit on and act like they are important. A button up shirt and/or tie doesn’t increase your business IQ.

  • Pingback: Tom Lehman (RapGenius co-founder) is a baller | Jeremy Bernier()

  • acoyfellow

    This is awesome stuff.. I’m glad to finally see what kind of guy Tom is. The press always played on the sunglasses, and the “HN community” always snarked on him. Seems like a dude I’d absolutely love to spend any time with.

    I really hope this opens people up to seeing how happiness and “play” can actually be a big part of building great products.

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  • James

    Favorite parts of this interview that resonated with me:
    – 20:00 – you’ll never be as dumb as you are when you start, so make as few decisions as possible when you’re dumb, and make them later after you’re smart.

    -53:40 Before Y combinator, no-one cared. After Y combinator, everyone cared. But the website wasn’t drastically different before/after.

    -37:30 Early decision not to publish a song until it was done at a certain level of quality, which meant that anyone who interacted with the site got a good impression of the vision of the site, vs. publishing a lot of crappy content.

    -43:45 Discussion on the difficulty/impossibility of doing something of this level of significance by yourself.

    – 58:30 not taking yourself too seriously, but taking the work VERY seriously

    -68:00 discussion of power, from Robert Moses’ the power broker. Balancing being ruthless in business with not letting it affect your personal relationships.

  • Arie at Mixergy

    Thanks James! These are great.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.