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The founders of Genius don’t want to be startup bros anymore

Goodbye, Wayfarers. Hello, potential advertisers!

TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 - Day 3 Brian Ach / Getty

A lot has changed since 2013, when the photo of the three founders of Rap Genius, above, was taken: One of the founders, Mahbod Moghadam, was fired; the company changed its name to Genius; and the two remaining founders, Tom Lehman and Ilan Zechory, dropped the sunglasses act.

Here’s what they look like now:

Amelia Krales for Recode

"Now it’s a different stage," Lehman said of Genius on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka. "We're trying to do more serious and significant stuff and act in accordance with that."

This act of growing up doesn’t just mean behaving differently, but also getting "serious" about Genius’ business. The annotation platform, which started as a service for annotating music lyrics, is working with big companies like the Washington Post and Spotify, and pitching advertisers on the idea that they should sponsor annotations — factoids about a song or news article that Genius makes appear in-line with the lyrics or text.

"As you’re learning something, your eyes focus in on that," Zechory said. "You look closely, and you’re experiencing something you’re really interested in. That’s a really deep moment of engagement, and brands just bring you that fact."

On the new podcast, Lehman and Zechory also addressed recent allegations that Genius’ annotations somehow facilitate abuse.

"Annotation is about attaching something to the thing," Lehman said.

"It’s a reaction to the visual display of info," Zechory added. "It feels more like an invasion of space, when it’s exactly the same thing as writing about something. Annotation is basically the courage to say it to your face."

So, if you have thoughts on this article that you're not afraid to say to our face: Here's the link to the Genius version.

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