Whatever wall space not covered in taped-up newspapers is plastered with close to a dozen unpressed flags. Sweden, Colombia, and the United States criss-cross around the room, alike only in their disorganization. The floor is no more coordinated, as an overflowing trash can betrays takeout boxes while empty protein jugs stack up in the kitchen.
If not for the desks and computers jammed into every possible corner and the swarm of wires snaking around the floor, there’d be very little indication this Santa Monica apartment is the workspace of one of the most successful companies in Regulation Crowdfunding history and not just a college bachelor pad.
For years, this apartment is where Everipedia, the next generation online encyclopedia, grew. A rival to Wikipedia, the four founders and a handful of employees worked all hours of the day in order to post as many wikis as possible, agreeing to exchange sleep for the chance to be first on breaking news. The feng shui of the flags was not exactly a priority.
Even after Everipedia raised $30 million in February, the largest follow-on financing in the history of Regulation Crowdfunding, the company didn’t invest in interior design. Or a cleaning service. Or a new office.
That’s not an accident. The work itself was always the first priority, not the optics of it all. An eight-figure raise doesn't necessarily alter the scenery, but it does change the long-term goal of what Everipedia is trying to accomplish.
At the onset, the company structured itself like Wikipedia. The site was doing well, with 3 million unique users visiting over 6 million wikis a month. But after founder Sam Kazemian dug into blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, he saw there was an opportunity to build something completely groundbreaking. Forget the way Wikipedia was operating — Everipedia could potentially change the way information exists on the internet forever.
Everipedia is now building the world's first peer-to-peer encyclopedia on the blockchain -- in layman’s terms, a decentralized knowledge base. Instead of gaining users through advertising, they’re incentivizing people to create content by distributing its own cryptocurrency, IQ tokens, that will make active users stakeholders in the knowledge base. Instead of living within the traditional internet, they’re building the site on EOS, an innovative blockchain technology that some believe will be the future mainframe of the internet.
And instead of raising traditional VC funding, Everipedia’s $30 million raise from Galaxy Digital and Block.one was paid in Ethereum, a popular cryptocurrency, through a Cayman Islands subsidy.
June 12 was the first major culmination of this work, when an airdrop of IQ tokens started to go live. Some of those IQ tokens will go to original equity holders and site contributors, including the 201 Wefunder investors who invested in Everipedia’s convertible note back in 2016. (Original Everipedia investors will hear more about the logistics of the drop from the company itself, but should know they will receive whatever percentage of the note they own back in tokens while retaining the same ownership of the note itself).
Now, the fun begins. Why? No one else has ever created a peer-to-peer encyclopedia on the blockchain before. Kazemian likens it to how Netflix started with DVD rentals before focusing on streaming content once the technology developed. The transition looks obvious now, but didn’t at the time.
So if EOS is really the future of the internet, this is Everipedia’s proverbial leap into the next technological wave.
“No one's actually doing exactly what we're doing,” Kazemian said. “It’s weird. There’s not a lot of things where you can say, ‘The people sitting in this room are the only people trying this in the entire world.’
“We think that's kind of an interesting place to be.”
Even at its onset, Everipedia was unconventional. None of the four founders had a traditional computer background. Kazemian was a philosophy and neuroscience major. Mahbod Moghadam is a Stanford Law graduate who started a music lyric site called Rap Genius, now Genius. Theodor Forselius dropped out of high school in Sweden in order to make an online gaming community site. And Travis Moore, a triple major in biology, biochemistry, and neuroscience at UCLA, was working for Anthem Blue Cross when Kazemian reached out. The now-CTO taught himself to code through Youtube and trial and error.
At first, the company’s main objective was to get as many articles up as possible. The room cranked away, days turning into nights of writing wikis for every imaginable topic.
As this initial content push was going on, Kazemian was mining Dogecoins -- another cryptocurrency -- as a hobby. It wasn’t his first foray into crypto, as he paid his college tuition by mining Bitcoin, but the technology never felt like anything more than a speculation currency.
After seeing a few smart contacts be executed on Ethereum in early 2017, though, he saw the potential for real-world utility for the blockchain. Shortly after, the Everipedia crew went to San Francisco for the d10e crypto conference, where they met up with Brock Pierce, a well-known entrepreneur and blockchain pioneer in crypto circles.
When they ran into Pierce again later in the night, he was with the CEO of Block.one. There, Kazemian said he wanted to be the first company to build on top of EOS, and soon, Pierce was vouching for Everipedia. The group got into a van, drove away from the conference, and started discussing what would eventually become the $30 million raise.
That van ride is the first time Moore felt like they’d made it as a company. It wasn’t just the money, but that they’d found a viable operating network that fit perfectly with Everipedia’s original ethos.
"Our company itself, by trying to be a thug version of Wikipedia that's a lot more lax with rules and everything, fits more in line with crypto,” Moore said. “They’re both a, giving your finger to the authority, kind of thing.”
It also felt like a natural extension of competing in a large space as a smaller competitor. Netflix didn’t beat Blockbuster by creating an identical product. Everipedia could only get bigger than Wikipedia through innovation. In practice, that means not only building the encyclopedia of the future, but also becoming the knowledge point for every smart contract signed on the blockchain that needs a reference point.
“We were making incremental improvements before, but not actual ones until the technology made it possible to make generational improvements,” Kazemian said. “We wanted to take a good, calculated risk on something completely different and generational.”
Eighteen months ago, the future of Everipedia seemed like it was following a traditional path. They’d continue pushing the limits of content, grow their user base, and become a profitable enterprise making modest returns for investors. But there was no potential boom, no real opportunity to become a truly transformative company.
Everipedia is taking a risk. Doing something for the first time in history isn’t exactly foolproof. But now, at the very least, the potential to change the world exists.
“If we’re building the next knowledge base and there's this new Internet being created, this isn’t really, in my opinion, a pivot,” Kazemian said. “It’s more like seeing a strategic place to completely dominate a new emerging market.
“This is exactly where the next generation of information is going to be. It would be irresponsible to not actually build Everipedia into that next generation.”
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