Shawn Fanning

Last updated
Shawn Fanning
Born (1980-11-22) November 22, 1980 (age 39)
Alma mater Northeastern University
(dropped out)
OccupationComputer programmer, entrepreneur, angel investor
Known forCo-founder and lead software engineer of Napster
Notable work
Napster, Snocap, Rupture, Path
Net worthIncrease2.svg US$124 million (2019) [1]

Shawn Fanning (born November 22, 1980) is an American computer programmer, entrepreneur, and angel investor. He developed Napster, one of the first popular peer-to-peer ("P2P") file sharing platforms, in 1999. The popularity of Napster was widespread and Fanning was featured on the cover of Time magazine. [2]


The site in its initial free P2P incarnation was shut down in 2001 after the company's unsuccessful appeal of court orders arising from its encouraging the illegal sharing of copyrighted material. A paid subscription version of the site followed, and was purchased by Rhapsody on December 1, 2011. Following his involvement with Napster, he joined, and invested in, a number of early-stage technology startup companies.

Computer career


On June 1, 1999, Fanning released a preliminary beta program of Napster and soon, hundreds of college students at Northeastern were trading music.[ citation needed ] Sean Parker was the co-founder.


In 2002, Fanning was named to the MIT Technology Review TR100 as one of the top 100 innovators in the world under the age of 35. [3] In 2003, he opened a new company, Snocap, along with Jordan Mendelson (Napster's Chief Architect), and Ron Conway. The company aspired to be a legitimate marketplace for digital media. However, their partners and the public did not respond well. Customer support was poor, and technical issues were numerous. One of their primary partners, CD Baby, wrote a scathing account of their relationship. [4] [5] In late 2007, Snocap laid off 60% of its workforce. ValleyWag wrote an article that Fanning had long left Snocap and began to work on another venture, Rupture. The ValleyWag article stated that the failure was largely due to Snocap's CEO Rusty Rueff and that of former VP Engineering Dave Rowley, who "made a mess of engineering before he was fired". [6] Snocap was looking to sell itself and fast. [7] In 2008, they found a buyer; imeem acquired Snocap in a fire sale. [8] [9]


The Rupture project was announced in 2007 with seed funding, and CrunchBase notes the date Shawn officially became CEO of Rupture was October 2, 2007. [10]

In December 2006, Fanning, along with Co-founder Jon Baudanza, developed Rupture, a social networking tool designed to handle the task of publishing gamers' individual profiles to a communal space and facilitating communication between World of Warcraft players. Rupture was later acquired by Electronic Arts for $30 million. [11] [12] Fanning's career at Electronic Arts was short-lived as a round of layoffs in November 2009 included him and his team at Rupture. [13]


A few months after Fanning was laid off from Electronic Arts, he started a new company called In January 2010, Dave Morin announced he was leaving Facebook, where he was a Senior Platform Manager, to join Fanning and become CEO at Path. [14] [15]


In 2011 Fanning reunited with Napster cofounder Sean Parker to found Some of the investors are Ron Conway, Michael Arrington, and Ashton Kutcher. [16] [17] Fanning serves as CEO and Parker as executive chairman. [18]

Airtime launched in June 2012 at a disastrous public event where Parker and Fanning paid huge amounts of money to have celebrities present but the product repeatedly crashed and ultimately failed to work. [19] Greg Sandoval of CNET commented, "To launch his new start-up, Sean Parker should have spent less of his billions on celebrity guests and more of it on fixing his technology." [20]

Helium Systems

In 2013 Fanning founded Helium Systems together with Amir Haleem, and Sean Carey. In December 2014, the company announced that it has raised $16 million in funding led by Khosla Ventures, with participation from FirstMark Capital, Digital Garage, Marc Benioff, SV Angel, and Slow Ventures among others. [21]

In 2000, Fanning appeared as a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards. He appeared wearing a Metallica T-shirt as the Metallica v. Napster, Inc. lawsuit had been filed a few months prior. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" played in the background. When asked where he got the shirt, Fanning stated, "a friend of mine shared it with me." Lars Ulrich was sitting in the audience, and his reaction was shown as feigned boredom. [22] [23]

In October 2000, Fanning was featured on the cover of Time magazine. [24]

Fanning had a cameo appearance as himself in the 2003 film The Italian Job . In the film, Seth Green's character Lyle accused Fanning of stealing Napster from him while he was taking a nap in their Northeastern University dorm room. Although other characters see this as mere bragging, a scene shows Fanning in fact creeping over Lyle's sleeping body and stealing a 3-1/2" floppy disk.

In early 2008, Fanning appeared in a Volkswagen commercial directed by Roman Coppola, in which he poked fun at his file-sharing past. [25]

Fanning and Napster were the subject of Alex Winter's documentary Downloaded in 2013. [26]

Related Research Articles

Napster is a set of three music-focused online services. It was founded in 1999 as a pioneering peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Internet software that emphasized sharing digital audio files, typically audio songs, encoded in MP3 format. As the software became popular, the company ran into legal difficulties over copyright infringement. It ceased operations and was eventually acquired by Roxio. In its second incarnation, Napster became an online music store until it was acquired by Rhapsody from Best Buy on December 1, 2011.

Mark Pincus American Internet entrepreneur

Mark Jonathan Pincus is an American Internet entrepreneur known as the founder of Zynga, a mobile social gaming company. Pincus also founded the startups Freeloader, Inc., Tribe Networks, and; founded and launched an incubator, SuperLabs, later acquired by Zynga; and co-founded the political movement, Win the Future. Pincus served as the CEO of Zynga until July 2013, then again from 2015 to 2016.

Sean Parker American internet technology entrepreneur

Sean Parker is an American entrepreneur and philanthropist, most notable for co-founding the file-sharing computer service Napster, and serving as the first president of the social networking website Facebook. He also co-founded Plaxo, Causes,, and Brigade, an online platform for civic engagement. He is the founder and chairman of the Parker Foundation, which focuses on life sciences, global public health, and civic engagement. On the Forbes 2016 list of the world's billionaires, he was ranked #722 with a net worth of US$2.4 billion.


SNOCAP was founded by Shawn Fanning, Jordan Mendelson, and Ron Conway. Other SNOCAP employees included music lawyer Christian Castle, the company's first General Counsel, and Ali Aydar, the company's Chief Operating Officer, who joined imeem after its acquisition of SNOCAP in April 2008.

Founders Fund is a San Francisco-based venture capital firm. Formed in 2005, Founders Fund had more than $3 billion in aggregate capital under management as of 2016. The firm invests across all stages and sectors, including aerospace, artificial intelligence, advanced computing, energy, health, and consumer Internet, with a portfolio that includes Airbnb, Lyft, Spotify, Stripe, and Oscar Health. Founders Fund was the first institutional investor in Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and Palantir Technologies, and one of the earliest investors in Facebook. The firm’s partners, including Peter Thiel, Ken Howery and Brian Singerman, have been founders, early employees and investors at companies including PayPal, Google, Palantir Technologies, and SpaceX.

The online service imeem was a social media website where users interacted with each other by streaming, uploading and sharing music and music videos. It operated from 2003 until 2009 when it was shut down after being acquired by MySpace.

Jordan Mendelson American businessman

Jordan Mendelson was an Engineer at Napster from 1999 to 2002. After Napster, Mendelson and Shawn Fanning founded the music licensing Snocap in 2002. Jordan Mendelson served as Founder and Chief Architect of Snocap for five years, leaving in 2007 to develop a new start-up.

Matt Cohler American businessman

Matt Cohler is an American venture capitalist based in Silicon Valley. He worked as Vice President of Product Management for Facebook until June 2008 and was formerly a partner at Benchmark. Cohler was named to the 2012 Forbes Midas List of top technology investors. Cohler made the Forbes 'America's 40 Richest Entrepreneurs Under 40' list in 2015.

Dalton Caldwell is a technologist and digital music entrepreneur. He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Mixed Media Labs. He currently works as a partner at Y Combinator.

Ali Aydar is a computer scientist and Internet entrepreneur. He is the chief executive officer at Sporcle.

Path (social network) social network

Path was a social networking-enabled photo sharing and messaging service for mobile devices that was launched in November 2010. The service allows users to share up to a total of 50 contacts with their close friends and family. Based in San Francisco, California, the company was founded by Shawn Fanning and former Facebook executive Dave Morin.

Jordan Ritter American businessman

Jordan Ritter is an American serial entrepreneur, software architect and angel investor. He is best known for his work at Napster, the file-sharing service he co-founded along with Shawn Fanning and others. His time at Napster was documented in Joseph Menn's book All the Rave: The Rise and Fall of Shawn Fanning's Napster and Alex Winter's film Downloaded.

Bill Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American technology entrepreneur.

<i>Metallica v. Napster, Inc.</i> 2000 copyright infringement case

Metallica, et al. v. Napster, Inc. was a 2000 U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California case that focused on copyright infringement, racketeering, and unlawful use of digital audio interface devices. Metallica vs. Napster, Inc. was the first case that involved an artist suing a peer-to-peer file sharing ("P2P") software company.

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Votizen is a consumer technology company that is developing an online network of voters in the United States. Based in Mountain View, California, the site allows its members, which it calls "Votizens", to learn about issues and elections, and take collective action with other committed voters through social media. Votizen verifies that each voice belongs to a real voter in the real world. As of 2012, Votizen had mapped out over a million connections between voters on Votizen. It was acquired by activism platform Causes in 2013.


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Dave Morin American businessman

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Adrian Scott is a social networking site founder, technology entrepreneur, investor, and film and TV actor. He is best known as founder of the social networking site Ryze in the summer of 2001, and as a founding investor in Napster.


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