Shawn Fanning

Last updated
Shawn Fanning
Born (1980-11-22) November 22, 1980 (age 38)
Residence San Francisco
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 in Brockton, Massachusetts) 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]

Brockton, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts

Brockton is a city in Plymouth County, Massachusetts, United States; the population was 95,314 in the 2015 Census. Brockton, along with Plymouth, are the county seats of Plymouth County. Brockton is the seventh largest city in Massachusetts and is sometimes referred to as the "City of Champions", due to the success of native boxers Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, as well as its successful Brockton High School sports programs. Two of the villages within the city are Montello and Campello, both have the distinction of having their own MBTA Commuter Rail Stations and post offices. Campello is the smallest neighborhood in the city, but also the most populous. Brockton hosts a baseball team, the Brockton Rox. Brockton is one of the windiest cities in the United States, with an average wind speed of 14.3 mph.

An angel investor is an affluent individual who provides capital for a business start-up, usually in exchange for convertible debt or ownership equity. Angel investors usually give support to start-ups at the initial moments and when most investors are not prepared to back them. A small but increasing number of angel investors invest online through equity crowdfunding or organize themselves into angel groups or angel networks to share investment capital, as well as to provide advice to their portfolio companies. In the last 50 years the number of angel investors has greatly increased.

Napster is a set of three music-focused online services. It was founded as a pioneering peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing Internet service that emphasized sharing digital audio files, typically audio songs, encoded in MP3 format. 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.


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.

A startup or start up is a company initiated by individual founders or entrepreneurs to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. Founders design startups to effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. Hence, the concepts of startups and entrepreneurship are similar. However, entrepreneurship refers all new businesses, including self-employment and businesses that never intend to grow big or become registered, while startups refer to new businesses that intend to grow beyond the solo founder, have employees, and intend to grow large. Start ups face high uncertainty and do have high rates of failure, but the minority that go on to be successful companies have the potential to become large and influential. Some startups become unicorns, i.e. privately held startup companies valued at over US$1 billion.

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.

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.


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 Engineerng 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]

Massachusetts Institute of Technology University in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Institute is a land-grant, sea-grant, and space-grant university, with an urban campus that extends more than a mile alongside the Charles River. The Institute also encompasses a number of major off-campus facilities such as the MIT Lincoln Laboratory, the Bates Center, and the Haystack Observatory, as well as affiliated laboratories such as the Broad and Whitehead Institutes. Founded in 1861 in response to the increasing industrialization of the United States, MIT adopted a European polytechnic university model and stressed laboratory instruction in applied science and engineering. It has since played a key role in the development of many aspects of modern science, engineering, mathematics, and technology, and is widely known for its innovation and academic strength, making it one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the world.

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.

Ron Conway American businessman

Ronald Crawford Conway is an American angel investor and philanthropist, often described as one of Silicon Valley's "super angels". Conway is recognized as a strong networker.


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.

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. [10] [11] Fanning's career at Electronic Arts was short-lived as a round of layoffs in November 2009 included him and his team at Rupture. [12]

Rupture was a social networking site for gamers. Users were able to create profiles and interact with one another with the standard array of social networking tools.

<i>World of Warcraft</i> video game by Blizzard Entertainment

World of Warcraft (WoW) is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) released in 2004 by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the Warcraft fantasy universe. World of Warcraft takes place within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Blizzard's previous Warcraft release, Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The game was announced in 2001, and was released for the 10th anniversary of the Warcraft franchise on November 23, 2004. Since launch, World of Warcraft has had seven major expansion packs released for it: The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, Warlords of Draenor, Legion, and Battle for Azeroth.

Electronic Arts American interactive entertainment company

Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) is an American video game company headquartered in Redwood City, California. It is the second-largest gaming company in the Americas and Europe by revenue and market capitalization after Activision Blizzard and ahead of Take-Two Interactive and Ubisoft as of March 2018.


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. [13] [14]

Dave Morin American businessman

Dave Morin is an American entrepreneur, angel investor, and the CEO and co-founder of the social network Path. A former manager at Facebook, he co-created the Facebook Platform and Facebook Connect.

Facebook Global online social networking service

Facebook, Inc. is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. It was founded by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. It is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with Amazon, Apple, and Google.


In 2011 Fanning reunited with Napster cofounder Sean Parker to found Some of the investors are Ron Conway, Michael Arrington, and Ashton Kutcher. [15] [16] Fanning serves as CEO and Parker as executive chairman. [17]

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. [18] 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." [19]

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. [20] [21]

In October 2000, Fanning was featured on the cover of Time magazine. [22]

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. [23]

Fanning and Napster were the subject of Alex Winter's documentary Downloaded in 2013. [24]

Related Research Articles

Metallica American heavy metal band

Metallica is an American heavy metal band. The band was formed in 1981 in Los Angeles, California, by drummer Lars Ulrich and vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield, and has been based in San Francisco, California for most of its career. The group's fast tempos, instrumentals and aggressive musicianship made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. Metallica's current lineup comprises founding members Hetfield and Ulrich, longtime lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassists Ron McGovney, Cliff Burton and Jason Newsted are former members of the band.


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.

TechCrunch Technology industry news website owned by Verizon Media

TechCrunch is an American online publisher focusing on the tech industry. The company specifically reports on the business related to tech, technology news, analysis of emerging trends in tech, and profiling of new tech businesses and products. It was one of the earliest publications to report extensively on tech startups and funding.

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.

Michael Arrington founder and former co-editor of TechCrunch

J. Michael Arrington is the American founder and former co-editor of TechCrunch, a blog covering the Silicon Valley technology start-up communities and the wider technology field in USA and elsewhere. Magazines such as Wired and Forbes have named Arrington one of the most powerful people on the Internet. In 2008, he was selected by TIME Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world.

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 is currently a general 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.

<i>Metallica v. Napster, Inc.</i>

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.

Airtime is a live video website with real-time sharing and communication, where users post videos and respond to them in real-time. Similar in concept to the random video chat service Chatroulette, the website also incorporates a social network to enable users to connect with one another. It launched to the public on June 5, 2012. Similar social discovery services are and

<i>Downloaded</i> (film) 2013 film by Alex Winter

Downloaded is a documentary film directed by Alex Winter about the downloading generation and the impact of filesharing on the Internet. A teaser of the film premiered at SXSW on March 14, 2012. The feature film made its world premiere at SXSW on March 10, 2013, and was shown at other film festivals around the world. VH1 partnered with AOL to distribute the film widely and was broadcast as a VH1 Rock Docs feature in late 2014.

WillCall was a San Francisco-based startup company offering a mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that allowed users to gain admission to live concerts, tip artists, and purchase merchandise during a show. It was named one of the Hottest Startups of 2013 by Forbes. Since its inception, the company had become known for editorial curation, a UX driven product strategy, and social networking integration. It had been called "an Uber for nightlife — one that makes everything from attending shows to buying drinks and merchandise much easier," by TechCrunch.

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.

Anton Melnyk

Anton Sergiyovych Melnyk is a Ukrainian computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He is the co-founder of Runfaces a mobile messaging application which was one of the first video messaging startups and competed with Sean Parkers startup called


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