The Mind Behind Helium: Shawn Fanning

By Aleksandra Wilson
4 min read January 5, 2022

Born in November 1980, Shawn Fanning is an investor, entrepreneur, and computer programmer well known for co-founding Napster. Fanning also served as the lead software developer of the project. In 1999 he designed Napster, one of the first P2P (peer-to-peer) platforms for sharing files. Napster became so popular worldwide that he appeared on the cover of Time magazine.

In 2001, the initial free peer-to-peer version of the platform was shut down. The company appealed in court against various orders for encouraging illegally sharing copyrighted material. After these events, the site decided to install a paid subscription version. 

Following his participation in Napster, Shawn Fanning decided to invest and join a series of tech-oriented companies. Since then, he has been involved in the early stage of several startups such as Snocap, Path, and Helium.

The Beginnings of Shawn Fanning

He was born in November 1980 in Brockton, Massachusetts. In 1994 at the age of 14, Fanning met over the internet with Sean Parker,  his future partner. In the beginning, the pair bonded over topics such as physics and hacking, and then they met in real life. 

Shawn attended Northeastern University, and in 1998 he developed the code for what would be one of the most popular P2P sharing platforms. In this project, Parker was the one in charge of raising funds to build the platform. They called it Napster. 


In June 1999, a beta version of the program was released. Hundreds of students attending Northeastern University started using it to share music. Right after the project’s initial success, the founders moved the headquarters to California and hired employees to work on the development of the program. 

Napster became so popular beyond the university community that Shawn Fanning featured the cover of Time magazine. Soon after that, millions of users started downloading all kinds of files through the platform.

However, the company’s success was overshadowed by the numerous lawsuits. The Recording Industry Association of America was entirely against the project, as many bands and artists were. In the end, the resolution for all the feuds was Napster shutting down for good. 

Despite the company’s closing, Napster had a lingering impact on the music industry that we can still witness and enjoy to this day. The project served as inspiration for thriving services like Spotify and iTunes. Ultimately, the success with Napster earned Shawn Fanning a position on the list of top 100 innovators under 35.

Shawn Fanning’s Ventures

After the Napster project, Fanning invested and joined a few tech-related startups. Such ventures include Rapture, Path, and Snocap. Shawn co-founded Snocap alongside Jordan Mendelson, who had worked at Napster before. A few years later, in 2006, he jumped into developing Rapture and became the firm’s CEO in 2007. By 2009 he was starting yet another company named

Another vital investment to mention is his participation in launching Uber in San Francisco in June 2010.


In 2013 Shawn Fanning started a company called Helium Systems with Sean Carey and Amir Haleem. The company announced that the team had obtained $16 million in funding from Khosla Ventures. Other funding participants were FirstMark Capital, Mar Benioff, Digital Garage, SV Angel, and Slow Ventures.

Helium is now selling software and hardware for companies that want to keep a closer eye on their processes. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that the company has been thriving since it was founded. In 2020 their 5G project expanded in the US and started colonizing Europe. 

Now, Helium partnered with Dish, and hotspots are expected to be set all across the US and expand to the rest of the world. Founders claim that most of the profits they make nowadays are mainly from services on top of the network, and a lot of the value of the project is in the ownership of the Helium crypto.

From an early age, Shawn Fanning showed a spark for tech. Later on, throughout his education years, he started surprising the world with his innovative ideas. Today, he’s an accomplished tech entrepreneur with his sights set on the future. We at CryptoDigest cannot wait to see what other innovations this tech visionary will bring us next.

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