At Flipagram, a music-loving 'chief intangibles officer' lives on

At Flipagram, a music-loving 'chief intangibles officer' lives on
Flipagram's George Snarberg, right, and Phoenix Normand, left, sort through photo albums as instruments sit nearby. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Weeks before the team behind video-making app Flipagram moved into the former Tower Records store in West Hollywood, the employee who had found the new office space died.

Arash Danesh's death at age 31 in May devastated the company of 17 employees at the time, but they quickly found a way to honor the music lover's legacy.

Farhad Mohit, the start-up's chief executive, gave Danesh the posthumous title of "chief intangibles officer." Danesh's bio on the company's website mentions that he is "intangible" and says that he "now works behind the scenes with a super-natural ability to help Flipagram magically get things done."  

Danesh's collection of instruments, including a trumpet, guitar and ukulele, are spread throughout the office, and employees often have spontaneous jam sessions. Signed album covers, posters, concert tickets and books that he collected fill the office too.

"His knowledge of music was incredible," said Phoenix Normand, Flipagram's office manager. "He would be able to quote songs from D-sides of records, so my goal to design this space was to do it in a way that would make him proud."

The company didn't want to create a shrine to Danesh, but felt that his "presence" would be inspirational. The Los Angeles county coroner's office ruled his death an accident caused by a toxic combination of medication and preexisting medical conditions.

"In our own mystical way, he's giving us clues along the way to keep the train on the tracks," Normand said.

As a story in Wednesday's Times notes, Southern California has seen a large number of video-related start-ups emerge in the last couple of years, with Flipagram among them. The app creates a shareable video from a series of photos mixed with music. More than 15 million videos, typically less than 30 seconds long, are created each month using the app.

Danesh, a founding member of the company, was a jack-of-all-trades filling various roles as the company took off. An Iranian native, Danesh grew up in Los Angeles and became close friends with Mohit. Danesh loved soccer, following Real Madrid in particular. But music was his top passion, and friends would describe him as a regular on the local music circuit.

"He knew the owners at venues. He would hang with bands afterward," Normand said. "We were really looking forward to him being our music god to work out deals with venues and artists."

Normand remembered Danesh as a gregarious personality who would hug people minutes after first meeting them.


"Even if he was having a bad day, his light and energy was not diminished at all," Normand said.

Flipagram had been operating out of a dull office in Culver City that most people avoided in favor of working at home. Tasked with finding an office that people would love, Danesh was attracted to the former Tower Records location. But the company's growing workforce could force it to catapult early next year into a bigger office elsewhere in West Hollywood.

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