Startups Venture

Rockstars party, MCs invest

In the world of music, rockstars party while MCs invest.

Following the launch of Jay Z’s new VC vehicle, Arrive, earlier this month, we did a data pull on how music industry moguls spend their ducats. And hip hop artists are way ahead of rock stars when it comes to making tech investments, according to an analysis of Crunchbase data.

There are more than a dozen hip hop and pop stars in the Crunchbase dataset who have invested in startups. Several of them have only done one deal or last invested years ago.

About six, however, are pretty consistent investors or are deeply enmeshed in the tech scene.  Rock stars, by contrast, weren’t prolific investors, with the occasional exception like U2’s Bono, a co-founder of media and technology investment firm Elevation Partners.

On the hip hop and pop side, here’s a rundown on the top celebrity investors and the deals they’ve done.

  • Snoop Dogg: Snoop’s portfolio is interesting  because it contains investments in both cannabis and caffeine. It remains a matter of medical debate whether these two substances are a complementary or toxic combination. As investments, however, both appear to be growth sectors. Snoop is a co-founder of Merry Jane, a media site for the cannabis lifestyle, and a founder of Casa Verde Capital, an investment firm that has backed cannabis delivery service Eaze and pot packaging provider FunkSac. He’s also a backer of social media site Reddit and invested in the chain Philz Coffee, sports content startup GameOn and commission-free stock buying platform Robinhood.
  • Though still most famous as a rapper, musician and founding member of the Black Eyed Peas, is well known in techie circles too. He’s founder of , a Hollywood-based technology company that developed a smartband and recently rolled out hip-looking bluetooth earphones. He’s also made investments in Honest Dollar, a retirement savings app and startup incubator Shellanoo Group, according to Crunchbase.
  • Nas: In addition to selling millions of records, Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, has been a remarkably prolific investor, holding stakes in at least 42 startups, according to Crunchbase. Like Snoop, he’s invested in Philz Coffee and Robinhood. More recent investments include DoseDr, a mobile app for diabetics, and Exo, a maker of protein bars containing cricket flour.  In addition to making personal investments, Nas is a partner at QueensBridge Venture Partners, a Los Angeles-based early stage tech investor.
  • Chamillionaire:  Much like his musical career, Hakeem “Chamillionaire” Seriki’s turn as a venture investor started out on a very lucrative note. He participated in a $1.5 million Series A round for digital media talent scout Maker Studios in 2010. The company sold to Disney a few years later for upwards of $500 million. Chamillionaire liked venture capital so much, he signed on as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Los Angeles VC firm Upfront Ventures two years ago.
  • John Legend:  The Grammy-winning R&B singer is a co-founder of Bungalow Clothing, a seed-funded online clothes shopping service that pairs customers with personal stylists.  He also invested in a Series A round for Thrive Market, a socially conscious online food retailer, and Gobbler, which offers media project management tools.
  • Jay Z:  The rapper and business mogul has both a large portfolio of investments and a track record for generating exits or big follow-on rounds. In January, Sprint bought a 33 percent stake in Tidal, the online music service he co-founded, paying around $200 million according to some media outlets. He also participated in a $5.2 million Series A round for air travel startup JetSmarter, which closed on $105 million in Series C funding in December. His entertainment company, Roc Nation, has made a number of early stage investments too, leading to its involvement this month in the launch of Arrive, a platform for developing and funding startups.

Jay Z isn’t the only one on the active investor list who has invested in early stage companies that have gone on to raise larger rounds. Snoop, for instance, joined a $10 million round for Eaze in 2015, and company went on to close a $13 round the next year. Legend,  meanwhile, participated in a $33 million round for Thrive, which went on to raise $110 million a year later.

Still, when it comes to return multiples, it will be hard for anyone to top Chamillionaire’s Maker Studios investment. If he keeps making those kinds of deals, many are predicting he’ll have to change his name to Chabillionaire.

Featured Image via Flickr user TechCrunch under CC BY 2.0. Image has been cropped

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