Sure hip-hop titans Nas and Jay-Z are known for being two of the best hip-hop artists of all time, but what many people don’t know is that the two kings of New York are also making major moves as venture capitalists; Nas with QueensBridge Venture Partners, while Jay-Z of course has the ever growing Roc Nation, and the recently launched ARRIVE.
Jay Z. Photo courtesy of Radio.com
While most hip-hop entrepreneurs are investing in the usual money makers like apparel and alcoholic beverages, both Nas and Jay-Z are setting precedent within the hip-hop community by investing in startups, focusing on technology, thinking outside of the box, and not being afraid to take calculated risks.
Although your pockets may not yet be as deep as Nasir Jones’s and Shawn Carter’s, here are three pointers to keep in mind once you are ready to start investing those big bucks that you’ve been working so hard at earning.
1. Invest in Startups
The National Venture Capital Association reports that almost $60 billion were deployed to startup companies in 2015. No wonder both Jay-Z and Nas are becoming two of music’s most lucrative angel investors. Using artificial intelligence and big data for music production, LANDR is one of Nas and QueensBridge Venture Partner’s latest investments. YUL Ventures, Warner Music Group, and a host of other firms are also investing in LANDR, which is used to help over 300,000 musicians master their music in the post-production phase.
As for Jay, he believes in startups so much that in March of this year his entertainment company Roc Nation launched ARRIVE, a venture capital firm that will offer a variety of services to early stage startup companies. According to a press release released by Roc Nation, the venture capital firm will help startups with everything from business development to brand services. “We’ve opened that diversified, global range of expertise to a new vertical: entrepreneurs and their early stage businesses,” said Neil Sirni, Roc Nation’s Head of New Ventures.
2. Technology Is The Way To Go
One visit to Nas’s QueensBridge Venture Partners website and it’s pretty clear to see that his firm is all about staying on the cutting edge of technology. The website reads: “Over 100 years of experience operating at the intersection of technology, financial markets and popular culture.”
According to reports by KPMG Enterprise and CB Insights, although there is a downturn in the market, now is the perfect time to invest in technology. In 2015 alone there was more than $128 billion invested in tech companies worldwide (CNBC). It makes perfect sense then that both Jay-Z and Nas would get in on some of these investments. Jay-Z was one of the early investors in the now multi-billion dollar company Uber when it was worth 300 million, and Nas’s QueensBridge Venture Partners has invested in Lyft and Dropbox among many other tech related companies.
Nas. Photo courtesy of All-American Entertainment
3. Think Outside of The Box and Take Risks
When Jay-Z couldn’t get a record label to sign him he partnered with two friends and created his own record label. While Nas’s rise to meteoric heights was a bit different, his ability to bet on himself and take risks throughout his career has been very similar. Nas has never been one to rely on a pop single to take his albums to the top of the charts. Throughout his career, the subject matter of his rhymes and his unwavering ability to be his authentic self in his music, have continued to place him in a class of his own. In short, he’s always chosen the road less traveled and has earned the respect of the hip-hop community and music world at large because of it. Not to mention, the Queensbridge rapper dropped out of school before reaching the 9th grade so that he could pursue a career in music.
Needless to say, when it comes to thinking outside of the box and taking risks, Jay and Nas have been doing it for the length of their careers, which have spanned more than two decades. In terms of their business investments, they are following a similar playbook by investing in everything from health care to private jets, and even socks.
Although Jay-Z’s investment in private jet company BlackJet proved to be unsuccessful, it didn’t stop him from investing in another Uber-like private jet service, JetSmarter just a few years later. But this hasn’t been his only risky business move. In 2011, Jay-Z’s Roc Nation imprint invested in premium sock company, Stance. Never quite making it to household name status, Jay’s foray into the sock industry was definitely not a guaranteed come up. One year later he invested in Viddy, which was supposed to be the “Instagram of video”. The company was shut down in December of 2014, and sold to Fullscreen for $20 million. Even though Jay may have made some money off of that investment, it is not flaunted as one of his better business moves.
Then there’s Tidal. While some people may consider Jay-Z’s investment in the music streaming service as his biggest blunder, others see it as a testament to Mr. Carter’s confidence. Back in 2015, Jay partnered with a group of musicians to purchase Aspiro AB, Tidal’s parent company, for $56 million. According to the Wall Street Journal, that same year Aspiro AB reported a net loss of $28 million.
Sure his stake in Tidal with streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify already existing was a dangerous move, but as they often say in the streets where Jay and Nas were groomed, “scared money don’t make money.” Despite still lagging behind streaming services like Spotify, it seems as if Jay has no plans of slowing down with Tidal anytime soon. His latest album, “4:44”, which went platinum in a cool five days, is the fastest album to go platinum in 2017, and was released exclusively on Tidal. Not to mention Sprint recently purchased 33 percent of the music streaming service. However, the fact still remains, Tidal has around 3 M subscribers while Spotify has upwards of 40 M paying subscribers. But we’re sure Jay’s not worried about it. We’re pretty confident him and Nas are somewhere plotting on the next big thing to throw their millions into as we speak.
Nas and Jay Z. Photo courtesy of The Source
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