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
Not too many years ago, my advice to political candidates would have been pretty simple: "Don't do or say anything stupid." But the last few elections have rendered that advice outdated.
When Barack Obama referred to his grandmother as a "typical white woman" during the 2008 campaign, for example, many people thought it would cost him the election -- and once upon a time, it probably would have. But his supporters were focused on the values and positions he professed, and they weren't going to let one unwise comment distract them. Candidate Obama didn't even get much pushback for saying, "We're five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." That statement should have given even his most ardent supporters pause, but it didn't. It was in line with everything Obama had previously said, and it was what his supporters wanted to hear.
2016: What rules?
Fast forward to 2016, and Donald Trump didn't just ignore traditional norms, he almost seemed to relish violating them. Who would have ever dreamed we'd elect a man who talked openly about grabbing women by the **** and who was constantly blasting out crazy-sounding Tweets? But Trump did get elected. Why? Some people believe it was because Americans finally felt like they had permission to show their bigotry. Others think Obama had pushed things so far to the left that right-wing voters were more interested in dragging public policy back toward the middle than in what Trump was Tweeting.
Another theory is that Trump's lewd, crude, and socially unacceptable behavior was deliberately designed to make Democrats feel comfortable campaigning on policies that were far further to the left than they ever would have attempted before. Why? Because they were sure America would never elect someone who acted like Trump. If that theory is right, and Democrats took the bait, Trump's "digital policies" served him well.
And although Trump's brash style drew the most handlines, he wasn't the only one who seemed to have forgotten the, "Don't do or say anything stupid," rule. Hillary Clinton also made news when she made a "basket of deplorables" comment at a private fundraiser, but it leaked out, and it dogged her for the rest of the election cycle.
And that's where we need to start our discussion. Now that all the old rules about candidate behavior have been blown away, do presidential candidates even need digital policies?
Yes, they do. More than ever, in my opinion. Let me tell you why.
Digital policies for 2020 and beyond
While the 2016 election tossed traditional rules about political campaigns to the trash heap, that doesn't mean you can do anything you want. Even if it's just for the sake of consistency, candidates need digital policies for their own campaigns, regardless of what anybody else is doing. Here are some important things to consider.
Align your digital policies with your campaign strategy
Aside from all the accompanying bells and whistles, why do you want to be president? What ideological beliefs are driving you? If you were to become president, what would you want your legacy to be? Once you've answered those questions honestly, you can develop your campaign strategy. Only then can you develop digital policies that are in alignment with the overall purpose -- the "Why?" -- of your campaign:
- If part of your campaign strategy, for example, is to position yourself as someone who's above the fray of the nastiness of modern politics, then one of your digital policies should be that your campaign will never post or share anything that attacks another candidate on a personal level. Attacks will be targeted only at the policy level.
- While it's not something I would recommend, if your campaign strategy is to depict the other side as "deplorables," then one of your digital policies should be to post and share every post, meme, image, etc. that supports your claim.
- If a central piece of your platform is that detaining would-be refugees at the border is inhumane, then your digital policies should state that you will never say, post, or share anything that contradicts that belief, even if Trump plans to relocate some of them to your own city. Complaining that such a move would put too big a strain on local resources -- even if true -- would be making an argument for the other side. Don't do it.
- Don't be too quick to share posts or Tweets from supporters. If it's a text post, read all of it to make sure there's not something in there that would reflect negatively on you. And examine images closely to make sure there's not a small detail that someone may notice.
- Decide what your campaign's voice and tone will be. When you send out emails asking for donations, will you address the recipient as "friend" and stress the urgency of donating so you can continue to fight for them? Or will you personalize each email and use a more low-key, collaborative approach?
Those are just a few examples. The takeaway is that your online behavior should always support your campaign strategy. While you could probably get away with posting or sharing something that seems mean or "unpresidential," posting something that contradicts who you say you are could be deadly to your campaign. Trust me on this -- if there are inconsistencies, Twitter will find them and broadcast them to the world. And you'll have to waste valuable time, resources, and public trust to explain those inconsistencies away.
Remember that the most common-sense digital policies still apply
The 2016 election didn't abolish all of the rules. Some still apply and should definitely be included in your digital policies:
- Claim every domain you can think of that a supporter might type into a search engine. Jeb Bush not claiming www.jebbush.com (the official campaign domain was www.jeb2016.com) was a rookie mistake, and he deserved to have his supporters redirected to Trump's site.
- Choose your campaign's Twitter handle wisely. It should be obvious, not clever or cutesy. In addition, consider creating accounts with possible variations of the Twitter handle you chose so that no one else can use them.
- Give the same care to selecting hashtags. When considering a hashtag, conduct a search to understand its current use -- it might not be what you think! When making up new hashtags, try to avoid anything that could be hijacked for a different purpose -- one that might end up embarrassing you.
- Make sure that anyone authorized to Tweet, post, etc., on your behalf has a copy of your digital policies and understands the reasons behind them. (People are more likely to follow a rule if they understand why it's important.)
- Decide what you'll do if you make an online faux pas that starts a firestorm. What's your emergency plan?
- Consider sending an email to supporters who sign up on your website, thanking them for their support and suggesting ways (based on digital policies) they can help your messaging efforts. If you let them know how they can best help you, most should be happy to comply. It's a small ask that could prevent you from having to publicly disavow an ardent supporter.
- Make sure you're compliant with all applicable regulations: campaign finance, accessibility, privacy, etc. Adopt a double opt-in policy, so that users who sign up for your newsletter or email list through your website have to confirm by clicking on a link in an email. (And make sure your email template provides an easy way for people to unsubscribe.)
- Few people thought 2016 would end the way it did. And there's no way to predict quite yet what forces will shape the 2020 election. Careful tracking of your messaging (likes, shares, comments, etc.) will tell you if you're on track or if public opinion has shifted yet again. If so, your messaging needs to shift with it. Ideally, one person should be responsible for monitoring reaction to the campaign's messaging and for raising a red flag if reactions aren't what was expected.
Thankfully, the world hasn't completely lost its marbles
Whatever the outcome of the election may be, candidates now face a situation where long-standing rules of behavior no longer apply. You now have to make your own rules -- your own digital policies. You can't make assumptions about what the voting public will or won't accept. You can't assume that "They'll never vote for someone who acts like that"; neither can you assume, "Oh, I can get away with that, too." So do it right from the beginning. Because in this election, I predict that sound digital policies combined with authenticity will be your best friend.