In the world of hip-hop, rappers turned businessmen — Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Andre “Dr. Dre” Young and Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson being the most recognizable names — have become fairly commonplace. Nowadays, most artists have side ventures in music (of course), apparel, food and beverages. Yet however impressive their individual business prowess, few of them are able to call themselves full-fledged investors in Silicon Valley start-ups.
Count Nasir Jones, the multiplatinum-selling rapper better known by his stage moniker “Nas,” among that elite group. The Queens, New York-bred artist who first hit the charts more than 20 years ago has quietly metamorphosed into a prolific angel investor — founding the venture capital firm QueensBridge Venture Partners. The firm (not to be confused with the hip-hop supergroup Jones fronted back in the ’90s) funnels cash into start-ups as varied as health care, financial technology and Bitcoin.
QueensBridge, based in Los Angeles, invests in more than 40 start-ups across a range of sectors like financial technology, health care and music production. That has helped put Jones in the same strata as Ashton Kutcher and U2 frontman Bono as the tech world’s most influential celebrity investors.
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So in a complex sector where billions are harvested — and cash hungry start-ups are born and buried in the blink of an eye — how does one of rap’s living legends define his investment philosophy? Jones’ answer is surprisingly simple.
“People. That is the absolute No. 1,” Jones told CNBC via email. “I love to bet on great people that inspire me and make me think or see things differently.”
A big part of that has to do with the management team, Jones added, which “makes a huge difference in the kinds of companies that will stick out to me.”