Nasir Bin Olu Dara Jones, better known as Nas, grew up in Queensbridge Houses, the largest housing project in the U.S. located in New York’s Queens borough. If you ask around, many people rank Nas, 43, as one the greatest hip-hop artists. He’s had an impressive rap career, selling over 25 million records worldwide and releasing more than 10 albums. You probably wouldn’t believe that he dropped out of school in the eighth grade. Almost everything Nas knows is self-taught, just like many startup founders in the tech industry — an area where Nas is becoming increasingly vested.
In the past few years, Nas looked outside the music industry and started building a name as a tech investor. In addition to personal investments, Nas is a founding partner of Queensbridge Venture Partners. He has invested in more than 40 companies. He first got interested in startups when he heard the word “investment” in school:
“You invest your time, you can invest money and it was just a matter of time before it all fell into place for me. That’s one of the things that I thought a lot about as a young kid — the guys behind the scenes who make things happen, help build people up, make dreams come true,” Nas said in an interview with Fast Company. After his success in music, he told CNBC he wanted to get into tech “to be surrounded by the smartest people in the world, and didn’t want to limit that to just music.”
QueensBridge Venture Partners invests $100,000 to $500,000 in a company, Nas’s manager and partner Anthony Saleh told CNBC. For each 100 companies pitching to QueensBridge Ventures, less than three receive funding. It amounts to about 20 per year.
“Nas’s biggest fear is investing in a company” where the leadership may be unethical, Saleh told CNBC. “He tends to ask more questions about that.”
These are some startups that are part of Nas’s growing portfolio.
Nas has invested in San Francisco-based bitcoin exchange Coinbase, the world’s largest bitcoin company. Coinbase was recently valued at $1 billion-plus in recent talks with potential investors on a new funding round, Fortune reported. Nas has his own domain on Coinbase.com (coinbase.com/Nas), according to GoldSilverBitcoin. In an Aug. 1, 2014 CoinDesk interview, Nas predicted that bitcoin could be one of history’s best investment opportunities:
“(Bitcoin) will evolve into an industry as big, if not bigger, than the internet. My man Ben Horowitz really opened my eyes to that point. This isn’t of the internet age. Bitcoin is its own age.”
Coinbase is targeting around $100 million or more in new funding, WSJ reported in early June. If that happens, it will be the biggest funding round on record for venture-backed bitcoin companies. Bitcoin values recently reached all-time highs.
One of QueensBridge’s investments is LANDR, a post-production music service startup that uses big data and artificial intelligence. LANDR has raised more than $8 million in the last few years from various sources including Nas’s firm, Warner Music Group, Disney Music Group, Atlantic Records, SoundCloud, and Native Instruments. LANDR helps musicians in mastering — the final step in music production that happens after you record all of the parts and mix them together, CNBC reported.
Creating music masters is expensive and cumbersome, LANDR CEO Pascal Pilon told CNBC:
“Some musicians have never felt the instant gratification of completing a song, and don’t have the money to release more songs.” That’s where LANDR helps.
LANDR recently partnered with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which provides performing rights and advocacy for music creators. ASCAP announced in April 2017 that it will provide unlimited free access to LANDR’s automated mastering for its 600,000 members, American Songwriter reported.
“I want to meet the people who are innovating in all different fields, and investing lets me do that,” Nas told MSNBC. “I meet the people that are changing the game across all different industries, and I get to be there first at the ground level. It’s helped me to progress tremendously in my business.”
Read more on Moguldom