Nas has gone from break beats to spreadsheets.
The legendary rapper, full name Nasir Jones, counts Ben Horowitz of A-list Menlo Park venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz as a close friend. And after getting his feet wet with some individual investments in tech startups alongside his buddy, Nas caught the VC bug.
This spring, he teamed up with some finance veterans and entrepreneurs to start his own shop, Century City’s QueensBridge Venture Partners, named after the New York City neighborhood where he grew up. And Nas is bringing more than his name – he’s also got an investment philosophy.
Skeptics might assume this is just another entertainer’s free-spending vanity project. And while Anthony Saleh, QueensBridge’s 28-year-old lead partner – and also Nas’ manager – knows that’s how some will see the firm, he’s quick to shoot the notion down.
“If you think we’re just throwing money around, you think Andreessen Horowitz is throwing money around,” Saleh said, “it’s not like Nas is up there in Silicon Valley just handing money to startups.”
Nas and Saleh made their first significant venture investment when they participated in a 2012 series A funding round for Genius, a New York outfit that keeps a database of annotated song lyrics. Andreessen Horowitz led the round. Nas and Saleh were in it for the profits, but they also just liked being part of the VC community.
“We wanted to be around young and smart people,” Nas, 41, said in an email to the Business Journal.
After making a few more individual investments in companies such as Palo Alto cosmetics company Walker & Co., which focuses on beauty products for African-Americans, Saleh and Nas decided to start QueensBridge.
In addition to his artist management work, Saleh is also a managing partner at VCap Investment Group, a transaction advisory firm that shares offices with QueensBridge. Rashaun Williams, another VCap managing partner, is also a QueensBridge partner.
QueensBridge operates more loosely than a traditional VC fund. The partners speak often, but they aren’t working in the same office on a day-to-day basis. Nas and Saleh are often on the road.
Adam Corey, a former executive at West Hollywood online party-planning company Evite and Mountain View incubator 500 Startups, is the only full-time staffer. Brothers Dee and Anand Murthy, co-founders of downtown L.A. mail-order clothing company Five Four Clothing, and entrepreneur Ajay Relan round out the team.
There is no designated managing partner, but Saleh is the firm’s de facto boss. QueensBridge has about $15 million in assets under management, with a substantial portion of that coming from Nas and Saleh. Saleh wouldn’t say if the firm has any outside investors.
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