Jim Carroll

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It’s bigger than hip-hop: Nas hits the venture capital trail

The “Illmatic” star has his eye on the start-up scene

Smokin': Nas considers his next start-up investment

Fri, Jan 10, 2014, 09:55


There’s a new player in the start-up game. We might associate Nasir Jones more with classic albums like the glorious “Illmatic” (20 years old in 2014), but the man known as Nas has been kicking the tyres on many tech investments of late.

While he’s also involved in magazine publishing (Mass Appeal magazine) and selling sneakers, it’s Nas’ interest in start-ups which is more noteworthy, as PandoDaily recently noted.

Together with his manager Aymen Anthony Saleh, Nas has invested in 40 start-ups in the last two years including such companies as Crowdtilt, Proven, Earbits, Prism Skylabs, ZestFinance and Trendabl. The pair also invested in Rap Genius, the lyrics website which ran foul of Google last month.

As the likes of Dr Dre and 50 Cent have shown with headphones and vitamin water respectively, there’s far more money to made away from slinging tunes and records. Indeed, with Jay-Z better known for his non-rapping ventures these days (no bad thing given Jigga’s slippage in musical quality of late), the name of the hip-hop game now is to gain a rep and then move as quickly as you can into more lucrative areas.

What’s interesting about Nas and Saleh’s approach is that they’ve gone all in on tech start-ups. It’s a sector which has attracted many the hope of finding the next Snapchat or WhatsApp, but such successes are few and far between.

The pair, though, know this and are not expecting overnight riches. “It is risky, but playing the game with a lot on the line is definitely what we feel like we’re best at”, says Saleh. “We’re all gut. We also invest alongside a lot of folks that know what the hell they’re doing.”

Aspiring tech entrepreneurs had better start listening to “N.Y. State of Mind” stat.