In a business news story that recently surprised the venture capital world, Los Angeles-based tech start-up investment firm Upfront Ventures announced that hip-hop artist Chamillionaire would be joining the company as an entrepreneur-in-residence. The announcement may have surprised some in the business and music worlds, but in fact, the relationship between the rapper and the company is a natural one.
Chamillionaire, also known by his real name Hakeem Seriki, has been involved in entrepreneurial ventures for several years. He has invested in a Houston car dealership and a few tech companies, and has established a modeling firm and a tour bus company. He has also promoted entrepreneurship by giving talks at tech conferences and supporting initiatives like the Global Innovation Tournament at Stanford University.
Mark Suster, a partner at Upfront Ventures, met Chamillionaire in 2009 and was struck by the rapper’s business acumen, particularly his refined understanding of social media and customer engagement. The two hit it off, and Suster introduced him to startups at business events. Many entrepreneurs were initially interested in engaging Chamillionaire as a potential promoter of their products. However, those conversations often went far beyond that and dove into much more conceptual territory such as product design, customer engagement, and marketing strategy.
Upfront Ventures recently extended an invitation to Chamillionaire and his producer, Nsilo Reddick, to join the venture capital firm’s team. The two will be engaged in evaluating startup ideas, advising aspiring entrepreneurs, and further developing their insights into the world of tech startups.