“I walked around the music industry for a bunch of years, right? I saw a lot of rich people. I didn’t see wealthy,” he tells me. “I got into the tech industry, I see wealthy every day. The Snapchat CEO is 24 years old and a billionaire. How many billionaires do I have to walk around the music industry to find? I’m in Silicon Valley, I’m in L.A., I’m in Santa Monica, and I’m seeing billionaires all over the place. And they’re young. That’s not in the music industry.”
Right now, the 35-year-old born Hakeem Seriki is rich. But he’s aiming to get wealthy. That’s what brought him to Upfront Ventures. Since March he’s been heading here every week—alongside his producer Nsilo Reddick—to serve as the firm’s new “Entrepreneur in Residence.” In the world of venture capitalism, an “EIR” is a relatively loose, informal and temporary position—basically an opportunity for an entrepreneur to work with an investment team and get some capitalist know-how as they plot out their next project. In Cham’s case, he says he doesn’t have specific office hours; he’s free to come and go as he pleases. Mostly he just sits in on meetings and takes notes as leaders of various companies and start-ups come in to this very conference room we’re sitting in to pitch their ideas to Upfront’s partners—with the hopes of walking away with a term sheet promising anywhere from $1 to $10 million in seed money.
He was the first artist I knew that was running his entire business from a website. In the 2000′s, he used chamillionaire.com as a platform to promote many Texas rappers. He constantly sold music and merchandise around the clock, without even being signed to a record label. So it’s no surprise that he’s using his success in music to dig deeper into tech and learn his way with venture capitals.