I wanna find something I’ve wanted all along
Somewhere I belong.
– from Somewhere I Belong by Linkin Park
Linkin Park, in case you don’t know them, is one of the most popular and successful rock/rap/metal bands of all time. They have won all kinds of Billboard and Grammy and American Music awards among others. They are on Billboard’s list of Most Consecutive Number One Albums alongside The Beatles, Madonna and U2. In other words, they are the real deal. But they are unsatisfied.
We’re building it up
To burn it down
We can’t wait
To burn it to the ground
— Burn It Down by Linkin Park
Last week the band Linkin Park announced they were starting a venture fund. In a CNN Money article describing this plan, one of the band’s founders, Mike Shinoda, said, “The music industry can be ‘mean’ and ‘a little rough,’ especially on people just entering the business.” He went on to say that “ newbies to the music industry are expected to work 80 hours a week with few breaks and little money. Sometimes in the music industry you can find a sense of entitlement.”
I am a little worried for Linkin Park, as you could pretty easily replace “music industry” with “venture capital industry” in those sentences and not change the meaning one iota. But what is even more interesting is that venture capital has become so admired that even rock stars think it will be more fun than standing on stage in front of adoring fans screaming at the top of your lungs for money.
Mike Shinoda also said this about the venture world to CNN: “To be around that kind of culture with people who are super cutting-edge thinkers who are so smart, that’s inspiring to me. I feel like we’re more at home there.”
Nah, you don’t know me
Lightning above and a fire below me
You cannot catch me, cannot hold me
You cannot stop, much less control me
– A Light That Never Comes by Linkin Park
Can you fellow venture capitalists (VCs) imagine thinking to yourself that what you are doing right now would be more fun than being a rock star? I’m sure some people will say yes to this, but they are probably lying. Doesn’t everyone secretly fantasize about being a rock star? Who stands in their room in front of a mirror holding a hairbrush like it’s a microphone and giving a Ted Talk? No kid in his/her room is play-acting like they’re going to be a VC. Instead they are standing there singing like Tom Cruise in Risky Business and wishing they were Mick Jagger or Madonna or whomever today’s equivalent is. It is kind of funny how the grass is always greener no matter what lawn you’re staring at.
In fact there are loads of VCs who try very hard to be rock stars and some who have even succeeded. I remember seeing Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners open for U2 when I saw them in Oakland a few years back, although McNamee has legitimately been playing at both venture and music most of his life.
Obviously the best of all worlds would be to get the perks of both: to be involved in the technology that changes the world for the better while being followed by hot groupies and admired for wearing whatever wild outfit goes with both storm trooper boots and sequins. I could go entertain myself for hours imagining hybrid rock group/venture fund combos with particular market specializations; maybe the way to solve the problem of lack of gender diversity in venture is to get Taylor Swift and Beyonce together for a “Who Runs the World? Girls!” fund. If David Guetta and Calvin Harris can make a career out of electronic music, perhaps they could make a great tech fund that actually uses tech to improve one’s ability to handle activities of daily living. Either way, I want to see a Monday morning partners meeting where all the participants have to show up dressed as their favorite KISS character.
Linkin Park is not the first set of famous musicians to foray into venture capital; the likes of Justin Timberlake and Bono and MC Hammer and others have been seen hanging out on Sand Hill Road before. But this band may be the very first to start their own actual fund, which they are calling Machine Shop Ventures. I have to believe that the Monday morning meetings actually take place in the afternoon since it’s hard to wake up early after a gig. So far Machine Shop Ventures has invested in Lyft and Shyp, so perhaps their investment strategy is tech companies that prominently feature a “Y” where there should be an “I.” They did use up a greater-than-their-share of “I’s” in creating the name Linkin Park, as the name was originally derived from Lincoln Park in Santa Monica, according to Wikipedia.
There is a song by the band Nickelback called “Rockstar” in which a guy discusses how he’d like to leave his mundane life behind to be a rock star. In the song the guy complains about having to stand in line for clubs where he could never get in anyway and about wishing for a credit card that’s got no limit and a big black jet with a bedroom in it. I know some VCs who can check these boxes too, and there is even a new club for VCs and other tech glitterati forming in Silicon Valley called the Cuckoo’s Nest, which is invitation only, natch.
In the chorus to Rockstar are these words:
I’m gonna trade this life
For fortune and fame
I’d even cut my hair
And change my name
–Rockstar by Nickelback
I have to laugh out loud thinking that Linkin Park may be humming this very refrain as they think about the transition from rock star to VC while, at the same time, a bunch of people in Silicon Valley are doing the same and fantasizing about how much better it would be to inhabit a rock star’s life. Irony. Gotta love it.
And for your listening pleasure, here are two songs for you: Linkin Park’s Burn it Down and Nickelback’s Rockstar.