An undeniable rise in the number of celebrities and influencers investing in technology companies. Hollywood and Silicon Valley come together year after year, fashion event after fashion event. Michael Morriatti has found himself at the intersection of entertainment and technology as the chief executive of WME and a successful fintech-focused angel investor. Morriatti has something to say about two worlds with the launch of his new venture capital firm, Envisioned Capital.
Frederic DasoA: You’ve spent most of your career as an entertainment executive in Hollywood working with companies like WME. When did you first become interested in tech companies and entertainment?
Michael MorriattiA: I’ve always been fascinated by entertainment and technology for as long as I can remember. I was drawn to the bright lights of Hollywood watching the Lakers as a child, and my grandfather in the nineties saw all the Whos whose side of the court was a spectacle. From the moment he came off the bench, Kobe Bryant has always been my favorite player. I had a premonition from an early age that he would be one of the greatest.
I have always wanted to build a media business around the biggest names in the entertainment industry. This has always been the goal. I was so passionate about technology at a young age. When I started building these ventures and partnerships, I saw a niche way to expand into entertainment and technology partnerships. This is very relevant today, but not in 2013 when I built my first business. Jerry McGuire, a fan favorite, influenced me when I wanted to work in the entertainment business as a kid.
I have always thought that entertainment and technology are closely related. Radio and television, and now the Internet, entertainment and technology have always worked together to provide us with the content we love. Entertainment is the stories we tell, and technology is the medium through which we tell those stories.
I have always been interested in entertainment as a reflection of what makes us human. However, the rise of the Internet in the 2000s made me realize that technology will play a defining role in creating the celebrities of the future. At that moment, I dedicated myself to finding not only the most disruptive stars in the entertainment industry, but also the most disruptive technology companies.
daso: In previous conversations, you mentioned that the music business and the film industry are slow to adopt new technologies. What new technologies that you have encountered while investing could help solve these canonical problems?
Morriatti: The entertainment industry is facing revolutionary changes due to new technologies and can develop in many areas. I believe that all music and movies should be implemented in software and should be calculated every time a song or movie is streamed or shared, and the creators of the works are fully compensated. I stand for all artists and I think that we can solve these problems with modern technology. In 2017, I launched a blockchain music app that did just that.
Nipsey Hussle’s partnership with this company was one of the brightest partnerships I’ve made at the time. Collecting money and giving fans the opportunity to participate in earnings. Unfortunately, it was too early; now I see companies doing it successfully. I’m still active in music, whether I’m investing in music tech companies or record label LoudEra (where Luya is located) or A&Ring for one of my superstar friends because they know I’m not a consensualist.
I was in the studio watching some of the biggest records being made with over 80 million records in total, including TASTE Tyga, his biggest selling record to date. There are huge opportunities for developing the business side of music and film. Let’s see how I and others can go beyond what’s possible. I believe we will continue to see the industry’s most forward-thinking people embrace these new technologies and disrupt stagnant players who are not making the necessary investments today for tomorrow.
daso: Over the past decade, a wave of celebrities have entered the venture capital industry, either as limited partners (LPs) or as business angels. How do you use your talent management connections to add value to the startups you invest in?
MorriattiA: I have attracted many artists to some of the companies in my portfolio and have combined each other’s missions. It has helped move great things forward, and everyone seems to be happy. I usually find synergy between the two and look for a more organic approach to attracting artists to investment companies. One client told me that he invested more money in me than last season playing on the field.
I’m also an investor/adviser for Bev (@drinkbev), an all-inclusive canned wine company for women that has grown into an awesome women’s brand and media business. We continue to grow Bev’s media business. Artists offer unique value as they help shape popular culture and have a large audience that trusts them for their taste. Influence can be used to reinforce the mission of a business that wants to change the world for the better. This is just the beginning for them and much more!
One of the most rewarding things was working with my mentor, Gee Roberson. I admire his work ethic and spirit. I was able to bring him into deals and vice versa. It was useful because he is an absolute individualist and I hope to learn more from him and aspire to be considered as such.
daso: When did you first become interested in investing in technology companies, especially fintech startups?
Morriatti: I started working in technology when I founded my first media company; this was after successfully exiting my first business in college and after working for a record company. I was intrigued by all the tech companies that came up at the time (Facebook, PayPal, and Amazon). I thought that if you could partner a young artist at the time with a new startup like Facebook and you could build their legacy together, maybe even help catapult them even further. That’s when I started building equity partnerships in startups, which led to consulting, which led to investments, which led to exits. This eventually led me to create my own foundation. Finance is an industry that has historically taken advantage of some of the most disenfranchised sections of the population. The idea of using technology to destroy many of these companies was very appealing to me. I entered the FinTech space in 2015 based on this thesis and have seen many great fairer companies emerge.
I started buying and trading bitcoins, which made me think that there is a much easier and faster way to transact with these bitcoins. Since then, I have been obsessed with finding a solution that eventually led me to invest in leading cryptocurrency companies such as Gemini, MoonPay and Animoca Brands, just to name a few, who are among the leading revolutionaries in their fields. I hope to someday be involved in building and running my own peer-to-peer exchange, an honest and decentralized bank, if you will.
daso: How will you develop from an experienced business angel in hot startups to managing a small institutional fund?
Morriatti: After current events, I became more aggressive towards angel investing, because I saw how quickly the world is changing for the better. I have made so many investments and raised funds for so many different companies. I partnered with William Andreasian (a top USC alumnus and top-of-the-funds analyst). I decided that it would be right if we created Envisioned Capital, whose parent company would be Envisioned; management and media company. We specialize in creating media and brands around the greatest athletes and artists of today. We go beyond representation to build timeless brands and media companies. We just wanted to have our own fund that we could provide access to for our clients while continuing to work with our favorite companies.
daso: What were the most important factors in terms of building your fund’s LP base?
MorriattiA: Our LPs were people we admired and they are respected business executives and leading consultants. We have been so kind to work with SPV partners and consultants.
Our network of friends and mentors has been instrumental in our success. We are lucky to have LPs who are leaders in their industries and being able to build on their collective ideas gives us an advantage.
The companies and industry leaders I look up to are Roth Capital Partners (Byron Roth, Andrew Costa), Sound Ventures (Gee Roberson), and Electric Feel Ventures (Austin Rosen).
daso: How will you accelerate the intersection of technology and entertainment as Hollywood and Silicon Valley continue to intersect more and more?
Morriatti: I’m doubling down on what I’m doing now, investing and advising companies not of tomorrow, but of the future. Such a future will change tomorrow for the benefit of humanity. I am a dreamer and I dream that the world will have a better future, not just entertainment. I plan to make this mission a reality and leave my mark on future dreamers.
I hope to accelerate convergence by serving as an intermediary between the two worlds. Envisioned Capital is home to visionaries: the world’s greatest companies and investors are working together to build a future we can all be proud of.
To represent the icons of the future and create media businesses and companies that matter and inspire the same dreamers of the future.
We have provided for all this, and here we are!