Is it possible for the music industry to learn something from an artist who hasn’t had a hit song since the mid-’90s?
In the case of MC Hammer, it just might.
To many in the music industry, Hammer is a has-been rapper who squandered a fortune and eventually faded into musical irrelevancy. But in Silicon Valley, he’s a respected entrepreneur, investor and adviser with a reputation as a savvy early adopter of new technology.
That’s quite an achievement in a region that views most celebrities with suspicion.
"Many folks I’ve met from the talent side have shown passing interest at a transactional level, but have quickly scurried away when there’s no immediate deal with instant payoff to be had," says Tim Chang, a partner at Norwest Venture Partners in Palo Alto, Calif. "Hammer has authentic interest in what’s going on."
It’s a reputation developed during the course of nearly two decades, during which Hammer has invested in or advised dozens of companies. He helped Pandora founder Tim Westergren prepare for meetings with music executives when the service was still called Savage Beast. He gave marketing advice to Salesforce.com. He visited YouTube’s offices when it was still located above a pizzeria in San Mateo, Calif.