The Next Episode for Snoop Dogg: Becoming a Tech Mogul

Rapper with a penchant for reinvention tries his hand at the startup community

Snoop Dogg, a man of many names, talents and interests, is on yet another mission, one that positions him about as far away as possible from the image he's cultivated over the last quarter century. Today, he's a tech entrepreneur.

Born of the MTV generation, Snoop's rep was built around SoCal gangsta rap, smoking blunts and generally being the ambassador of West Coast hip-hop, with occasional dabblings into such far-afield ventures as directing porn and coaching his son's football team. And now he's speaking at Google conferences.

Photo: Tony Kelly

Besides having a massive social following, the Doggfather is a veteran Redditor, invests in several apps and has his own YouTube network. His latest play: investing in a location-based communications platform launching next year.

A Long Way From Death Row Records

In early October, Reddit, the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet," announced it had raised $50 million in a financing round led by Y Combinator president Sam Altman and involving 13 other investors, among them Snoop. What many don't know is that the most popular comment during Altman's Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on Reddit was by way of Snoop's handle on the platform, Here_Comes_The_King: "Whaddup Sam! They let the Dogg in the building. Now do I get an official title??"

Snoop is a die-hard Redditor, having amassed 10,700 link karma and nearly 600,000 comment karma. (For the uninitiated, karma, according to the network, "reflects how much good the user has done for the Reddit community.") The artist has run several successful campaigns via Reddit, including one that had him selling a shirt to raise funds for the Marijuana Policy Project. He is also the moderator of three sub-Reddits, including the weed-appreciation thread r/trees. "I'm the go-to guy for giving advice in the woods," he boasts.

Quietly, Snoop has built an impressive following in the social space. He's got 3.9 million followers on Instagram, 11.6 million on Twitter and over a million subscribers to his YouTube channel, westfesttv, home to his weekly news show, GGN.

He was also one of the first investors in anonymity-based app Secret and photography app Shots. In late September, he helped launch zero-commission stock-trading app Robinhood. The still-unnamed location-based project set to launch next year is being developed by the marketing firm Cashmere Agency, which says it sought counsel from digital gods Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg.

Snoop explains his investment philosophy in his trademark easygoing style: "I've been meeting people out there, just trying to, you know, spread my business and liking what they have to offer. Just slowly, surely getting involved, and the best way to get involved is to make investments in things that I dig." 

The Doggfather, with his manager Ted Chung, who helped make him one of the biggest social brands. | Photo Courtesy of Cashmere Agency

Branching out

With a technology sector valued at more than $119 trillion, it's no surprise Snoop wants to break off a piece for himself. "This is the most frenzied creation of wealth in the history of the Western world," says Chris Raih, founder of sports and entertainment creative agency Zambezi. "These tech entrepreneurs have become rock stars. The nerds have taken over. They're the ones that celebrities want to be involved with."

Lee Maicon, head of strategy for digital agency 360i, points out that dwindling revenue from music sales means that even top artists cannot rely as heavily on hits for income anymore. "Guys in their 40s are not going to make money selling records," he says. Whereas back in the day, celebrities like Jay Leno used to invest in independent production companies, the digital world now allows for even more diversity of investments.

Snoop is not, of course, the first celebrity to try his hand at tech entrepreneur.

Kutcher: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images;