‘Investing is a good thing – period,’ says the new co-owner of Atlanta’s A3C Conference and Festival.
9 min read
Rapper 2 Chainz has a message for entrepreneurs: If you want to succeed, your risk tolerance must be high.
“I come from gambling,” the artist says. “I come from hustling. I come from taking chances.” That, he says, was good preparation for life in business.
2 Chainz is known for his lavish spending — see, for example, basically anything he’s ever wearing — but his behind-the-scenes dealing is starting to get more attention. He’s invested money in Lyft, Lime and other hot tech startups. Now, he’s revealing a new role: co-owner of A3C Festival & Conference, a multi-day tech and culture event in Atlanta that he hopes will become the region’s SXSW.
A3C has been around for 15 years and now draws an annual 30,000 attendees. It was sold earlier this year to The Gathering Spot and Paul Judge Media Group, and after months of discussion, 2 Chainz joined the ownership group as well. He’ll take an active role in the festival, helping to curate speakers and performers (as well as serving as this year’s closing keynote).
To announce his new role, 2 Chainz spoke with Entrepreneur about investing, the power of collaboration and how an entrepreneur can walk the line between confidence and cockiness.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why invest in the in the festival?
I think investing is a good thing, period — especially anything involving a festival, music, something along those lines. I feel like A3C has the trajectory to be the next South by Southwest, as far as growing musical talent. We’re trying to implement more in the tech space, more in TV and film. So that’s where I see a value, and where I see an opening for me to get involved, to push the culture forward.
Atlanta has long been a cultural hotbed, but it’s now seen as a real entrepreneurial hotbed as well. How do you feel that a place like Atlanta can benefit from its own version of South by Southwest?
We’ve been leading the culture for the past two decades. Everything that’s happening outside of Atlanta, it’s still actually using our blueprint to create those things. So even though South by Southwest was already an outstanding festival, the diversity of Atlanta artists — in the things that we do, as far as remaining hot over the years — people actually take from that and build out around that. So although a lot of festivals are not in Atlanta, we are some of the headlining artists. We’re some of the people that they book to bring attention to their festival. Why not do it in our own backyard?
Festivals are also a great way to bring people together, and that togetherness leads to collaborations. As an artist who’s collaborated with so many others, what advice do you have for people on how to find good collaborations?
I think collaboration is all about energy. You don’t want to force anything. It’s about like-minded people. You share some of the same goals and aspirations — not just to do music, but to build rapport, good relationships, a foundation. I move a lot off of energy, and you can kind of tell from the vibe if something’s either going to be lucrative or just a fly-by-night type of thing. Obviously, having this festival in the city puts everybody in the same room, or in the same area, for hours or a few days at a time. And you just want something positive to come out of that.
As you’ve collaborated with other artists, have you learned anything surprising about how to work best with others?
Nah. I just think it’s dope to do collaborations because you’re able to see other people’s creative process. I think everybody records a little different, has a different process, different method — whether it be night, daytime, morning or whatever. By doing collaborations, you really learn how people create, and I think that’s cool.
Do you have any system to identify potential good collaborations?
You have to do it first, right? To know if it’s going to work. That’s the only thing you can do. I don’t think you could know anything about anybody being hypothetical. You have to actually do it and go from there. I mean, this is music. I don’t think doing a verse for somebody or something like that could really halt or hinder anything. It could help more than anything. I never would have thought that my first Grammy would come from doing a song for Chance the Rapper, you know, on his mixtape. So you won’t know until you do it.
A moment ago, you talked about how important it is to invest. That may surprise some people, given how you’re often known for spending money — with, say, your show Most Expensivest Shit.
I’ve always had that kind of mentality, ever since I was in the streets. If I was doing something like hustling, I would use that money to buy a studio. I would use that money to buy equipment, to make me a better person. So I’ve always been about taking my money and putting it back in. It’s just a broader scope right now.
What’s surprised you most about investing?
Not all investments are good investment, and sometimes you have to gamble and sometimes you have to take risks, as with anything in life. Whether you make a good investment or a bad investment, you’re supposed to learn from that.
I know many entrepreneurs struggle to talk about the bad decisions they make because they’re embarrassed. Have you seen that?
The people I’m around love sharing that type of information. I can name 10 or 20 startups that a lot of my friends or mentors invested in that fell flat. But for every 10 or 20 that fail, one pops, right?
You know, I have investments with Lyft. I have investments with Airbnb. I have investments with Polycade. If one falls on its face, will I be mad? No, because I felt really good about the space that it’s in. If Lyft goes out of business, will I be mad? If Lime goes out of business? Nah. Some of those things, you just can’t control. I come from the streets. I come from gambling. I come from hustling. I come from taking chances. It doesn’t bother me, like it may bother someone else. I believe in currency. I believe in circulation. I believe if it comes, and it goes, it can come right back.
You’ve said before that you had to walk the thin line between confidence and cockiness. I think a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with that, especially if they’re fortunate enough to have success. How have you managed it?
Because I’ve always been cocky, I had to simmer down a little bit when I became famous. I was way more cocky when I didn’t have any money, so I just had to humble myself a little bit when I started getting money.
I think you have to be confident to be cocky, so it’s a balance. I always talk about that line, having to straddle that line. So it was more of a learning experience for me, to learn how to humble myself once God blessed me with something that I’ve been praying and working hard for so long, so that’s where the balance came from.
It’s interesting that you say that that that you were you were cockier before you were wealthy. Why do you think that was?
My cockiness came from me thinking and knowing that I was actually better than other people who were actually more famous, richer and had a wider fan base. It was me sitting back and saying, I wonder what I’m doing wrong. Who do I need to be around? Who is their team? Who’s their management? How do they get this opportunity? What do I need to do? I feel like I can do a lot of these things.
I’m a student of the game. I still enjoy learning. So it just made me feel a sense of like, I don’t give a fuck how much money you’ve got or how many followers. I know I can keep the same kind of game. So that’s where mine came from. And then, knowing that what I did in the past — my background and my upbringing — made me strong. It just put me in a position to feel, if not stronger, then, you know, equal to other people who were doing the same thing.
Given that, do you think cockiness was actually helpful at that phase in your life?
I think you should be confident, period. But sometimes cockiness rubs people the wrong way. So that’s it. That’s the wrong thing about cockiness. But at the end of the day, I think confidence is good. I think confidence is rich. I think I think confidence is maturity. Confidence is how you hold your head. I don’t think that you can downplay it or look down on it. It’s just it’s just it’s a state of being.
And you know, cockiness is very, very, very, very similar. They’re like cousins, you know what I’m saying? But that’s the thing about cockiness — the way you can actually rub people the wrong way. So that’s where a balance has to come in.