Guy Oseary is more than just Madonna's manager, he's also an investor in several Internet companies, including Spotify, Shazam, Square and Uber. Along with Ashton Kutcher he also runs a fund called A-Grade Investments, which was recently valued at $100 million.
Oseary was also the founder of Maverick Records, which has sold over 100 million records. Running a music label and investing in start-ups may seem to have nothing in common, but Oseary says they couldn't be more similar. It's all about finding the next big thing. "At Maverick, I had to find the next big artist," Oseary said. Years of watching aspiring stars helped Oseary build a skill set of figuring out what he likes, and what works. The new rock stars are start-up founders, Oseary said, "they have the same sort of quality" in wanting their product—music or a start-up—to have an impact on the world.
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Staying up-to-date with cutting-edge technology is crucial to success in the music business, and innovation is key to keep up with quickly-changing consumer tastes. And in light of the threat of music piracy, artists and their labels need to give consumers all the necessary high-tech bells and whistles to keep them paying for content.
Oseary sat down before his on-stage interview at the D11: All Things D conference, to discuss the companies he's invested in, which have the most potential to disrupt established players. Starting with the music industry, Oseary called Spotify "as good as it gets with where music is headed today." Spotify is supportive of both artists and the industry, he said. "It's nice to see a company come out of nowhere and give $500 million back" to content creators.
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When asked about which startups he's most excited about he immediately pointed to AirBnb, saying, "I don't think people will ever travel the same way again." His second choice was Nextdoor, a social network that allows people to connect with neighbors. Another pick—Uber—is transforming the way people get around, he said.
How does Oseary pick his investments? He and partner Kutcher have two criteria. "The first thing we look for is whether this company is solving a big problem. The second question is whether we can help it." They're not just passive investors; they spend time with each company, as advisors, bringing their expertise from both entertainment and venture and angel investing.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin. Follow her on Twitter: