There has been an undeniable rise of celebrities and influencers investing in technology companies. Hollywood and Silicon Valley merge closer to one another year after year, fancy event after fancy event. Michael Morriatti has found himself at the intersection of entertainment and technology as an entertainment executive at WME and a prolific FinTech-focused angel investor. Morriatti has plenty to say about the two worlds with the launch of his new venture firm, Envisioned Capital.
Frederick Daso: You’ve spent the majority of your career as an entertainment executive in Hollywood, working with the likes of WME. When did you first get interested in tech companies and entertainment?
Michael Morriatti: I’ve always been fascinated with entertainment and technology ever since I could remember. I was turned onto the bright lights of Hollywood, watching the Lakers as a kid with my grandpa in the nineties seeing all The Who’s, whose court-side was a spectacle. From the time he came off the bench, Kobe Bryant was always my favorite player. I had an instinct from an early age that he would be one of the greatest.
I always wanted to build media businesses around the greatest names in entertainment. This was always the goal. I was so enthralled by technology at a young age. When I started building these businesses and partnerships, I saw a niche way to expand into entertainment/ technology partnerships. This is very relevant today, but it wasn’t in 2013 when I built my initial business. Jerry McGuire, a fan favorite, influenced me as a kid wanting to work in the representation business.
I have always thought of entertainment and technology as closely linked. From radio and television and now the Internet, entertainment and technology have always worked together to bring us the content we love. Entertainment is the stories we tell, and technology is the medium through which we deliver those stories.
I have always been interested in entertainment as a reflection of what makes us human. However, seeing the rise of the Internet in the 2000s made me realize that technology would play a defining role in helping build the celebrities of the future. At that point, I dedicated myself to finding not only the most disruptive stars in entertainment but also the most disruptive technology companies.
Daso: You mentioned in prior conversations that the music business and film industry are slow to adopt new technologies. What are some new technologies that you’ve seen while investing that could help solve these canonical issues?
Morriatti: The entertainment industry faces disruption by new technology and can advance in multiple areas. I feel that all music and movies should be made into software and should be computed every time a song or movie is streamed or shared, and the creators of the works are compensated to the full degree. I advocate for all artists, and I think we can solve these issues with today’s technology. I started a blockchain music app in 2017 that did just this.
Partnering Nipsey Hussle with this company was one of the marquee partnerships I did at the time. Raising money and letting fans participate in the earnings. This, unfortunately, was too early; now, I see companies successfully doing this. I’m still involved in music to a capacity, whether investing in music tech companies or a record label LoudEra, (home to louyah) or A&Ring for one of my superstar friends because they know I’m not a yes man.
I have been in the studio and watched the biggest records being made with combined sales of over 80 million records, including TASTE by Tyga, his highest selling record to date. There are huge ways that the business side of music and movies can advance. We will see how I and others can push the envelope. I believe we will continue to see the most forward-looking of the industry embrace these new technologies and disrupt the stagnant players who do not make the investments required today for tomorrow.
Daso: Over the past decade, there’s been a wave of celebrities getting into the venture capital industry, either as limited partners (LPs) or angel investors in their own right. How are you leveraging your connections in the talent management business to add value to startups that you invest in?
Morriatti: I’ve brought many entertainers into some of my portfolio companies and have aligned each others’ missions. This has helped push great causes forward, and everyone seems to be pleased. I usually find synergies between the two and look for a more organic approach to bringing entertainers into investment companies. One client told me he made more off investments with me than he did playing on the field last season.
I am also an investor/advisor to Bev (@drinkbev), an all-encompassing women-owned canned wine company that has transformed into a kick-ass women’s brand and media business. We’re continuing to build Bev’s media business. Entertainers offer a unique value-add in that they help shape popular culture and have large audiences who trust them for their taste. The influence can be used to amplify the mission of a business looking to change the world for the better. This is just the beginning for them and so many more!
One of the most rewarding things has been working with a mentor to me, Gee Roberson. I admire his work ethic and ethos. I’ve been able to bring him in on deals and vice versa. This has been rewarding because he is an absolute Maverick, and I hope to learn more from him and aspire to be regarded as such.
Daso: When did you first get interested in investing in tech companies, especially FinTech startups?
Morriatti: I started working in tech when I started my first Media Company; this was after a successful exit in my first business in college and after working at a record label. I was intrigued by all the technology companies coming out at the time (Facebook, PayPal, and Amazon). I thought, what if you could partner a young entertainer at the time with a new startup like Facebook, and you could build their legacies together, maybe even help catapult them even further. That’s when I started doing equity partnerships in startups that led to advising, which led to investing that led to exits. That ultimately led to me starting my own fund. Finance is an industry that has historically taken advantage of some of the most disenfranchised populations. The idea of applying technology to disrupt many of these companies was very attractive to me. I entered the FinTech space in 2015 based on this thesis and have seen many great companies emerge focused on more equitable practices.
I had started buying and trading bitcoins, which made me think there was a much easier and faster way to transact with these bitcoins. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with finding a solution that ultimately led me to invest in leading crypto companies such as Gemini, MoonPay, and Animoca Brands, to name a few, which are some of the leading disruptors in their respective spaces. I hope to participate in creating and operating my own peer-to-peer exchange someday, a fair and decentralized bank, if you will.
Daso: How will you evolve from being a proficient angel investor in hot startups to managing a small institutional fund?
Morriatti: After the current events, I got more aggressive with angel investing because I saw how fast the world was changing for the better. I was making so many investments and raising for so many different companies. I partnered with William Andreasyan (A top graduate at USC, and an analyst who has worked at the top of funds). I decided it was only right that we start Envisioned Capital, its parent company being Envisioned; a management and media company. Specializing in building media and brands around today’s greatest athletes and entertainers. We are going beyond representation to build everlasting brands and media companies. We just wanted to have our own fund that we can give access to our clients while still working with our favorite companies.
Daso: What factors were the most important in terms of building your fund’s LP base?
Morriatti: Our LPs have been people we admired and are well-regarded business executives and top advisors. We’ve so graciously been able to work with SPV partners and Advisors.
Our network of friends and mentors has been instrumental to our success. We are fortunate to have LPs that are leaders in their respective industries, and the ability to draw on their collective insights gives us an edge.
Companies and the leaders I look up to in the industry 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 tech and entertainment as Hollywood and Silicon Valley continue to overlap more and more?
Morriatti: I will double down on what I’m currently doing, investing and advising the companies not of tomorrow but in the future. Such a future will change tomorrow for the betterment of humanity. I’m a dreamer, and I dream that there’s a better future out there in the world, not only entertainment. I plan to make that mission a reality and leave my mark on future dreamers.
I hope to accelerate the convergence by serving as an intermediary between two worlds. Envisioned Capital is home to the visionaries: the world’s greatest companies and investors working together to build a future we can all be proud of.
Representing the future icons and building media businesses and companies that matter and inspire those same future dreamers.
We’ve Envisioned all this, and now we are here!