Quick, what rhymes with "start-up?" Celebrity music artists, including rappers, have been finding new ways to invest their money, and
Nas, who rose to fame with his smash 1994 album "Illmatic," participated in the company's $1-million seed funding round that was led by Andreessen Horowitz and closed this summer.
"Jobs are a concern for the nation, and Proven is all about that, so I'm all about Proven," Nas said in an interview.
The concept behind the company, run by 33-year-old first generation immigrant Pablo Fuentes, is to make it easier for the non-
Fuentes' life story and mission resonated with Nas, who was surrounded by joblessness in the Queensbridge housing projects in New York where he grew up.
"What he chose to do with his time and his life was noble," Nas said of Fuentes. "He struck me as a smart person with a good heart."
Proven is trying to mount a comeback after a rocky start.
Fuentes started the company in 2009 while he was in graduate school and eventually built up to 15 employees. He tried a number of unsuccessful business models and, at the end of 2011, laid off everyone but himself and one other person.
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He even briefly lived out of his car at his girlfriend's place because he was letting a pair of former employees live at his apartment.
Now he runs the company out of an office in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco with four workers. It launched new apps for job seekers last year and also has a service for employers. The apps have drawn 150,000 monthly active users and more than 500,000 downloads.
"At this point, we're being very conservative," Fuentes said. "The premise has always been, 'How do you help people find jobs through their mobile phones?'"
Nas has joined a growing list of music celebrities who've helped fund start-ups. The rapper
Nas said it makes sense for rappers, specifically, to invest in tech.
"Hip-hop artists, especially the older ones, are the ones who knew hip-hop was a worldwide phenomenon before the mainstream caught on, so hip-hop artists are forward thinkers," Nas said. "We want to stay with the new."
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