Austin Rosen has spent the past decade investing in chart-topping musicians. Now, he’s turning his attention to startups.
Rosen, 34, is the founder and CEO of Electric Feel Entertainment, one of the music industry’s premier hit factories. Electric Feel’s stable of songwriters has churned out 19 number-ones over the past five years, working on tracks for the likes of Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X and SZA. The company also co-manages mega-star Post Malone and other performers. At least one song from Electric Feel’s writers, producers and artists has landed in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 for 89 consecutive weeks, and in 2021, Variety named Rosen its music manager of the year.
It’s been a rapid rise since Rosen founded Electric Feel in 2013, one fueled by a keen eye for talent and a knack for fostering collaboration. “I created a whole roster of producers and writers from the beginnings of their careers and helped put them with the right people to make massive songs,” Rosen says.
With Electric Feel Ventures—a new early-stage investment firm born amid the pandemic that has already done 50 deals and is currently investing out of a $30 million debut fund—he’s seeing if a similar strategy will work in venture capital.
“The process of making music and making hit songs consistently, it’s really just about connecting the dots and putting the right talents together,” he says. “I feel like it’s a lot of the same thing when you’re dealing in venture.”
Rosen is no stranger to investing: He’s the son of Andrew Rosen, a longtime fashion executive known for founding and running the Theory brand and serving as an impresario for up-and-coming designers and apparel companies, helping fund the rise of labels such as Alice + Olivia and Rag & Bone. The trade publication Women’s Wear Daily once described him as “a sort of Medici of fashion.”
With capital from his early successes in music and guidance from his father, the younger Rosen began investing in apparel and entertainment companies a few years ago. He was an early backer of 300 Entertainment, the music label that’s home to Megan Thee Stallion and Young Thug, which sold to Warner Music Group late last year for a reported $400 million. It was also last year that he decided to formalize his investing activities under the Electric Feel Ventures umbrella—in part, he says, to meet the demand of artists who wanted access to Rosen’s deal flow.
“I would start to do these deals, and all my clients and all these other people were wanting to be in them,” he says. “I wanted to create some structure around it.”
Some of Rosen’s celebrity clients leverage their star power to bring more than mere capital to the table for EFV’s portfolio companies. 24kGoldn, the 21-year-old rapper best known for the chart-topping song “Mood,” invested alongside EFV in a skincare startup called Starface. He also collaborated with Starface to serve as the public face of a major marketing campaign. Tom Brady joined EFV in backing a low-carb bread startup called Hero Bread. Brady is also a spokesman for Subway; last year, he starred in an ad announcing Subway would start selling Hero Bread products in select stores.
EFV also takes a collaborative approach when it comes to finding investments. “A lot of top-tier funds send us deals,” Rosen says, citing Andreesen Horowitz, Maveron and Cavu Ventures as examples. Rosen’s place at the nexus of music-industry cool makes him an appealing partner for investors always on the lookout for the next big thing. “They look at us as a strategic entertainment partner and value-add.”
In making music, Rosen tries to bring together people with complementary skills that might be able to create a whole that’s larger than the sum of its parts. It’s the same in building a business—just with founders, influencers and investors instead of writers, producers and performers.
“You’re finding people early, you’re investing in their talents, their skills, and just connecting them with other great people and helping them solves problems,” Rosen says.
EFV frequently invests in the entertainment and consumer sectors, with other portfolio companies including Superplastic, a startup trying to turn its cartoon creations into influencers, and Actual Veggies, a maker of plant-based burgers. Superplastic’s other backers include Founders Fund, Index Ventures, Justin Timberlake and music executive Scooter Braun, serving as an example of the sort of investor cross-section that EFV tries to find.
The firm is in the process of raising its second institutional fund from a network of entertainment executives, clients, family offices and other LPs—all of whom are betting that, for Rosen, finding future unicorns and identifying a musical earworm might not be so different.