From the Unlikeliest Zip Codes to Mount Rushmore

Posted by Anthony Worku
(@Anthony Worku)

When you imagine a successful startup founder or CEO, names like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne most likely don’t come to mind. However, these men are successful startup founders, just like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, two people you might have immediately imagined. Whether someone is from Cambridge or Compton, they’re just as likely to have the same startup-mindset, to share the same entrepreneurial DNA, and to be a Disrupter. Take the six men listed below. While you may think they got their start to fame through a musical talent, it is their startup mindset and their startup companies that allowed them to get their music out to the masses. Without their startup mindset they wouldn’t have become household names.

Daymond John

Sean Combs

Following his passion for the music world, Combs’ first startup was Bad Boy Entertainment, a record label. But Combs certainly did not stop there. He followed up these startups with two more, Sean Jean and Ciroc. Like any true startup founder, Combs had multiple exits, like Sean John. Investors were attracted by the $175 million a year revenue, and bought an equity stake in the company for $100 million.

Dre Dre

Starting off as a Compton-based producer and rapper, Dr. Dre channeled his startup mindset to make NWA a success story. He later had a technology startup that took the world by storm. Ever heard of a little product called Beats by Dre? Apple certainly has. The headphone company was later acquired by the tech giants for $3 Billion dollars. His startup ventures didn’t stop at headphones. In fact, the former hip hop icon has a speaker system and computer all tied into his brand. Entrepreneurs come from everywhere, Compton to Cambridge.

Jay-Z

Shawn Carter hit the jackpot by marrying Beyonce, no kidding. But Jay-Z’s success actually began long before that in the Marcy Housing Projects, of Brooklyn, NY. That’s where he had his first startup breakthroughs and founded the infamous Rock-a-Fella Records. The record label later sold for $11.5 million. At the same time Jay-Z co-founded his other startup, Rocawear. When he exited the venture, he sold his share for $204 million. Since then, he has had a number of successful ventures. Tidal and his share in the Brooklyn Nets were the most publicized as of late. He is living proof that startups come from every zip code.

Lil Wayne

This disrupter has kept a low profile in the world of business, but don’t be fooled by his incognito demeanor. Not only did Wayne help with the creation of Young Money Records, but he independently owns a brand of skate wear, watches, cigars, an additional record company and an app. Can anyone say serial startup entrepreneur?

Russell Simmons

In many ways Russell Simmons has written the blueprint for urban entrepreneurship. His successful relationship with startups began back in the 80’s when he founded Def Jam Recordings. Def Jam was a pioneer in the music world that led to hip hop going mainstream. Simmons has since launched and owns a wide variety of startups, including everything from lifestyle to media, all under the umbrella of Rush Communications.


When you imagine a successful startup founder or CEO, names like Jay-Z and Lil Wayne most likely don’t come to mind. However, these men are successful startup founders, just like Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, two people you might have immediately imagined. Whether someone is from Cambridge or Compton, they’re just as likely to have the same startup-mindset, to share the same entrepreneurial DNA, and to be a Disrupter. Take the six men listed below. While they all have undeniable talent, it is their startup mindset and their startup companies that allowed them to get their products out to the masses. Without their startup mindset they wouldn’t have become household names.

Daymond John

Sean Combs

Following his passion for the music world, Combs’ first startup was Bad Boy Entertainment, a record label. But Combs certainly did not stop there. He followed up these startups with two more, Sean Jean and Ciroc. Like any true startup founder, Combs had multiple exits, like Sean John. Investors were attracted by the $175 million a year revenue, and bought an equity stake in the company for $100 million.

Dre Dre

Starting off as a Compton-based producer and rapper, Dr. Dre channeled his startup mindset to make NWA a success story. He later had a technology startup that took the world by storm. Ever heard of a little product called Beats by Dre? Apple certainly has. The headphone company was later acquired by the tech giants for $3 Billion dollars. His startup ventures didn’t stop at headphones. In fact, the former hip hop icon has a speaker system and computer all tied into his brand. Entrepreneurs come from everywhere, Compton to Cambridge.

Jay-Z

Shawn Carter hit the jackpot by marrying Beyonce, no kidding. But Jay-Z’s success actually began long before that in the Marcy Housing Projects, of Brooklyn, NY. That’s where he had his first startup breakthroughs and founded the infamous Rock-a-Fella Records. The record label later sold for $11.5 million. At the same time Jay-Z co-founded his other startup, Rocawear. When he exited the venture, he sold his share for $204 million. Since then, he has had a number of successful ventures. Tidal and his share in the Brooklyn Nets were the most publicized as of late. He is living proof that startups come from every zip code.

Lil Wayne

This disrupter has kept a low profile in the world of business, but don’t be fooled by his incognito demeanor. Not only did Wayne help with the creation of Young Money Records, but he independently owns a brand of skate wear, watches, cigars, an additional record company and an app. Can anyone say serial startup entrepreneur?

Russell Simmons

In many ways Russell Simmons has written the blueprint for urban entrepreneurship. His successful relationship with startups began back in the 80’s when he founded Def Jam Recordings. Def Jam was a pioneer in the music world that led to hip hop going mainstream. Simmons has since launched and owns a wide variety of startups, including everything from lifestyle to media, all under the umbrella of Rush Communications.