Known as an entertainer, entrepreneur and humanitarian, M.C. Hammer also adopted social media tools early on.
Hammer tweeted before most celebrities knew Twitter even existed.
During meetings with Twitter’s founders Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, Hammer explored the emerging world of micro-blogging with his fans. He also began meeting with Google more than 10 years ago when the search engine had just a few thousand employees in Mountain View, Calif.
Mary Grove, now head of Google for Entrepreneurs, remembers those times. On Tuesday, Grove interviewed Hammer before several hundred people at Startup Grind 2014 held at the Computer History Museum.
Hammer lived on the cutting edge of technology and adopted new tools early, Grove said. Entrepreneurial from a young age, Hammer sold baseballs in the parking lot of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Earlier than that, he ran a fruit stand and an ice cream business in Las Vegas, Hammer said.
A lot of similarities exist between rap, hip-hop music and startups, Hammer said.
“I brought my entrepreneurial skills into hip-hop,” he said.
Hammer noticed that the best Oakland As baseball players got the best deals. For example, Reggie Jackson got the Reggie candy bar and he also had a deal to represent Puma shoes.
Hammer decided that a baseball player only plays baseball once a day but a song comes on every hour. So with the increased visibility, he wanted more money from sponsors for his music deals.
Here are six tips for entrepreneurs gleaned from Hammer’s Startup Grind talk:
1. Never be discouraged by the naysayers.
“You just have to keep going,” Hammer said. The first time Hammer started tweeting hundreds of naysayers, primarily public relations people, told him that entertainers and artists shouldn’t do their own marketing.
2. Embrace new technology and tools.
“First thing I say to an artist today – be honest and make the music you want to make – use all new tools to get your music to the consumer,” Hammer said. He’s also a fan of Pinterest. Some naysayers say that “no men are on Pinterest,” Hammer said. “Yes they are. Smart men are on Pinterest. And if it’s all ladies, a smart man like me, should be there,” Hammer joked. But as a marketing tool Pinterest is phenomenal, he said. “The possibilities of what Pinterest can do are actually scary.” He has a page on Pinterest: XX320. He’s also excited about the possibilities of tools like Snapchat.
3. Enjoy communicating with others on social media.
“Tweeting, if you don’t approach it right, is labor,” Hammer said. “It’s never labor to me.” It’s easy to build an influential network on Twitter, he said. In real life, people spend years and pay a lot of money to make relationships with reporters and other tastemakers, Hammer said. The Twitter platform makes it possible to have direct conversations with your fans and others.
4. Give back.
Someone who has less income is as important as someone who has a billion dollars, Hammer said. Treat people well and inspire hope. Adopt Marc Benioff, founder of SalesForce.com’s 1-1-1 model, he said. Spend 1 percent of the company’s equity helping others, donate 1 percent of the employees’ time and donate 1 percent of the products and services to charity. “That model effectively allows you to create a culture for your company of giving back,” Hammer said.
5. Empower People
Previously, Hammer was a control freak. He used to micromanage. Now, he gives his employees power to create and make mistakes. “Delegate authority and allow people to do what they do. Pick great executives and a great team to do that.”
6. Work hard and hone your skill set.
“Silicon Valley, the tech world here, is like the NBA,” Hammer said. “You’ve got a lot of players who look good on the playground on the weekend. They dream of playing in the NBA, but they are not prepared or they are not good enough or they don’t have the skill set to play in the NBA.” When he sees someone who has skills he does everything he can to help them. But they have to work hard to get there. “Do I think that the doors should just fly open and everyone should come in, of course not,” Hammer said. “They have a filter and a vetting process. And what we see in the NBA is the best of the best.”