Julius “J” Erving Jr. was born into greatness. As the son of NBA legend, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the music executive, who currently serves as the co-president of the Atom Factory (home to clients Miguel, John Legend, Meghan Trainor), also dabbles in investing for Uber, Spotify and a Target school supply line.
Still not impressed? As Sony Music Entertainment’s former Vice President of Artist Relations and Brand Integration, Erving helped the label develop relationships with Reebok, AXE, GTV Vodka, PopWater, Songza, and Harper Collins. He also owns children’s clothing e-boutique, Black Sheep Mob.
Beyond the checkbooks, J. Erving Jr. is able to balance a multitude of investments while finding the “fun” in funds. Here, he dishes on his business philosophy and why he co-signs Jay Z’s TIDAL.
VIBE: Your resume is stacked with different ventures. What is your number one business philosophy?
J. Erving Jr.: I would say diversity. I was kind of driven to music first. As an individual, music has taken me into a lot of different areas like technology, branding, apparel, school supplies, film, and television. The ability to be diverse and open-minded is important. Technology is an area where I’ve been having a lot of fun with because I’m learning everyday. It’s ever-changing but it’s kind of a new area for me. When I say “new,” I’ve been looking at it for the last six or seven years but it’s still very much an educational process. We’ve invested in Uber, Spotify and a bunch of others. From an investment perspective, all of it’s been fun.
Talk to me about the process of recognizing a company’s potential, especially when they’re starting out.
When you stand on a corner, press a button on an app, your car shows up and [the fare is] basically the same cost of a cab, it’s pretty easy to see how that could affect people’s lives. I think the same thing with Spotify. When you go on it and click on your favorite artist and all of these things pop up, save it to your phone, create these playlists, it’s very easy to see how that kind of affects your life. I’ve invested in things that I can understand. Especially in the beginning, there were a couple [companies] that were outside of my wheelhouse but I kind of got it, like this company called Tuition I.O. that I invested in personally. I don’t know much about the financial space but I really believed in the team after they walked me through it and showed me how it helped people deal with and pay student loans. If you pay an extra fifty or ninety cents a month, how that significantly affects your balance. I know kids are confused about who to pay and how to pay, and this app just kind of aggregates that. There are different ways in which we look at stuff and that’s one of the things I had to personally learn how to do and not jump at everything. A lot of these pitches sound good and you have to really take time to understand the team and the surrounding teams around the projects and whether they can execute the ideas.
We’re in an age right now where an entrepreneur can be in high school, create an app, and become a millionaire in a day. What are your three tips for young CEOs and investors who are trying to diversify their portfolio or don’t know how to begin investing?
Number one is educate yourself. Two is probably be patient and three would be diligence. Spend a lot of time figuring out the plan to generate revenue, the exit strategy, and the team around the opportunity.
Your father is a basketball legend but what has he taught you in terms of being a successful business person?
I can’t give all of the credit to him; it’s a combination between my mother and father. They valued me and my being driven. They’ve always been supportive of the things I wanted to do, down to the dropping out of college to start my own company. I don’t think they were happy about it initially but they were supportive. I wouldn’t recommend it for my children, because I don’t know how supportive I’d be if my son told me he wanted to drop out of college to start his own company but ultimately I had their support. My dad and I are very different in terms of how we do business. I don’t know if it’s an age thing but one of the things I’d like to learn more from him is patience. He’s very calculated and very patient. Sometimes I can kind of jump out on things I have a knee-jerk reaction to.
As an investor in Spotify, how do you feel about the state of music right now, especially with Jay Z’s TIDAL coming into the fold?
It’s the future of music. I have a 14-year-old son who doesn’t consume, discover, or buy music on iTunes even. Far gone are the days of buying CDs and the generation I grew up in. I think that we’re going to the next phase of how music is going to be consumed and these streaming services aren’t going anywhere any time soon. We have to build it into our plan in terms of how we get music out and speak to consumers. [Jay Z and his team have] built a phenomenal business over there and made several smart moves, but surely this is another one.