By Hillary Latos
When you first meet Lucas Asher he evokes a larger than life personality. But his is a true rag to riches story. As a homeless teenager he understood the meaning of abject poverty and now donates a substantial amount of wealth to helping the homeless. Similar to Ashton Kutcher who is an actor turned tech investor, Asher is a prolific songwriter that is also a tech investor and entrepreneur. With a background in computer science coupled with a strong work ethic, Asher made his first million before he was 20 through web development services and has become one of the most prominent millennial investors in the world with his acute sense of selecting strategic tech companies to invest in during the early stages. Here Resident speaks to Asher about his entrepreneurial endeavors, music career, athletic pursuits, and what inspires greatness.
Tell us about how you got started.
I feel very fortunate to have had tremendous luck as a technology angel investor.
I’ve been an early stage investor in over 35 high profile tech companies including eight IPOs for Pinterest, Eventbrite, Spotify, and Adaptive Biotechnologies.
After making my first million before 20, I became a serial entrepreneur. One of my favorite investments to date is in Space X- and the general acceleration in the colonization of Mars and ubiquitous Internet.
On the music side I’ve written songs licensed by the NY Yankees, ESPN, the NFL and I’m also a songwriter with RZA from the Wu Tang Clan. I recorded at Rick Rubin’s Studio, a legendary music producer and I’m coming out with a new song in January 2020 with one of Kanye West’s music producers.
What kind of things do you look for in your investments?
I only invest in tech and I look for technical founders with a strong math or physics background that have critical thinking. If you’re technically minded you will look for indicators that you are on the right path and a statistical person will look for metrics that validate their thesis which can be quantified by users or revenue. They also must demonstrate grit, perseverance and resilience.
After that, I may make an investment, and then you can pivot on the business model or strategy and make course adjustments.
After investing in over 35+ technology driven companies we currently have billion dollar market cap with Tower Equity. I don’t really focus on ideas. Most ideas have been around forever. For instance, with Airbnb, it is pretty documented Paul Allen had the idea for that in the 90s. Paul Graham, the cofounder of Y Combinator who incubated Airbnb and Dropbox said a startup is a temporary state, it’s not meant to be in that phase for a number of years. The idea is to become a company that is sustainable.
How do you identify value?
It’s based on indicators that are widely accepted. Such as a user base if each user is worth about $100 annually, we can make a valuation. Another is a multiple of revenue. I don’t believe in “story investing” with a charismatic founder or an irrational metric. I come from a math and computer background and I need to see numbers to quantify value.
What do you see as the next big thing to invest in?
My thesis is that network connectivity will be ubiquitous. 5G and Starlink will unleash a renaissance in the app sector where apps that weren’t possible will be possible. Right now three to four billion people aren’t even on the internet yet. E-commerce will be huge in developing countries and there will be a huge surge with the new users. There will be mobile apps that supersede the popular apps today like Instagram. We will share music across different territories. Right now, there are different licenses for music intellectual property across territories. I predict, soon, it will be seamless to share any recorded music across territorial borders.
Raw resources will also be important. I’ve invested in the metals sector and drive a lot of metals distribution in North America. We offer rare earth metals and base metals such as aluminum, copper, and steel. I also am seeding investments in asteroid mining as I believe it has the potential to be a trillion dollar frontier with the advent of space commercialization.
The supply chain dynamics are all broken and antiquated. We think we can distribute metals in a more efficient manner and at a lower the cost for consumers.
I’m also interested in tech protocols, in the fintech space specifically ubiquitous API’s can bring costs down in commissions and fees. If you think about the transfer of money, the framework for liquidity was programmed in the 1970s via ACH and it’s antiquated. It’s an area I’m heavily invested in.
What is your ultimate goal?
We live in a very disruptive time. I want to use technology to connect as many people as I can. I have a utopian idealism with technology. I view technology right now as a mechanism and catalyst for efficiency potentially bringing in a new golden era. This is what I do in the music space already as the CEO of revo.fm, everyone can listen to a song across all territories and connect with their friends through music. At the end of the day writing music or code is based on the same principals of math with many similarities.
What is your philosophy on life?
I’m not that interested or motivated in money. I look at money as a utility like electricity. People aren’t that interested in it, but, when you need it, your life might depend on it. And this is why I think I was able to become relatively successful. Money is not the focus of my life, but rather disruption, innovation, and customer satisfaction. My other hero is Jeff Bezos and I love how he made customer satisfaction the core of his business and users always have to be happy. I think if I wasn’t an entrepreneur or musician I would probably be an academic.
My other hero would be Benjamin Franklin, who was actually turned down by Harvard according to reports and had only two years of formal education.
What does being a disrupter mean to you?
All of the innovation is not coming from the establishment, it’s coming from the disrupters who think differently. The revolutionary spirit is non violent and also a very positive force in order to effect change and values that reciprocate – democracy, equal rights, and better tools to live more efficiently.
That’s why I am focusing my attention on the music sharing space with revo. Services like Apple and Spotify limit users where they can only share with other friends on the same platform and have created a walled garden. Eventually this cuts down on sharing and the social experience. Revo lets friends share their music with each other regardless of which platform they are on for free. My venture firm Tower Equity also invests in the commercialization of space and we’re making a bet that private companies can do a better job in space than governments can. That seems a bit crazy on face value because governments can monetize debt with endless budgets, so how can a company that’s fiscally conservative beat the government? That is exactly what is happening. Those artificial constraints are making private companies more effective than governments.
What are your other interests?
I’m an avid professional skydiver. I’m about to do one of the highest non oxygen jumps in addition to skydiving over the pyramids of Giza on a military C-130 plane. It’s going to be very extreme. My other hero I recently had lunch with is Richard Branson and I’m inspired by his life and how he historically used extreme stunts to promote the Virgin brand.
I’ve always liked adrenaline, and being an entrepreneur is always a precarious job. You become familiar with the uncertain and skydiving is about as risky as you can get. It helps you make decisions under pressure, which Is a skill I think is very valuable.
What goes through your mind before a jump?
You have to be cognizant of your own mortality. Every time you jump it could be your last moment on Earth especially if you are doing something extreme.
What mantra do you live by?
Nature loves courage, it’s a reminder that there is no shortage in the world of things we need for sustenance. The greatest deficit in the 21st century is courage.
Not enough people who are willing to take a risk. Courage is one of the scarcest things in the world. I always need to remind myself that I don’t need more resources or capital, I need more courage.