When the attendees arrived at the Upfront Summit tech event in Los Angeles on Feb. 1, they knew the agenda included plenty of visionaries, celebrities, and well-respected entrepreneurs. The published speaker list included Dan Rather, Halle Berry, and Tim Geithner, but one famous face surprised the crowd: Snoop Dogg. The Grammy-nominated, chart-topping rapper took a break from dropping it like it’s hot to participate in the technology event, but he wasn’t on stage to entertain the audience. Instead, he joined Chamillionaire, a fellow hip-hop artist and CEO of new tech start-up Convoz, for a presentation about Chamillionaire’s platform.
“By me getting into the tech industry, I’m learning how to diversify my portfolio and how to be a better businessman,” Snoop told the audience. “I can master [this tech game] the same way I mastered rap.”
A New Approach to Social Engagement
Snoop’s efforts to master tech may not be as memorable as any of the lyrics on 1994’s Doggystyle, but it’s evidence that technology is top of mind for everyone. Snoop is an early adopter of Convoz, a video service that Chamillionaire believes can fix some of the negative elements of social media. “Shouldn’t we be able to communicate in a way that creates a productive conversation?” he asked.
To spark those conversations, Convoz lets users respond to video messages in an environment that feels like Skype but not in real-time. So, for example, if Shaquille O’Neal — another early Convoz user — shares a video discussing his delay at the airport, other users can send video replies. Then, Shaq can respond to some of the messages. Instead of retweeting, liking comments, and doing other standard text-based social activities, the platform is built on the promise of stronger human connection. It aims to replace the trolling, hurtful messages that echo across Facebook and Twitter with opportunities for people to send thoughtful, encouraging messages.
“Kind words help people get through the day,” Chamillionaire said. “We’re trying to help connect people in a way that you weren’t able to connect before: face-to-face.”
An A+ Pitch
While Snoop stole the show for his three-minute appearance, the real spotlight belonged to Chamillionaire. The voice behind Grammy-winning “Ridin,’” Chamillionaire’s presentation proved that his performance history has turned him into a public speaking professional. “I don’t really want to tell you about his presentation because it was such a masterpiece, so profound and insightful that I’d urge you just to watch it yourself,” Mark Suster, angel investor and investment partner at Upfront Ventures, wrote after the event. “I promise you insights, entertainment, emotion, thoughtful challenges, and a bit of celebrity guest appearances. TED — eat your heart out.”
Watch the entire presentation here. And if you’re looking for a break from technology but you still want to hear from one of the most creative voices from Compton, I recommend Snoop’s dinner party with Martha Stewart.