Kevin Hart is a movie star, one of the world’s greatest comedians, and a passionate fighter against cancel culture.
But he’s also, in Jay-Z lingo, “a business, man”: a budding tycoon with a foothold in media production, NFTs, lingerie, and startups through his venture capital firm, HartBeat Ventures.
“I don’t like using the term celebrity; At this point, I’m a company, I’m a brand,” Hart said during a panel at TechCrunch’s Disrupt conference on Wednesday.
Growing up in North Philadelphia, where Hart said talks about personal finance didn’t exist, he initially viewed investing with a healthy skepticism. His eventual exploration of venture investing was the result of years of education about venture capital and the broader economy.
“Investing for me was associated with the cheating space,” Hart said. “The biggest learning for me was understanding that investing comes with a schedule; Just because I invest today doesn’t mean I’ll get anything tomorrow.”
Hart shared the stage with Robert Roman, co-founder and president of HartBeat Ventures, and Michael Elanjian, head of digital investment banking at JP Morgan. The occasion was JP Morgan writing a check for HartBeat Ventures’ new fund, the firm’s first institutional investment. Elanjian said the investment is part of Project Spark, the bank’s initiative to invest in various emerging capital managers.
How high this check was, however, remained unsaid.
Despite valiant efforts from moderator and TechCrunch reporter Natasha Mascarenhas to shed more details about the investment, HartBeat Ventures’ stated commitment to funding various companies, or the fund’s focus areas, speakers stubbornly stuck to their talking points.
But it was a great opportunity to see Hart in action — not as a comedian, but in a role more familiar to startup-centric audiences. That is, a public venture capitalist who shares business platitudes.
In the way of founders, HartBeat Ventures resets:
“When people get passionate about things and give 100% to things, they find a way to give it their all. I think that puts you in a position to make the best return on your business,” the stand-up star said.
How the company is poised to grow beyond Hart himself:
“This is a space and a world where egos cannot exist. The only way to improve is by strengthening. […] This is a table where we sit and talk, brainstorm and come up with the best solution-based ideas possible,” Hart said.
To build relationships within the technology:
“If I want to have the right relationship in this area, I have to be willing to put in the work to achieve more. I can do that very well. I think that’s the separation of Kevin Hart and the world from this and that,” he philosophized.
Ultimately, Hart painted his stints at HartBeat Ventures as a journey to attempt to create an enduring business and brand that lives outside of his personality as a performer. If the firm’s new partnership with a major bank is any indication, he could be onto something.
“When I look at names on tops of buildings I’m like, ‘Why can’t this be a HartBeat Ventures? Why can’t this have a name associated with an entity that I helped create that is long-lived and evergreen?” Hart said.
“If it was just for the Kevin Hart effect, I would go and do shows, I would do more films. It’s not for me and that’s the difference,” he said.