They’ve made their names managing two of pop’s biggest stars -- Madonna and Justin Bieber, respectively -- but Guy Oseary and Scooter Braun have spent the better of the last 18 months extending their attention and investment portfolios to tech and start-ups through Oseary’s A-GRade fund with Ashton Kutcher and Braun’s own SB Projects. Oseary has invested in over 20 companies both personally and with A-GRade, including AirBnb, Fab.com, Path, Soundcloud and recent Billboard cover "stars" INDmusic, while Braun has been instrumental in companies like Viddy, Tinychat, Stamped, StageIt and Songza. Both Oseary and Braun have been involved with Spotify and Uber, among other companies, and joined teams for an epic lunch at Austin’s Salt Lick barbeque joint on Sunday attended by Kutcher, “Two and a Half Men” creator Chuck Lorre, SB Projects’ Brad Haugen, actress Sophia Bush, Uber’s head of global operations Ryan Graves, BBH LA’s Matt Ross and more.
“We’re gonna go see a bunch of stuff together today,” Braun said of Oseary, asking Haugen to pass the brisket basket. “There’s a couple companies we both want to see that we’ve been sharing each other. We’re more powerful together than apart.”
Though this year marked their respective first SXSW Interactive, it wasn’t either executive’s first trip to Austin. Speaking to Billboard over Shiner Bocks and barbeque sauce, Oseary and Braun recount their tales of their first-ever SXSW Music visits -- Oseary as an 18-year-old A&R rep for Warner Bros., Braun as a 27-year-old up-and-coming artist manager.
Oseary: My first South By, I walked into the Four Seasons and the guy who signed Guns N Roses was there, the guy who signed Nirvana was there and the guy who signed Smashing Pumpkins was there and all these bands I loved. And I thought, “I don’t deserve to be here. I really don’t deserve to be here.” I was 18 maybe but I remember walking with these people and I got taken care of, but I shouldn’t be hanging out with this table. I promised myself I wouldn’t go back until I did something. So I didn’t go back the next year, but the following year I had Candlebox. And this was before cell phones, so I got a phone call while I was at the Four Seasons saying, “There someone calling for you at the restaurant,” and it was Freddy DeMann [cofounder of Maverick Records] and he said “Congratulations, you have your first gold record.” I'd really made it, and it was incredible because I wanted to make something, and then it happened while I was there. So Austin’s always been sentimental to me that way. I really woke up here. A lot of people just want to get in and not earn it. I need to go out and earn that -- you earn something just being at the door.
Braun: My first time was when I brought Asher Roth [in 2009] and I felt the same way. "I don’t want to be here unless I’ve earned something." I took Asher to a bunch of showcases and I felt so validated that I’d achieved something. But then no one told me to RSVP for stuff, so after his showcases we were just wandering the streets and we couldn’t get in anywhere. We were just walking around.
So I’m here at Interactive because I primarily work in the world of music, but I surround myself with people who their passion 24/7 is tech and I want to be around them. I want to learn from them. I think the biggest mistake is thinking you’re an expert because you have one thing you’re good at. At the end of the day I want to learn from everyone and surround myself with people that I love.