Shara Senderoff attended a dinner party in the Los Angeles backyard of her friend and occasional work collaborator, Jamie Gutfreund, in late 2020. The two had met a decade earlier in a meeting between their companies.
Guests of Gutfreund’s pandemic party included a Broadway composer, a French billionaire and a BBC journalist. They huddled under blankets and near heaters as Senderoff spoke about the metaverse. Concepts like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), cryptocurrency and decentralized autonomous organizations were newly popular—but Senderoff had been talking about them for half a decade.
“People didn’t know what she was talking about, but they were riveted,” Gutfreund said. “It felt like we were on a camping trip and some elder was telling us the secrets of the universe.”
Since the beginning of Senderoff’s career, she has been an innovator in the entertainment industry. Senderoff, 37, began creating short-form video content for the Mark Gordon Company in 2009, years before streaming services began doing so. She collected data from the videos to better understand audiences, which wasn’t common practice in film at the time. She prompted actors to market their films on Facebook years before the term “influencer marketing” became mainstream. She founded a company that reimagined how students find internships, and her venture capital fund foresaw the biggest tech boom in recent history.
She sees innovations and trends so far in advance the real work is explaining them in the present, she said. For example, her venture capital fund, Raised In Space, began investing in metaverse companies in early 2019, before the public started to understand the metaverse as a concept in 2020. One investment—in 100 Thieves, an esports company—has since tripled in value. “I live five years in the future,” she said “I’m practically not here.”
Earlier this year, the Observer named her one of 25 People Powering the Creator Economy.
While other venture capitalists might take a strictly analytical approach to making deals, Senderoff’s business strategy includes her belief in manifestation, meditation and her evaluation of energies as well. She meditates twice a day for 90 minutes total and practices the “Magic Mantra,” which is supposed to feed manifestation. Every person she has worked with has been manifested, or “believed into existence,” she said. She also relies on numerology and calls on energy healers to discuss negotiations.
And she knows how this sounds. But those who label the spiritual world as nonsense can’t benefit from it, she said. “Millionaires don’t need astrologers, but billionaires do,” she said, quoting a phrase she attributed to J.P. Morgan. And she claims to know what the next big tech innovation will be.
Business people who are more by-the-book aren’t necessarily going to like her, Gutfreund said. “You have to be willing to go for the ride.”
Using the spiritual world to help evaluate investments
Senderoff runs Raised In Space, a venture capital fund focused on the convergence of music and blockchain technology. She founded it in 2019 alongside music mogul Scooter Braun, known for buying Taylor Swift’s backlog of music, and Zach Katz, former U.S. president of BMG, a music publisher and record label. While Raised In Space hasn’t publicly disclosed how much money it raised, it has completed 17 deals over nearly four years, investing $500,000 to $5 million each. Along with 100 Thieves, it invested in Wave, which builds virtual reality concerts; Community, which lets brands text their audiences; and Altered State Machine, which puts artificial intelligence into NFTs, making them three-dimensional.
Though she began Raised In Space wanting to invest in a substantial portion of women-led companies, she has only backed one woman founder, which she blames on a lack of diversity in the space. Only 20 to 30 percent of the founders in all blockchain companies are women, she said.
Raised In Space has received thousands of pitches in its nearly four years as a venture fund.
“I can tell within four seconds of looking at a pitch if a founder is compelling,” Senderoff said. She also evaluates pitches based on a company’s financial model, if a product is feasible and whether the timing is right. It’s easy to separate the good and bad pitches, she said. Some founders tell blatant lies, and others don’t have practical products. But when it comes to separating the good pitches from the ones that ultimately get funding, she relies heavily on the transcendental.
Senderoff meets regularly with energy healers, who help clients analyze the energies of different situations, or how they feel, to make informed decisions. She has been working with Fatima Mbodj, a New Orleans-based energy healer who consults primarily with business executives, for more than four years. Mbodj said she also regularly meets with a Hollywood director, the owner of a marketing firm and the CEO of a music industry business, though she didn’t name names.
Meeting with Mbodj isn’t like using a crystal ball, Senderoff said. Senderoff doesn’t bring a pitch deck to a meeting and ask if she should invest. But she speaks with Mbodj about the energy she feels from the founders she’d potentially work with to determine if their values align with hers. She imagines how grateful they are and what pain they want to overcome, Senderoff said. For Senderoff, gratitude is the key to a founder’s success because when they’re grateful, their thoughts are inherently positive, and positivity reverberates back. She’ll ask founders questions to gauge how open and inquisitive they are, and she then evaluates their gratitude. Once she settles on an investment to pursue, she evaluates the numbers she has control over with Mbodj.
Money and numbers are representative of energy, Senderoff said. And if the numbers are off, the balance of the people working together is off.
She might ask Mbodj if it feels right to own 10 percent of a company. And she’s not asking for her business opinion. She’s asking her to read the energy around the 10 percent figure. If it’s too high or low, it could leave one party feeling resentful of the deal. “No business interactions that are miserable turn out to be successful,” Senderoff said.
Many CEOs and business executives struggle balancing the intuitive and the logical, favoring the latter, Mbodj said. And compared to people in similar roles as Senderoff, “she’s actually kind of an anomaly.”
Senderoff credits her heightened sense of consciousness to her meditation practices. She begins each morning at 6 a.m. with 70 minutes of meditation and hasn’t missed a day in four years. While sometimes she sits in silence, she also recites mantras. She’s been saying the same mantras for two years that are supposed to bring her love, debt completion and protection from accidents. She’s also reciting the Magic Mantra, made of words that translate to “There is one Creator of all Creation. All is a blessing of the One Creator. This realization comes through Guru’s Grace.” Senderoff isn’t religious, although she grew up Jewish, but she says she is highly spiritual and contends there is a higher power. The mantra is meant to cancel negativity and shepherd intuition.
She has also read more than 30 books about quantum physics to better understand energy, she said. Senderoff is currently reading The Self-Aware Universe, which argues consciousness, rather than matter, grounds existence. Her father jokes she’s a hippie, but she’s never felt more grounded, she said.
“[Senderoff] can carry a vision based on what feels right—not just what makes sense—that also tends to encompass the wellbeing of others,” Mbodji said. “Other people work within the confines—not necessarily trailblazing even if that’s why they were tapped for their position.”
“Shara is a conduit to the future,” she said, “What business is turning into, and probably what it should look like for the success of all.”
Ready to run the company before she got the job
Senderoff grew up outside of Philadelphia as the oldest of three sisters. Her father was an instrument salesman and guitarist in local bands, including one called Rock Therapy. Her mother worked as a respiratory therapist.
She has always been creative, said her sister Dre Reilly. For her bat mitzvah, Senderoff burned CDs as party gifts, and then she did the same for her friends and Dre, her sister said. She could be found with a video camera in hand during high school, creating short films of her and her friends’ lives.
Senderoff knew she’d move to Los Angeles to work in entertainment before she had even visited the city. She enrolled at Emerson College, a small liberal arts school in Boston, because it allowed students to spend a semester studying in Los Angeles. While still a student in 2007, she landed a job as a second assistant at the Mark Gordon Company, a Los Angeles-based production company known for shows like 2012, Grey’s Anatomy and Criminal Minds.
“She interviewed like she was ready to take over the company before she even started as an assistant,” said Allyson Seeger, then Gordon’s first assistant and now an executive at Sunday Night, the production company she founded with John Krasinski. Senderoff was qualified for the role, but so were many applicants. Seeger green-lighted Senderoff because she saw her as someone she could sit next to every day.
Senderoff and Seeger sat at a long desk outside of Gordon’s office scheduling meetings, planning travel, fielding scripts and writing meeting minutes. One of them would listen in to every phone call Gordon participated in to take notes, which let them learn about the entertainment industry from the executives running it, Seeger said. And when they finished these tasks, they could work on whatever project they could get in on.
One project was figuring out how to better predict a film’s success based on data. The film industry at the time didn’t know how to track and understand audiences, Senderoff said. It was risky to spend hundreds of millions on production to have films perform poorly in test screenings or end up losing money in the box office, she said. Her solution was to film short-form content and distribute it online to track what audiences were interested in before pouring millions of dollars into production. The Mercury Men, a series of sci-fi web shorts, came from this project. (It was released on YouTube and garnered 10,000 views across 10 episodes but was never made into a film).
In 2012, Senderoff partnered with Gordon to launch Intern Sushi, a company she helped develop in college. The website offered an alternative internship application process where in lieu of resumes, students submitted personal videos. It tagged intern profiles and internship applications with hundreds of keywords to match applicants to positions—similar to how LinkedIn matches candidates to jobs now. Intern Sushi targeted internships in entertainment, a historically difficult industry to break into.
The following years, a wave of lawsuits hit companies like Fox Searchlight Pictures, Warner Music, Condé Nast and CBS over their unpaid internships. Companies canceled their programs, and Senderoff sold Intern Sushi in 2015.
The genius people need to meet
After seven years at Mark Gordon, Senderoff left the company and began her own creative consulting firm called Something Gold—named after a song lyric written by her friend, Jenn Korbee. The two became friends in 2010 and talk on a daily basis. Five years ago, Korbee asked Senderoff to hold her newborn daughter while she completed an errand. When Korbee returned, Senderoff had read the 3-day-old the Bitcoin white paper from start to finish. Now preschool age, Korbee’s daughter sees Senderoff at least once each week. She meditates and has asked her friends if they own NFTs, Korbee said.
For Something Gold, Senderoff consulted on data, audience growth and creative projects for music industry companies and artists, including Post Malone, Katy Perry, Sony’s RCA Records and Warner Music Group’s Atlantic Records.
Mike Caren, the record producer who signed Wiz Khalifa and Flo Rida, heard about Senderoff in 2016 through Grover Biery, former general manager of Warner Bros. Records. Senderoff and Biery met months earlier through a connection. Biery introduced her as some “genius” Caren needed to meet, Caren said.
“The universe put us together,” Senderoff said.
Senderoff worked with Caren on creative direction, including planning the release of Charlie Puth’s song “Attention.” She pitched building an “attention room”—what she said would be a physical representation of what happens when the brain gets dopamine from attention. She designed a highly Instagrammable LED-lit tunnel on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The logo Senderoff designed for the experience—a red rectangle with the word “attention” through it—became Puth’s cover art for the single. She also created the art for his next single, “How Long.”
Not everyone in the music industry knows about Senderoff, Caren said. “But her reputation is growing in the smarter, more forward thinking circles.”
Biery also connected her with Zach Katz, with whom she founded Raised In Space in 2019. They agreed the industry was unwilling to evolve, and wrongfully so, Senderoff said. With Braun, who Senderoff met while scouting investors for Intern Sushi, the three formulated what would become their venture fund. Braun had already been in contact with Ripple, a cryptocurrency business, who provided Raised In Space with the cash.
Drew Stein, founder of Audigent, pitched Senderoff during lunch at Los Angeles’ Soho House. Audigent, which compiles datasets on fanbases and sells them to advertisers, was looking for its Series A investment. Raised In Space contributed to Audigent’s $6.7 million round, and Senderoff became a board member and advisor to Stein.
She showed up on Stein’s sales pitches, redesigned Audigent’s branding and introduced Stein to countless contacts.
It’s unusual for a venture capitalist to behave that way, he said. Usually they’re silent, but Senderoff “gets into the mud with the founders.”
“I don’t know too many investors that could give the sales pitch themselves, and she’s one of them,” he said.
The internet with a few tweaks
“The metaverse is the future of the internet,” Senderoff said. “It’s absolutely unavoidable.” But it’s not the metaverse skeptics imagine.
It isn’t a place or a virtual reality game but a behavior, she said. “And not where Facebook builds you a world that you go in and live by their rules.”
The metaverse Senderoff imagines is the current internet with a few tweaks. For example, users will be able to move assets across platforms. Someone could find a mid-century modern bed from Restoration Hardware and virtually take it to Pottery Barn to find matching bed sheets. They could then ask for lighting that feels cozy and suggestions would appear. They could build a mock-up of their home in the metaverse to show interior designers their style. It is the epitome of convenience, she said.
She also envisions redefined human connection in the future—a more “harmonious humanity,” she said—partly initiated by metaverse technology. The metaverse will give users more agency and control, she said. They can opt out of being tracked and sharing data, and they’ll be compensated if they decide to share personal information. For example, a shopper could go into the metaverse Nike store as a rabbit avatar, which doesn’t reveal their age or gender. Nike might then say, “We noticed you’re looking at those shoes. For 20 percent off, would you be willing to tell us if you’re male or female?” While internet users have that data stolen from companies by simply visiting a website, the metaverse offers a true value exchange, she said.
Senderoff’s next venture will focus on the metaverse. And she has no backup plan. “There is no backup plan needed,” she said. “This is the future.”
“I want to make sure the next version of the internet is built with integrity and authenticity and compassion,” she said. “People don’t think these words belong around business and power and money, but they do.”
Update: The story has been updated to clarify that Senderoff uses conventional business tools as well as non-conventional methods when making investment decisions.