Sportsmen, rock stars, pop singers and actors eagerly invest in startups, especially in the US where both tech and entertainment industries are huge. There is a group of celebrities who’ve even launched their own funds. They know where to drop their dollars, that’s for sure. Who invested in what and was it worth it?
Ashton Kutcher is not only an actor & producer but also an investor & co-founder of A-Grade Investments venture fund. He has made over 70 investments so far, including:
- Flipboard - a social media ‘magazine’ founded in 2010
- Skype - voice-over Internet protocol service (sold to Microsoft for $8,5 million)
- Foursquare - mobile social network
- Path - photo-sharing and messaging app
- Uber - multinational online transportation network company
- AirBnB - the website that allows users to offer their homes or their sofas as an alternative to hotels,
- YPlan - app allowing users to find exclusive events happening that night and book tickets with one click,
- Spotify - digital music service
- Shazam - music app
The companies that will ultimately do well are the companies that chase happiness. If you find a way to help people find love, or health or friendship, the dollar will chase that
Kutcher said in an interview with U.K.’s The Telegraph.
Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, has co-founded an Elevation Partners - private equity firm focused on large-scale investments in media, entertainment, and technology in 2004. Some of his investments include:
- Facebook - social network ($270 million stake),
- Dropbox - cloud storage and sharing,
- Yelp - consumer business review website ($100 million stake),
- Vamo (vacation itinerary planner) Marketshare (analytic company).
There were also some failures, like a $117 million stake in SDI Media which was taken by debtors and a $325 million investment in smartphone maker Palm, which produced a modest $25 million gain.
Ellen DeGeneres - this stand-up comedian and television host has also made some good investments, like:
- $1,5 million stake in Stamped - an app Stamped which allows users to track their favorite things which was acquired by Yahoo for $10 million.
She also has launched her own apps, like: Ellen’s App, Ellentube App, Heads Up and Psych!.
Jared Leto - a musician and an oscar-winning actor who is also one of the silent investors of Silicon Valley, has made more than 50 investments so far, including:
- Nest is a home automation producer of programmable, self-learning, sensor-driven, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats, smoke detectors, and other security systems - acquired by Google for $3,2 billion in cash :)
- Zenefits - a company offering cloud-based SaaS to companies for managing their human resources, with a particular focus on helping them with health insurance coverage,
- Meerkat - mobile app that enables users to broadcast live video streaming through their mobile device.
- Reddit - an entertainment, social news networking service, and news website,
Leto also admitted that he really wanted to invest in Instagram but it was too late - a few days later the app was bought by Facebook. He also has his own startup named Vyrt. Watch the video below where Leto admits that he was the one begging companies for a possibility to invest, not the other way round. It’s pretty interesting considering where Poland is in terms of investing in startups.
Leonardo DiCaprio - the Wolf of Wall Street took part in a $55 million funding (in 2015) for the mattress startup Casper alongside Adam Levine, Scooter Braun and Tobey Maguire. He has also invested in:
- Mobli ($4 million) - photo-sharing app (supported also by Tobey Maguire, Serena Williams and Lance Armstrong),
- Cue - health-monitoring app
- Zuli - smart-home product developer
- Rubicon Global - recycling solutions company
Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones - this rapper, songwriter and producer is also a general partner at venture capital QueensBridge Venture Partners. He has already made over 40 investments, including:
- Change.org - petition platform ($15 million stake)
- Coinbase - bitcoin services provider ($25 million stake)
- DeviantArt - online art community
- SeatGeek - ticket search engine ($35 million stake)
- Robinhood - is a stock brokerage that allows customers to buy and sell U.S. listed stocks and ETFs with zero commission ($13 million stake)
The group of famous, US-based investors is quite impressive. Only to mention a few more:
- Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (Lady Gaga) - invested in Backplane - a social network builder and platform for connecting music and sports fans. Gaga has even her own social networking site, Little Monsters.
- Madonna - an early investor in Vita Coco ($1,5 million) which garnered funding also from Matthew McConaughey, Demi Moore, and Anthony Kiedis. This coconut water is now sold in 30 countries.
- Justin Timberlake - invested in My Space, Stipple - photo-sharing service and Miso Media - music education software maker.
- Robert Downey Jr. - Iron Man investing in tech? Naturally. ;) He even founded Downey Ventures to make it bigger. One of his investments was Maker Studios - network that creates YouTube content such as Epic Rap Battles in History which was acquired by Disney in 2014 for $500 million.
- Jay-Z - this hip-hop king acquired Aspiro (music-streaming service) for $56 million and relaunched it as a Tidal (2015).
- Magic Johnson former NBA star invested in over a dozen tech companies like Marxent - augmented and virtual reality marketing platform, GingkoTree - online curriculum platform, Are You Human - bot detector and Jopwell - diversity hiring platform.
- Tyra Banks former supermodel founded Fierce Capital (investment arm of Tyra Banks Company) and put money into female-focused business, like: The Hunt - social shopping site (acquired by Pinterest), The Muse - millennial career site, Locket - lock screen app (acquired by Wish) and Videogram.
The situation in Poland looks a bit different, as you may assume. The investment market, especially in startups, is still immature. People, even celebrities, are not ready to invest their private money into tech companies. Of course, it stems from the fact that even the biggest Polish stars do not earn as much as their counterparts in the US.
There is one exception - Robert Lewandowski - a football player and an undoubted star of polish national team. He is a partner at Protos VC. Some of his investments are:
- allani.pl - online shopping mall
- twojasuknia.pl - online catalogue of wedding dresses
- ladytime.pl - helps to find a good barber, beautician or other professional in the beauty care industry in the closest area
- Sporticos - the website presenting the results and statistics of matches in an attractive, info graphic form.
- lokalnyrolnik.pl - allows ordering organic food directly from farmers.
- Shoplo – the platform for entrepreneurs who want to set up own online store.
- Positionly – analytic tool for monitoring and optimizing the position of websites in search engines.
I am truly curious how does it look in other countries. And I know that we’ve got here an audience from all around the world: Singapore, Scandinavia, Germany, Canada, UK. So leave a comment and tell me if celebrities in your countries invest in startups or not. I would be grateful for the insights.