Bagging a financial backer for your fledgling business is every founder’s dream. But it’s not just the venture capitalists and corporations looking for the next Uber or Google.
Celebrities are morphing into angel investors and throwing millions at some weird and wonderful tech startups. For example, one of the most active celebrity investor targets is the mattress manufacturer Casper, which is backed by celebs including Leonardo Dicaprio, Tobey Maguire, Adam Levine and heavyweight investor Ashton Kutcher.
But it’s important for such startups not to be blinded by the celebrity status. For example, when Kutcher popped into tech startup hub Atlanta Tech Village the community was pleasantly surprised, according to Karen Houghton, director of Atlanta Tech Village.
“Ultimately, startup founders have to be really careful because it’s not just the money they’re getting, it’s also the people. I think that’s one of the things I found refreshing about Ashton Kutcher – he was extremely educated and passionate about the tech startup sector and the industries they are working in,” Houghton explained.
There’s a difference between being a celebrity with money and investing in a startup to really understanding the business you’re investing in. Houghton added: “It’s really neat when someone is also an expert in that space, along with the celebrity status. When they can engage in technical conversations – and that’s what shocked me about Ashton Kutcher. He could go there – a lot of VCs cannot do that, so he was super unique.”
So, tread with care and bear in mind that technical knowledge, not celebrity status, is more important when picking an investor.
Here are 10 celebrity tech backers that may (or may not) surprise you:
10. Andy Murray
The tennis ace invested an undisclosed amount of money into cycle navigation app Beeline, pet monitoring app Dog Tracker Nano, and “beauty on demand” service blow LTD. Murray did this through the crowdfunding platform Seedrs, which he has been in a “strategic partnership” with since June 2015.
9. Lady Gaga
Image: Harper’s Bazaar
This musical superstar has backed startups like Zynga and Backplane, a platform that connects music and sports stars with their fans. Unfortunately, Backplane crashed and burnt last year but this didn’t put Lady Gaga off. Her Buddy Platform startup just launched a connected tech system to reduce power bills.
Image from: will.i.am
The Black Eyed Peas musician is well known for his love of strange gadgets and robotics. But he’s one smart cookie and owned a founding stake in Beats Electronics, which was purchased by Apple just shy of £2bn in 2014. His tech company, i.am+, is rolling out an AI virtual assistant and he just became an advisor to UK app-only bank Atom.
7. Jay Z
Image from Rolling Stone
The rapper and business mogul has taken his involvement in the startup scene one step further and recently launched Arrive, a VC firm to fund startups, offer branding support and more. He also invested to (reportedly struggling) music streaming service Tidal along with a group of fellow musicians. Other notable investments include a premium sock company (yes, really) called Stance and his participation in Uber’s 2011 Series B funding round, when it was valued at just $300 million. Uber’s valuation has since ballooned to $66 billion. Maybe we’re wrong about the socks.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio
Image from The Gazette Review
Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has invested in a range of tech startups. Back in 2011, he led a $4 million round in photo sharing app and Israeli startup Mobli. One of his earliest investments was in Rubicon Global, a waste and recycle management services firm. He’s also invested in mobile phone company Solarin and electric car maker Fisker AutoMotive.
5. Tyra Banks
Image from Stanford Graduate School of Business
Tyra Banks has invested in The Muse, which is a site that helps people figure out what to do for a living, video greetings card company VideoGram, online style community The Hunt and ad app earner Locket. After graduating from Harvard Business School in 2014, she’s become a founder and CEO of TYRA Beauty, her social-selling makeup startup launched in 2015.
4. Justin Timberlake
Image from World’s Greatest Art Site
The musician attempted to revive the ailing MySpace social network in 2012, but it was later sold to Time Inc. Undeterred, Timberlake has had success with creative consulting company Particle, which was acquired by Apple in 2012 and San Francisco startup Stipple, a platform that lets users tag people, places, and objects in an image.
3. Jared Leto
Image from The Gazette Review
Musician and actor Leto has made more than 50 investments in early stage tech companies, including Uber, AirBnB and smart home startup Nest, which was purchased by Google for more than $3 billion in 2014. He also invested in virtual reality startup Oculus, which sold for $2 billion to Facebook in 2014 and met up with Instagram days before Facebook acquired the business for $1 billion.
Image from Vibe
Rapper Nas has invested in more than 100 companies through early-stage tech investor QueensBridge Venture Partners, where he is a partner. His investments include Bitcoin services provider Coinbase, the online art community DeviantArt, and text annotation website Genius. Nas has reportedly invested $500,000 in tech startups alone. Like Snoop Doggy Dogg, he’s invested in stock trading app Robinhood. More recent investments include a mobile app for diabetics called DoseDr.
1. Ashton Kutcher
Image from People
Dude, where’s my startup? Don’t be fooled by the goofy characters Kutcher so often portrays – when it comes to tech investment he’s the one to watch. So much so that (along with music manager Guy Oseary) he’s built a $250 million portfolio with startups like Uber and AirBnB. He’s invested in Box, Gigster, Casper, and Skype, to name a few.