A lot of startups get funding from venture capitalists, investment banks, and “angel investors” — rich people from the tech industry who get bored and have money to spend.
In times of tech booms, like right now, an additional class of investor emerges: Famous, rich performers from the field of entertainment, like Ashton Kutcher and Leonardo DiCaprio, join the quest to find the next Instagram or Twitter.
A select few have proved that they’ve got the chops to be expert investors. Many more have shown that the tech space is no place for excessively wealthy mega-celebs.
Below, a survey of some of the startup industry’s most famous investors. Let’s just say not all have been as successful in the Valley as they have been on stage.
1. Eddie Vedder
The Pearl Jam front man may not be able to utter a single audible lyric, but he sure can pick a promising startup to back. In April, Dropbox announced that he’d become an investor, spurring ire from fans who called him out for supporting a company with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on its board of directors. (Rice was secretary of state during the Iraq war, which Vedder vehemently protested in many a Pearl Jam song.)
Vedder’s contribution to the company’s latest $250 million investment round might have more to do with his bromance with Dropbox CEO Drew Houston, who originally named the company “Even Flow” after a classic Pearl Jam tune. Guess all’s fair in love and file sharing.
When he’s not delivering aid to Third World countries, Bono, one of the original rockerpreneurs, is likely delivering gobs of money to startups. Though the U2 front man’s early investments — including Palm, Forbes, and Move Inc. — returned meh results, he’s found great success with ventures like Yelp and Facebook. Now it seems that Bono has been drawn to companies that make headlines: case in point, his decision to invest in Dropbox and, most recently, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone’s app, Jelly.
3. Justin Bieber
Always a talented multitasker, our favorite drag-racing pop star finds the time to throw his money at both strippers and startups. He’s invested in an unremarkable video chat website called Tinychat, the social curation app Stamped (which was later bought by Yahoo), a gaming company called Sojo Studios, and — his crown jewel — Spotify.
His latest venture is a teen social network that revolves around selfies. Just the kind of thing you’d expect from a kid whose Instagram feed is an endless stream of his very own puppy-dog eyes. Hey, guess it’s better than having your name on a singing toothbrush.
4. Justin Timberlake
After playing Napster co-founder Sean Parker in David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network, the former ’N Sync front man decided to invest in the recent relaunch of the social network of your youth, Myspace. Though he was able to single-handedly bring sexy back, it does not yet appear that Timberlake’s star power and cash could revive the forlorn Internet relic.
5. Selena Gomez
Even before her ex was slinging selfies to promote his investments, Disney-bred pop star Selena Gomez participated in a $750,000 funding round for Postcard on the Run, an iOS and Android app that allows you to print and send postcards using your phone. Smart investment? Please send us your answer on a postcard. This post will be updated with your answer in seven to 10 days.
6. Neil Young
This 68-year-old rocker was able to raise $1 million at this year’s South by Southwest festival for his own music startup PonoMusic, which will manufacture an MP3 player that resembles a giant yellow Toblerone bar.
The Pono (which, by the way, means “righteous” in Hawaiian), will be able to play digitized music at a much higher quality than the audio that CDs use. Sounds appealing, though the device has its critics: Guardian editor Charles Arthur tested the Pono and wrote that it “offers you a feature — for a premium — that you can’t actually perceive. It’s like invisible clothes or odourless perfume.”
“Invisible clothes or odourless perfume” — sounds like a Neil Young song!
7. Seth Green
Seth Green, best known for his outstanding performance as the virgin white kid in Can’t Hardly Wait, dipped his toe into the investment world when he helped fund a company called Shodogg. The app allows you to stream video content from your smartphone to any Web-enabled computer, no wires attached. It would be cool if there weren’t a bunch of other things out there that make it sort of obsolete!
8. LeBron James
The insanely talented free agent knows his stuff both on and off the court. Around the same time he was leading the Miami Heat to a victory over the Indiana Pacers in the NBA’s Eastern Conference finals, he was also finalizing the details of his $30 million cash payout after Apple acquired Beats. Mind you, this was all after he negotiated a stake in the Dr. Dre-backed company in exchange for promoting the headphones. In sum, everything LeBron James touches turns to gold. (Um, except for this year’s Miami Heat.)
9. Dr. Dre
And speaking of Beats, we can’t overlook Dr. Dre’s amazing ascent from Compton-born rapper to hip-hop’s richest mogul. In partnership with Interscope Records’ Jimmy Iovine, he launched a stylized headphone company called Beats By Dre. With the help of numerous partnerships with celebrities, the premium-priced headphones soon became a hot commodity, catching the attention of Apple executives. In May of this year, Apple made a $3 billion bid for the company, bringing both Iovine and Dre into their community as executives. Dre even made a cameo during this year’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, during which he asked what time he should come in to work that day.