Most celebrities stick to the trade that made them a star. But some are looking to make returns and get in on the ground floor by backing startups. The likes of Uber, Spotify, Airbnb, and Skype had some big names on their list of investors. Two celebrities, in particular, have used their fame and fortune as a business platform most successfully: Jay-Z as the wealthiest celebrity backer and Katy Perry with the highest average fund amount.
Lately, more celebrity earnings have gone into exciting tech startups—from fintech to healthtech. Let’s see which celebrities and athletes are the most prolific startup investors.
1. Will Smith
Will Smith is the owner of Dreamers VC, which occupies a unique niche—bringing together early-stage US startups and Japanese corporate investors. Aside from his venture capital company, Smith also makes his own high-tech investments.
Some of his recent investments include:
- Arc: At the time, it was a 10-month-old startup developing a limited-edition boat. The high-end electric vessel will cost $300,000.
- Front: This is a partner app to Robinhood, which integrates with their brokerage accounts and offers guidance and recommendations on investors’ stock picks.
- Printify: A print-on-demand company.
- Landis Technologies: A rent-to-own program.
- Titan: An investment adviser.
- Clubhouse: A drop-in audio chat app.
- Spark Neuro: A brain health biomarkers company.
2. Ashton Kutcher
Ashton Kutcher has a tech-focused VC firm, A-Grade Investments. The fact that he studied biochemical engineering and worked as a Lenovo product engineer explains his interest in tech. In 2015, he founded another firm, Sound Ventures. This time, the focus was on early-stage to growth and late-stage startups.
Kutcher was an early investor in massively successful apps like Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, and Skype.
Through Sound Ventures, the actor has made dozens of investments in tech startups:
- Robinhood: A mobile-first brokerage.
- Bird: A California-based micro-mobility app.
- Moovit: A navigation and transit app provider.
- As well as Gusto, Wefox, Calm, Superhuman, and MOLTEN.
3. Serena Williams
Having launched San Francisco-based firm Serena Ventures, Serena Williams focuses on companies founded by women and minorities:
- Fiveable: A social network platform aiming to provide academic empowerment through content, community, and courses. It has raised a total of $15.1 million over 10 rounds.
- Esusu (together with Motley Fool Ventures): A credit-building platform that targets immigrant and minority groups. The fintech startup recently hit a $1 billion unicorn valuation.
- Flockjay: A knowledge-sharing platform, focused on retraining job seekers from non-traditional backgrounds. So far, the company has raised a total of $14 million in funding over three rounds.
- HUED: An equitable and inclusive healthcare startup. In an investment round backed by Serena Williams, the company has raised $1.6 million.
4. Robert Downey Jr.
Robert Downey Jr. founded FootPrint Coalition Ventures, which is an environmental, social, and governance-focused philanthropic project. Its portfolio companies include:
- RWDC Industries: A company that replaces petroleum-derived materials with safe, sustainable alternatives.
- Cloud Paper: A tree-free paper products manufacturer.
- Ynsect: A producer of protein and natural insect fertilizers.
In 2021, Robert Downey Jr. revealed plans for two new investment funds, which will target companies and technologies that address climate change.
The actor’s personal investment portfolio includes Saturn, a personal planner and social media platform.
5. Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio’s investment portfolio is mostly built around environmental issues. But his recent interest in tech startups has turned his attention to all kinds of funding rounds:
- Qloo: An ML- and AI-based tool for predicting global consumer preferences.
- Rubicon: Waste management, recycling, and smart city technology solutions.
- Magnus: An AI-based portfolio optimization platform.
- Mosa Meat: A food technology company (currently focused on cultured meat).
- Struck Capital: A seed-stage venture capital firm that supports founders leveraging tech to solve global issues.
In an environment of attractive opportunities and rising tech startups, it only makes sense that celebrities would set aside large amounts of capital to become the busiest participants in business investments. It has even come to a point when the division between Hollywood and Silicon Valley becomes increasingly blurred. And it’s not only what you know in Silicon Valley, but who you know.