Celebrities Turned Venture Capital Investors and Startup Co-Founders
Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash
Celebrities and athletes are increasingly prolific investors in startups. While the venture capital industry has traditionally been dominated by individuals with extensive finance and tech backgrounds, it is increasingly common to see celebrities involved in startup investing, as well.
Although celebrity startup investments have spanned a wide range of companies, many investments have been focused on the tech or health and wellness industries. Here are a few notable examples of celebrities who have joined the startup game:
Celebrities Involved in VC Investing
Few Hollywood actors have had such a long, illustrious film career as Leonardo DiCaprio. His list of startup investments is similarly long and successful.
DiCaprio focuses many of his investments on technology startups, particularly those committed to environmentally sustainable practices. In its Series B financing round, DiCaprio funded the mattress e-commerce company Casper. More recently, he invested in Rubicon, a waste management software platform. He also invested in MindMaze, a Swiss virtual reality startup that attained unicorn status in 2016.
DiCaprio is passionate about environmental protection. Few celebrities have invested in multiple sustainable food startups, like animal-free dairy protein company Perfect Day as well as plant-based milk brand Califia Farms. Additionally, he supports the lab-grown meats trend and invests in two cultured meat companies: Netherlands-based Mosa Meat and Israel-based Aleph Farms.
Other Celebrities Investing VC
Serena Williams has been sharpening her investing game off the tennis court. The tennis star has been especially focused on supporting minority-led companies. She created Serena Ventures to facilitate the growth of early-stage ventures with diverse founders or teams. Serena Ventures has more than 50 companies in its portfolio. Of those companies, 60% have diverse founders. The VC firm has also made investments in startups including Daily Harvest, Little Spoon, and The Wing.
Aside from her venture capital activities, Serena serves on the board of directors of many prominent companies including Poshmark and SurveyMonkey. She also joined the board of directors of a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Jaws Spitfire Acquisition Corporation in 2020. The SPAC entity took a 3D printing company public in 2021.
Ashton Kutcher, whose career launched with the sitcom That ‘70s Show, is making his mark in startup investing circles. He started two California-based venture capital firms: A-Grade Investments and Sound Ventures. With two longtime friends, Guy Oseary and Ron Burkle, Kutcher’s venture capital firms have made successful investments in Spotify, Airbnb, Uber, and other companies.
Unlike many celebrities who entered the investment game recently, Kutcher has been an active investor for at least a decade. In 2009, he backed Foursquare and Skype. His investment in Skype generated a lofty return when the video chatting company was sold to Microsoft in 2011. Some of Kutcher’s more recent investments include in the mattress startup Casper and the flower delivery app BloomThat.
Healthcare, Fintech and Cryptocurrency
The rapper Nas, who founded Queensbridge Venture Partners, has become a seasoned early-stage startup investor. Based in Los Angeles, Nas’ VC firm is especially interest in backing healthcare, fintech, and cryptocurrency startups.
Queensbridge Venture Partners was an early investor in Ring, a manufacturer of smart home products like home security cameras and doorbells. When Ring was acquired by Amazon in a $1 billion deal, Nas’ VC firm earned a windfall.
Another of the celebrities, Priyanka Chopra, the famed Indian actress and wife of Nick Jonas, made a large investment in Bumble, a dating app. Founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd, it is leading dating app platform. Ms. Chopra’s involvement in Bumble provided crucial marketing for the company’s expansion into India.
The Harvard-educated actress and filmmaker has made several startup investments in recent years. Alongside Oprah and Jay-Z, Natalie Portman invested in the oat-milk brand Oatly. Today, Oatly is valued at around $2 billion. Along with Justin Timberlake and other celebrities, she also backed Bowery Farming, a vertical farming startup. Finally, she put money into Maven Clinic, a telemedicine startup specializing in fertility and family planning services.
Celebrity Founded Startups
Instead of putting money into startups, some celebrities are simply building up their own business empires. There are many celebrity-founded businesses in the media, alcohol, cosmetics, and clothing industries. Some examples are below.
- Kate Hudson—Fabletics
- George Clooney—Casamigos
- Ryan Reynolds—Aviation American Gin
- Gwyneth Paltrow—Goop
- Jessica Alba—The Honest Company
- Rihanna—Fenty Beauty
- Reese Witherspoon—Hello Sunshine
- Kim Kardashian—ShoeDazzle
- Kylie Jenner—Kylie Comestics