Top 6 celebrities investing in the technology startup space
Having made their millions in the celebrity spotlight, an increasing number of celebrities – from athletes to actors – are getting smart to the potential of investment in tech startups.
While some have been investing for a long time, even launching their own VC firms, others have more recently got in on the tech startup action putting their celebrity earnings into exciting startups, from fintech to foodtech to healthtech.
From actors Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ashton Kutcher to athletes Serena Williams and Andy Murray, we profile six of the world’s most prolific celebrity investors.
Will Smith, actor
As the owner of venture capital company, Dreamers VC, which brings together Japanese corporate investors and early-stage US startups, actor Will Smith has made a number of high-tech investments.
Most recently, in October 2021, Smith participated in a funding round of Arc, a 10-month-old startup developing electric watercraft including a limited-edition US$300,000 boat. Celebrity rapper Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ Combs Enterprises also joined the funding round. And in September 2021, he joined the US$4m funding round for fintech startup Front, a strategic investment platform and companion app to Robinhood, Coinbase and Stash, that helps guide better investment decisions for new investors.
Smith’s other significant investments have included in Printify, a leading print-on-demand ecommerce platform; Landis Technologies, a startup that uses the classic rent-to-own strategy to make home ownership more accessible; Titan, an investment management platform; Clubhouse, the now-popular drop-in audio chat app; and Spark Neuro, a company that uses neurotech and AI to revolutionise the media, medical and defence industries.
Ashton Kutcher, actor
While Ashton Kutcher is better known as a Hollywood actor, the former biochemical engineering graduate and Lenovo product engineer is also a serial investor, co-founding in 2010 a tech-focused VC firm A-Grade Investments. He made early bets on Uber, Airbnb Spotify and Skype, turning US$30m investment into US$250m, according to Forbes, before founding investment firm Sound Ventures in 2015, a firm focused on early-stage to growth and late-stage startups.
Kutcher has made dozens of investments in tech startups. Via Sound Ventures, he has invested in micro-mobility startup Bird, navigation app Moovit and trading app Robinhood. He’s participated in a US$17m funding round for HR management software startup Gusto; backed Berlin insurtech startup Wefox and joined with singer Harry Styles and other investors in raising US$1bn for the meditation and sleep app, Calm, now a unicorn. Most recently, Kutcher has provided funding for enterprise software startup MOLTEN and Superhuman, an email client solution, which attracted a star-studded investment cast including Will Smith.
Serena Williams, tennis player
Having launched San Francisco-based VC firm Serena Ventures in 2014 to back early-stage companies, tennis star Serena Williams has become known for investing in startups that support women and minority communities. Many of her investments have been in the tech sector with a focus on education, health and financial equality.
Recently, Williams backed a seed funding round for health-tech company HUED, a black-owned business aimed at addressing racial health disparities; participated in a funding round for edtech startup Fiveable, a first-of-its-kind social learning platform connecting event-led spaces with guidance and resources; and joined Motley Fool Ventures in a US$10m series A investment found for fintech startup Esusu, a black-owned tech firm that helps lessors raise their credit scores.
She also joined actor Will Smith and other investors in raising US$11m edtech startup Flockjay, a bootcamp startup that retrains jobseekers from non-traditional and under-represented backgrounds.
Robert Downey Jr., actor
The Iron Man actor recently launched ESG-focused Footprint Coalition Ventures (FCV), a philanthropic project that brings together investors, donors and storytellers to help scale solutions to environmental issues. And at the start of 2021, during the World Economic Forum’s virtual Davos meeting, he unveiled two new investment funds as part of FCV to support startups developing technologies that help address climate change.
Among its portfolio companies are RWDC Industries, a biotech company creating eco-friendly plastic alternatives; Cloud Paper, a tree-free paper products startup; and Ynsect, a world leader in natural insect protein and fertiliser production.
The actor also recently participated in a US$44m funding round for calendar-based social platform Saturn.
Andy Murray, tennis player
Struggling to reestablish himself on the professional tennis circuit after injury, British athlete Andy Murray is tapping into the tech investment game instead.
Murray has invested in more than 30 startups via a UK-based crowdfunding platform, Seedrs, a move that has landed him an entry on to a Celebrity Investments Index from money.co.uk. These include investment in charity tech startup GoodBox, a business that helps charities accept contactless donations via card-reading donation boxes; and in ‘doctor on-demand platform ZoomDoc.
The former world number one is also putting his hard-earned money into a number of fintechs. In 2017, Murray backed digital bank Revolut; the following year, he participated in a US$1.6m funding round for mortgage lender Landbay; and more recently, backed invoice financing platform Investly, a marketplace that connects investors to companies that need short-term capital.
Leonardo DiCaprio, actor
Already known for his philanthropic work on environmental issues, the Oscar-winning actor is also an avid startup investor. Over the last decade, he has invested in a number of startups, including leading a US$3m funding round for social mobile photo and video sharing app Mobli, which no longer exists.
And while DiCaprio does back non-tech startups, particularly those in the eco sphere, having invested in alternative meat manufacturer Beyond Meat, more recently, he has turned his attention to tech startups.
As well as participating in a US$4.5m Series round of funding for software startup Qloo, which uses AI to understand taste and cultural correlations, the actor has backed recycling technology developer Rubicon, joining Goldman Sachs in a US$50m funding round in 2016, as well as in New York-headquartered Magnus, an app that bills itself as a Shazam for art. His latest investment is in Foodtech Dutch company Mosa Meat which produces meat from lab-cultivated animal cells.
Last year, in a commitment to help build LA into a tech development powerhouse, DiCaprio made a significant investment in Struck Capital, which supports founders who leverage tech to tackle the world’s biggest issues.
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