Nine celebrity tech entrepreneurs making a splash
Maybe it’s the ubiquitous hoodies or that uniquely glum pallor that can only come from staring at a computer screen for 18 hours a day, but the tech world could use a bit of flash. Thank God, then, for celebrities. When they’re not busy acting in films, cutting albums, or telling us not to vaccinate our kids, many have begun investing in startups, or even founding some companies of their own. Meet nine celebrity tech entrepreneurs who have met mixed success in the industry.
Last week was a bad one for mobile keyboard startup Typo and its founder, Ryan Seacrest: Blackberry sued the company for the second time, claiming Seacrest’s company had again copied Blackberry’s designs. Inspired by the decidedly first world problem of having to carry two phones – “one for typing and correspondence, and one for virtually everything else” according to Typo’s Crunchbase page, Typo’s concept is clear: attach a physical keyboard to iPhones. Seacrest’s startup savvy? Not so clear, thus far.
The titular “girl” of New Girl and “she” of She & Him stayed right on her quirky brand when she cofounded HelloGiggles, a women’s lifestyle website that strives for positivity in all things. But don’t go confusing Deschanel’s venture for some Goop-inspired New Age freakout – the site covers everything from eating disorders to manicure tips.
The obnoxiously punctuated pop star – given to bold statements like “I’m fascinated with quantum physics” – has been trying to play Steve Jobs for a few years now, and unfortunately his track record has been less than impressive. After bombing with an insanely priced (and named) iPhone case called i.am+foto.sosho and “smart” car called IAMAUTO, the Black Eyed Pea’s most recent foray into smartwatches looks to be more of the same. When his Puls debuted earlier this month, it was met with reviews like This Is What a Wearable Nightmare Looks Like.
Tiki Barber’s worn a number of hats (and helmets) in his professional life: TV personality, radio host, New York Giants running back. Add to that list startup entrepreneur. Barber’s Thuzio raised a $6 million Series A in August and allows businesses and individuals to book athletes for appearances and personal experiences – and yes, Barber is among the athletes available for booking.
Many consider Nas’s 1994 classic Illmatic the greatest rap album of all time, but we’re pretty sure Nas’s eyes were always on his current prize: QueensBridge Venture Partners (which, somewhat disappointingly, is based in LA). His venture firm boasts a portfolio that includes Dropbox, Lyft, and Seatgeek, among plenty others.
You’d assume the average movie-star startup founder would take a hands-off approach to her company. Not so with Jessica Alba. Since founding The Honest Company in 2011 to sell non-toxic household products for parents, the Sin City star has stayed plenty involved, going so far as to rearrange Honest Company shelves at retail stores. “Sometimes I micromanage just a tiny bit,” she told Yahoo! Finance. Alba funded The Honest Company with her own money at the onset, but that’s far from necessary now – they raised a $70 million Series C round last August.
While the pop princess made a name for herself in 2013 for making some seriously big investments in tech (and music, presumably), Troy Carter, her manager at the time, drove much of that spending. After very publicly firing Carter at the end of 2013, Gaga has focused her business efforts on the celeb-oriented social startup Place, formerly known as Backplane.
Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr. – or as he’s commonly known, Snoop Dogg (or is it Snoop Lion?) – has been a tremendously active venture capitalist over the past few years, having invested in Reddit, Ustream, Secret, and Robinhood, among others. If that seems out of character for Snoop’s public persona, this might bridge the gap: he’s aiming to raise $25 million for legal cannabis tech companies.
Thankfully, Two And a Half men is now dead and gone. But while Ashton Kutcher’s sitcom choices have deteriorated, his investment history is striking: he’s dropped dime on Foursquare, Twitter, Skype, Airbnb, Spotify, YPlan, and more.
Now go forth (and go glam).
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