Celebrities turned venture capitalists and co-founders of startups
Celebrities and athletes are increasingly prolific investors in startups. While the venture capital industry has traditionally been dominated by people with extensive finance and technology backgrounds, it’s increasingly common to see celebrities involved in startup investing.
Although investments in celebrity startups have covered a wide range of businesses, many investments have been focused on the technology or health and wellness industries. Here are some notable examples of celebrities who have joined the startup game:
Celebrities involved in venture capital investment
Few Hollywood actors have had such a long and illustrious film career as Leonardo DiCaprio. His list of seed investments is equally long and successful.
DiCaprio focuses many of his investments on tech startups, especially those committed to environmentally friendly practices. In his Series B funding round, DiCaprio funded 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 achieved unicorn status in 2016.
DiCaprio is passionate about protecting the environment. Few celebrities have invested in multiple sustainable food startups, like an animal-free dairy protein company perfect day as well as the Califia Farms plant milk brand. Additionally, he is supporting the lab-grown meat trend and investing in two cultured meat companies: Netherlands-based Mosa Meat and Israel-based Aleph Farms.
Other celebrities investing in VC
Serena Williams has honed her investment game off the tennis court. The tennis star has been particularly focused on supporting minority-run businesses. She created Serena Ventures to facilitate the growth of start-up companies with various founders or teams. Serena Ventures has over 50 companies in its portfolio. Of these companies, 60% have diverse founders. The venture capital firm has also invested in startups such as Daily Harvest, Little Spoon and The Wing.
In addition to her venture capital activities, Serena sits on the boards of many top companies, including Poshmark and SurveyMonkey. She also joined the board 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 was launched with the sitcom That 70s show, is making its mark in startup investment circles. He launched two California-based venture capital firms: Grade A investments and Sound Ventures. Along 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 have recently entered the investing game, Kutcher has been an active investor for at least a decade. In 2009, he supported Foursquare and Skype. His investment in Skype generated a strong return when the video chat company was sold to Microsoft in 2011. Some of Kutcher’s more recent investments include mattress startup Casper and flower delivery app BloomThat.
Health, Fintech and Cryptocurrency
Rapper Nas, who founded Queensbridge Venture Partners, has become a seasoned startup investor. Based in Los Angeles, Nas’ venture capital firm is particularly interested in healthcare, fintech and cryptocurrency startups.
Queensbridge Venture Partners was an early investor in Ring, a maker of smart home products like security cameras and doorbells. When Ring was acquired by Amazon in a billion-dollar deal, Nas’ venture capital firm struck a windfall.
Another of the celebrities, Priyanka Chopra, the famous Indian actress and wife of Nick Jonas, has made a big investment in Bumble, a dating app. Founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd, it is the leading dating app platform. Ms. Chopra’s involvement in Bumble provided crucial marketing for the company’s expansion in India.
The Harvard-educated actress and filmmaker has made several startup investments in recent years. Alongside Oprah and Jay-Z, Natalie Portman has invested in oat milk brand Oatly. Today, Oatly is valued at around $2 billion. Along with Justin Timberlake and other celebrities, she also supported Bowery Agriculture, a vertical farming startup. Finally, she put money into Maven Clinic, a telemedicine startup specializing in fertility and family planning services.
Startups founded by celebrities
Instead of putting money into startups, some celebrities are simply building their own business empires. There are many celebrity-founded companies in the media, alcohol, cosmetics, and apparel industries. Some examples are below.
- Kate Hudson—Fabletics
- George Clooney—Casamigos
- Ryan Reynolds—Aviation American Gin
- Gwyneth Paltrow—Goop
- Jessica Alba—The Honest Society
- Rihanna — Fenty Beauty
- Reese Witherspoon—Hello Sunshine
- Kim Kardashian—ShoeDazzle
- Kylie Jenner—Kylie Comestics