Celebrities are making investments in private tech companies as early-stage angel backers, and also participating in later-stage growth rounds. Some stars have even formed their own venture capital funds which have LPs or limited partners (i.e., pension funds, university endowments, and others that are investors in the firm’s funds).
Since 2007, the top 75 celebrity investors by number of deals have participated in over 350 funding rounds totaling approximately $4.6B to private companies. The year 2015 was the most active investment year on record for these celebs, when they contributed to roughly $2B invested across 101 deals to private tech companies. So far this year, we have seen celebrity investors—including actors, athletes, and musicians—participate in approximately 42 deals totaling nearly $500M.
Using CB Insights database, we compiled a list of the top 22 most active celebrity investors and ranked them against one another. Roughly half of the individuals on our list hail from the music industry and the rest became famous in TV and movies, sports, or the fashion industry. The celebs on our list have also helped back a handful of unicorns, or private companies valued at $1B or more, including: Spotify, Gusto, Docusign, Zenefits, Lyft, and Airbnb.
- Ashton Kutcher is far and away the most active celebrity investor. He is a prolific early-stage angel investor in startups like Beebo and Slyde Handboards. Both companies are also backed by regulars on the television show Shark Tank—Barbara Corcoran and Mark Cuban, respectively. Kutcher, is also a co-founder of two venture funds: A-Grade and Sound Ventures. The former “Dude Where’s My Car?” star, who has also played Steve Jobs in a movie, has backed over 100 startups since 2007, including: Airbnb, Skype, and Zenefits.
- Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, better known by his stage name as the rapper Nas, has backed over 40 startups since 2007, primarily through his venture fund QueensBridge Venture Partners.
- Rounding out the top three celebrity investors is Troy Carter, an American music manager who is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Atom Factory, a talent management and film and television production company. Alongside managing stars such as Lady Gaga, he has also made appearances on the TV show Shark Tank. Carter has invested in over 30 startups since 2007.
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Some key takeaways:
- Of the startups featured above, the one with the most co-investment from celebrities on our most active celebrity investor list is the mattress manufacturer Casper. The company is backed by: Ashton Kutcher, NAS, Scooter Braun, Steve Nash, and Leonardo Dicaprio, as well as less active celebrity investors Tobey Maguire and Adam Levine, among others.
- The most active celebrity investor in 2016 year-to-date is retired American football star Joe Montana, via the fund Liquid 2 Ventures. The fund has made 14 investments this year, including three investments in September, in the startups: Skymind, TrueFacet, and Nucleus.
- Former NBA super-star Kobe Bryant is the newest member to the celebrity investor list. He recently co-founded the fund Bryant Stibel, a $100M venture capital fund formed with his business partner Jeff Stibel. The fund has already made four investments this year, including in the companies: Vipkid, Scopely, Dysh, and Juicero.
- The largest funding round since 2007 with celebrity participation went to the ride-sharing company Lyft, which raised $530M in a Series E round that saw partial backing from the band Linkin Park via their fund Machine Shop Ventures.
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