Once upon a time, celebrities were celebrities -- plain and simple. They starred in movies, sang hit songs, and went to a few awards shows, and that's basically what the public knew them for. Now, that's changing.
Over the past few decades, celebrities have increasingly taken on roles that go beyond what made them famous. Celebrities are now starting companies, upending paradigms, and taking on humanity's largest global challenges -- and now, celebrities are becoming the next generation of tech investors.
From the Big Screen to Big Bucks
From film to music and everything in between, celebrities and influencers have started to branch out -- and this goes way beyond Live Aid. More than just lending a name and a face to causes and organizations, celebs today are taking equity and playing an active role in tech businesses and startups.
Perhaps the biggest example of this is Hollywood mainstay Ashton Kutcher and his business partner Guy Oseary, also the manager of Madonna. Kutcher and Oseary teamed up with billionaire Ron Burkle to found A Grade Investments in 2010, but they'd both been in the venture capital game for nearly a decade beforehand. Since its founding, A Grade famously turned its initial fund of $30 million into more than $250 million, a whopping 8.5 times return.
Kutcher and Oseary may have been some of the first of Hollywood's finest to discover tech investing, but they certainly weren't the last. Snoop Dogg's venture capital firm recently closed a debut funding round for $45 million, and that comes after Snoop had launched entrepreneurial plays and investments like cannabis culture site Merry Jane and his infamous, $100 golden joint sticker app Snoopify.
Another legendary rapper, Nas, saw a recent venture capital win. His investment fund, QueensBridge Venture Partners, saw one of their recent startup investment Ring acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. And even though Jessica Simpson has been out of the entertainment spotlight for nearly a decade, she's quietly built a billion-dollar portfolio of consumer goods brands.
We're seeing this from younger influencers, as well. Social media mega-influencer Jake Paul launched TeamDom, an entertainment conglomerate that acts as an incubator, consultancy, and content production company. It also houses TGZ Capital, a venture capital fund founded by Paul and two of his compatriots.
TGZ is unique in that Paul is using the fund both as a traditional VC to provide capital, but also leveraging Paul's extensive crew of social media influencers to provide exposure for investments. One of their most recent investments, 123Wish, is a platform that provides experiences with influencers to raise money for charity - and with TGZ as an investor, they get the best of both worlds. In addition to capital, Paul and the other members of his squad of influencers, called Team 10, can lend donations of experiences to the platform. A quick glance at the current offering of experiences shows several with members of Team 10 up for bidding.
Entertainment Is Changing, Everything Is Changing
So what conclusions can we draw from all of this?
First of all, the stars are getting smarter. Modern superstars are demonstrating that they can do more than look good in front of a camera, and they're using their fame and access to expand into new markets and grow their wealth. And before anyone cites Kim Kardashian as an example of an "airhead" who made it big, let's be unequivocally clear: you do not build a $1 billion brand without being a genius. Kardashian got to her position by understanding something earlier than anyone else did -- and that happens to be our second takeaway.
Influence is currency. Kardashian understood early in her life that mass attention means money, whatever form it takes. And as we live more and more of our lives online in an increasingly media-saturated world, this is only growing more true. I saw this first-hand when I became a tech influencer and grew my LinkedIn presence to 40,000. All that attention turned into serious dollars for my business, and that's a symptom of the changing paradigm we're living in.
More than anything, this is the key lesson from all these stars-turned-venture capitalists. In a world where business is no longer tied to a single location, broad-based attention and influence become more important. In the old paradigm, being top-of-mind for someone living 3,000 miles away didn't matter so much because, well, they were 3,000 miles away. But now, they can still call you and do business with you -- so that name recognition is much, much more valuable.
In today's online community, personal brand isn't just a token of advance anymore. It's one of the most valuable things you can build.