Sometimes it isn’t enough for a celebrity to make their money in music, movies, or politics. More and more of the rich and famous are turning to private investments to shake things up and get on the cutting edge of business. Hence the growing number of tech investments being made by Hollywood’s elite. These well-known, well financed figures are lending their dollars and name value to a wide variety of products, services, and innovations within the tech field. Here are 15 celebrities who have gotten in on the ground floor of several tech-based ventures.
jOBS star Ashton Kutcher may be Hollywood’s leading tech financier. Among the start-ups Kutcher has funded are the phone payment service Dwolla, the textbook company Chegg, the social media iPad app Flipboard, the social networking site Foursquare, and the online voice over IP Skype.
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Justin Timberlake may have played Napster creator Sean Parker in The Social Network, but the actor has been financing tech start-ups in real life for some time now. Among the beneficiaries of Timberlake’s biggest investments have been music education software developer Miso Media, image site Stipple, and the former social networking phenomenon MySpace.
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Being on the cutting edge of the pop music industry, it only makes sense that Lady Gaga is also trying to place herself in a similar position when financing tech startups. Among the singer/fashion icon’s pet projects are a stake in the celebrity social networking site Backplane (which is also co-funded by her manager) and the music sharing platform Turntable FM (which is also co-financed by the next celeb on this list).
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It seems rapper Kanye West agrees with Lady Gaga about Turntable FM. He would also invest in the start-up. Between his funds and Gaga’s, the virtual DJ site grabbed $7.5 million in funding to further their investments.
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In 2011 Leonardo DiCaprio entered the tech game by investing $4 million in funding for the social media upstart Mobli. The actor has also stayed on in an “advisory role” for the company, which bills itself as a “real-time visual media platform.”
Former 90s rap sensation MC Hammer has hung up his parachute pants and mic in favor of a business suit and mobile device. Hammer is a self-proclaimed geek and social networking leader. His investments include the now-defunct video website DanceJam and the burgeoning internet search engine WireDoo.
U2 frontman Bono has shown an interest in tech development since the 1980s. Among the successful ventures he’s financed are Facebook, the mobile device company Palm, the social network directory Yelp, and the popular file hosting service DropBox.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt may star in a zillion movies a year but despite his prolific acting he still finds time to spearhead his own tech start-up. The actor founded and funded the online collaborative website HitRecord in 2005, granting users the opportunity to upload, exchange, and collaborate on different forms of media. The actor continues to lead the HitRecord, which to date has generated a CD/DVD boxset and two books.
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Will Ferrell knows how to make comedy that’s smart, biting, and innovative. Of course he would translate this into his own tech investment, Funny Or Die. Co-founded by entrepreneur Randy Adams, director Adam McKay and producer Gary Sanchez, the comedy video website garners such regular contributors as Judd Apatow, James Franco, Thomas Lennon and Dimitri Martin. Since achieving success, Funny or Die has spun off a comedy tour, DVD and five additional sites within its “OrDie” network.
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He failed to win the 2000 presidential election, but since then, former Vice President Al Gore has been a leading investor in clean-energy tech. Since 2001, Gore has invested in fourteen energy companies since 2001 and has seen his assets grow to $100 million. In recent years, Gore has also invested in such sure-thing internet endeavors as Amazon and Ebay.
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Kim Kardashian isn’t just a rich, reality television personality. In 2009 the socialite became an internet entrepreneur, investing in Shoe Dazzle with financial partner Brian Lee. The shoe/apparel ecommerce site also has Kardashian serve as the site’s chief fashion stylist. The company received a $40 million investment from venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz in 2011.
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Avatar director James Cameron has a wider variety of tech investments most celebrities on this list. Among the director’s most recent investments are an asteroid mining venture (!) with Google co-founder Larry Page and a 3D camera equipment development and training program with CPG China Division.
Outside of the rap game, Jay-Z is a dedicated entrepreneur. This extends to tech start-ups, as he’s invested in such ventures as the video-sharing app Viddy and the wireless recharging company Powermat Technologies. For the latter investment, Hove also stands as Powermat’s brand spokesperson.
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It seems Jay-Z also convinced friend and former rap contemporary Will Smith to invest in Viddy and Powermat as well. This is hardly a surprise, as the pair are currently producing a joint remake of the musical Annie intended for the big screen. We can likely expect more joint business ventures from Smith and Hove in the coming years…
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Actor and director Edward Norton took to funding his own tech start-up in 2010 with Crowdrise. The for-profit site stands out from many of the companies on this list for its philanthropic angle. It’s a crowd sourcing website works on the idea that if charity work is made entertaining and fun, it will further bolster donations. Norton started the site with the help of film producer Shauna Robertson and Moosejaw founders Robert and Jeffrey Wolfe