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The A-List Investors: Top Celebrities Diving into the World of Startups

From left to right: Robert Downey Jr., Serena Williams, and Leonardo DiCaprio
Image credit: From left to right: Robert Downey Jr. (Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons), Serena Williams (iShot71, CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons), and Leonardo DiCaprio (Presidencia de la República Mexicana, CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons) | Canva
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Remember when Captain America (played by Chris Evans) challenged Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.) in the Avengers movie (2012), saying, “Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?” Tony Stark, without missing a beat, retorted, “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist”. Well, it seems like Stark left out one crucial detail – “venture capitalist”. Yes, you heard it right. The world of venture capital and startups isn’t just for tech moguls and business tycoons anymore. It’s becoming a playground for some of the biggest names in Hollywood and the sports world.

From Robert Downey Jr. to Serena Williams, A-list celebrities are leveraging their wealth and influence to back innovative startups, shaping the future of various industries. And while we’re still waiting for them to discover the untapped potential of startups in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), their investments are already making a significant impact globally.

In this listicle, we take a closer look at 15 celebrities turned startup investors, their venture capital firms, investment focus, and notable portfolio investments.

To maintain peace in our editorial team and avoid any “fan wars”, we’ve decided to list our celebrity investors alphabetically.

1. Ashton Kutcher

About: Ashton Kutcher, the actor turned venture capitalist, co-founded A-Grade Investments (based in Los Angeles, California) and Sound Ventures (based in Beverly Hills, California), which together have made over 280 investments to date.

VC Founded In: A-Grade Investments (2010), Sound Ventures (2015)

Investment Focus: Tech, Consumer Products, Digital Media

Notable Portfolio Investments: Airbnb (🇺🇸), Uber (🇺🇸), Spotify (🇸🇪), Shazam (🇬🇧)

2. Calvin “Snoop Dogg” Broadus

About: Snoop Dogg, the well-known rapper and media personality, founded Casa Verde Capital (based in Los Angeles, California), a micro-VC firm that primarily makes seed-stage, early-stage, and later-stage investments. The VC has made over 40 investments to date.

VC Founded In: 2015

Investment Focus: Cannabis Industry

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Notable Portfolio Investments: Dutchie (🇺🇸), Green Bits (🇺🇸), Cansativa (🇩🇪)

3. Jared Leto

About: Team ‘celebrity investors’ also has actor and musician Jared Leto who has made numerous investments in tech companies and has also founded several companies of his own like the social media management company called The Hive and the live-streaming service VyRT.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: Tech Companies

Notable Portfolio Investments: Uber (🇺🇸), Airbnb (🇺🇸), Slack (🇺🇸)

4. Justin Bieber

About: Pop star Justin Bieber is another one from the ‘celebrity investors’ league. He has made 8 investments so far and is also the co-founder of Drew House.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: Tech companies, digital media

Notable Portfolio Investments: TMRW Sports (🇺🇸), Legacy (🇺🇸), Stamped (🇺🇸)

5. Justin Timberlake

About: Pop star and actor Justin Timberlake has invested in over 15 companies so far and is also a co-founder and co-owner of the Nexus Luxury Collection.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: Food & Beverages, Recreational Goods, Entertainment Software

Notable Portfolio Investments: The Ugly Company (🇺🇸), Superplastic (🇺🇸), Sandbox VR (🇺🇸)

6. Katy Perry

About: Pop star Katy Perry has made 8 investments to date.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: Food and Beverage, Tech

Notable Portfolio Investments: Impossible Foods (🇺🇸), Apeel Sciences (🇺🇸)

7. Kim Kardashian

About: Reality TV star and entrepreneur Kim Kardashian co-founded SKKY Partners, a private equity firm (based in Boston, Massachusetts).

VC Founded In: 2022

Investment Focus: Consumer, Digital, Media, Hospitality Luxury Companies

Notable Portfolio Investments: N/A

8. Leonardo DiCaprio

About: When it comes to ‘celebrity investors’ we can’t miss to mention American actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio who has also made a name for himself in the startup investment world with 20+ investments to date.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: Tech Startups, Sustainable Practices

Notable Portfolio Investments: Casper (🇺🇸), Rubicon (🇺🇸), MindMaze (🇨🇭), Mosa Meat (🇳🇱), Aleph Farms (🇮🇱)

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9. Nasir “Nas” Jones

About: The hip-hop performer Nas made a successful transition into the world of venture capital. He co-founded Queensbridge Venture Partners (based in Los Angeles, California.), which has made over 130 investments to date.

VC Founded In: 2014

Investment Focus: Tech, Consumer Products, Digital Media

Notable Portfolio Investments: Soma Water (🇺🇸), Ring (🇺🇸), Casper (🇺🇸), Vantage Sports (🇺🇸)

10. Pharrell Williams

About: American record producer, rapper, singer, songwriter, and fashion designer Pharrell Williams has 6 investments under his belt so far and he is also the co-founder of UJAM.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: EdTech, Electronics, Information Services

Notable Portfolio Investments: Genius (🇺🇸), ROLI (🇬🇧), Boddle

11. Priyanka Chopra-Jonas

About: Actress Priyanka Chopra has made 8 investments so far, the biggest being the dating platform Bumble, which she also helped launch in India back in 2018 as an advisor.

Investor Type: Angel (individual)

Investment Focus: Food & Beverages, Social/Platform Software, Real Estate

Notable Portfolio Investments: Bumble (🇺🇸), Perfect Moment (🇬🇧), Apartment List (🇺🇸)

12. Robert Downey Jr.

About: Known for his iconic role as Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. is not just a superhero on screen but also in the world of venture capital. He founded FootPrint Coalition Ventures (based in Beverly Hills, California), an investment fund focused on backing sustainable technologies, which has made over 20 investments to date.

VC Founded In: 2021

Investment Focus: Data & Analytics, Energy, Food & Agriculture, Homes & Building, Mobility

Notable Portfolio Investments: RWDC Industries (🇺🇸), Ynsect (🇫🇷), Albedo (🇺🇸)

13. Serena Williams

About: Team ‘celebrity investors’ has members from the sports world too. Tennis legend Serena Williams is the founder of Serena Ventures, which focuses on investing in companies that embrace diverse leadership, individual empowerment, creativity, and opportunity. The VC has made over 90 investments to date.

VC Founded In: 2014

Investment Focus: e-commerce, Fintech, Health, Sports & Wellness, Web3, Edtech, Enterprise, Social Tech, Climate Tech

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Notable Portfolio Investments: MasterClass (🇺🇸), Billie (🇺🇸), Daily Harvest (🇺🇸)

14. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter

About: Jay-Z, one of the most successful rappers of all time, is also a savvy investor. He co-founded Marcy Venture Partners (based in San Francisco, California), which has made over 50 investments so far.

VC Founded In: 2019

Investment Focus: Consumer Products, Consumer Services, e-commerce, Micro-mobility, Robotics, Drones, Virtual Reality, Ephemeral Content, Mobile Commerce

Notable Portfolio Investments: Altro (🇺🇸), Babylist (🇺🇸), Savage x Fenty (🇺🇸)

15. Will Smith

About: Hollywood superstar Will Smith co-founded Dreamers VC (based in Los Angeles, California), which has made more than 80 investments in seed-stage, early-stage, and later-stage companies to date.

VC Founded In: 2018

Investment Focus: Fintech, Enterprise Software, Entertainment, Health-Biotech

Notable Portfolio Investments: Sandbox VR (🇺🇸), Neuralink (🇺🇸), The Boring Company (🇺🇸)

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https://therecursive.com/author/snezhana/

Snezhana is an Innovation Journalist at The Recursive. She uses the power of storytelling to put the spotlight on the emerging innovation ecosystems in Central and Eastern Europe. With a keen eye for the bleeding edge, she delves into the depths of deep tech, unearthing captivating stories that bridge the realms of science and human imagination.