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Jeff Barak

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Have You Met the Hollywood Superstar Investor?

Ashton Kutcher explains his investment strategy

Looking to pitch your innovative idea to successful high-tech investor (and Hollywood A-list heartthrob) Ashton Kutcher? Don’t bother. If your idea is that good, Kutcher and his partner Guy Oseary, who just happens to be Madonna’s manager, will find you.

As Kutcher explained:

“We take pitches based on references, usually from founders of companies we’re already working with. The best way to get to us is to build something amazing, grow it and then we’ll find you.”

With investments ranging from Skype to Foursquare, Kutcher, in particular, is regarded as the entertainment industry’s superstar investor. In Israel for a GarageGeeks event emceed by Yossi Vardi, the founding investor in Mirabilis and the creator of ICQ (the first instant messaging application), Kutcher and Oseary laid out their investment philosophy of looking for new innovative solutions to help change the world.

Comparing high tech to the film industry, Kutcher said that when deciding whether or not to do a film, he was looking for a story that people could connect to and a director who was truly creative; when looking to invest, he wanted a company with an innovative idea that would bring people together, and founders who knew how to build the technology to solve the problem they were addressing.

A former chemical engineering student, Kutcher is also no slouch when it comes to business. He warned the enthusiastic 1,000-plus audience of wannabe high-tech millionaires not to give away the company during the initial run of seed investments.

“We saw a good idea today. The tech was good, user interface 50-50, founders OK, not great, but they’ve given away 60 percent of the company, before even getting Series A funding. A lot of times, investing is a five-year commitment. If companies have given away 60 percent after one or two years, they won’t have enough company left to hire and incentivize the great engineers and employees who will want to be part of the company.”

But aside from money (and Hollywood stardust) what do Kutcher and Oseary bring to the startups they invest in? According to Kutcher, it’s marketing skills:

“We know how to market ideas.”

And again, referring to his film background, Kutcher compared investing in a company to casting a movie:

“We think of the marketing idea when we invest. And then we think ‘how do we cast it?’ We try to surround the founders with other investors who they might not know.”

And with Kutcher and Oseary having invested in around 60 companies over the past three years, they certainly know a lot of people.

More Stories By Jeff Barak

Jeff Barak is the corporate editor at Amdocs and regularly posts on the company's thought-leadership blog Amdocs Voices. Before joining Amdocs in 2008, he worked in print journalism for more than two decades.