Drive To Discover

Celebrities get in on the startup act

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Silicon Valley ventures are big business for Hollywood celebrities. This week J.Lo joined the ranks of other stars joining and investing in startups.

With her designer tee-shirt site Teeology, Jennifer Lopez is actually late to the party. The past few months have seen a marathon of performers investing in Silicon Valley.

Ashton Kutcher led the way with his early involvement in Skype and Twitter. Those were soon followed by investments in recommendation site Foursquare, social connector Path, lodging lister Airbnb, style arbiter Lockerz, service matchmaker Zaarly, and, most recently, travel booker Hipmunk. But even celebrities suffer setbacks. Kutcher's LikeALittle folded its tent on July 10.

Justin Timberlake did Ashton one better, buying most of MySpace, then Stipple, Dekko and Miso Media. Lady Gaga's latest investment is social hub The BackPlane, but she also joined Kanye West in a $7.5 million funding round for music customizer Turntable.fm.

Kanye followed music mogul Russell Simmons, who founded Global Grind.

Leonardo DiCaprio joined Lance Armstrong in a $4 million round for social photo and video sharing platform Mobli.

Actor Edward Norton is the celebrity behind fundraiser Crowdrise, and Kim Kardashian has been very successful with her ShoeDazzle. Jessica Alba founded The Honest Shop because she couldn't find chemical-free apparel for her babies.

Zoe Deschanel backed Girls Who Wanna Have Fun: HelloGiggles.

Even teens are in the game. Selena Gomez actually uses her company's product: Postcard on the Run. And Justin Bieber made the cover of Forbes for his savvy investments in Spotify, Stamped, and game developer SoJo Studios.

The star of ABC's "Alias", NBC's "Heroes", and Lifetime's "The Client List", Greg Grunberg is the only one who actually developed his own app. He said, "I've got a million and a half people following me on Twitter because I was an early adopter, on a very popular show at that time. And when apps started, I, like everyone else, was trying to think of the next app that would change the world."

Greg's Yowza!! is free. It fills your phone with coupons good for discounts in your geolocation. Since he can act, Grunberg produced his own promotional video spoof, attracting 50,000 views on YouTube.

Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg was so envious he followed with his own -- for his company Canary Hop, a place to book outdoor adventures.

Jennifer Lopez hasn't done her own startup video for Teeology, yet. But she knows a thing or two about music videos.

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