Reaching for the Stars: 10 Startups That Celebrities Love
Most people stay with what they know, but occasionally a star will step into the startup sector and invest their hard-earned money in tech. Whether they're looking for a great business opportunity or the chance to support a favorite product, famous entertainers have put their money where it counts to fund these exciting startups.
When Lingke Wang and Peter Colis started Ethos in 2016, they envisioned an online platform that would help customers easily apply for inexpensive life insurance. The company's internet-based approach to life insurance was a rousing success and attracted the attention of a bevy of stars. Actors Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. helped raise $11.5 million for the company's venture round, while Jay-Z's Roc Nation and NBA player Kevin Durant also pitched in their own funds.
After selling his software company in 2005, John West was looking around for a new idea. With the help of former Gatorade marketing executive Jeff Urban, West decided to launch a new digital network startup. The company's initial funding round was funded by a bevy of investors, including Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and MLB shortstop Derek Jeter. To date, the startup has garnered more than $100 million in investment.
Casper was founded in 2013 by a team of six entrepreneurs who had formerly worked for mattress companies. The company only sells its mattresses online, and all its products are manufactured in the United States. Casper has attracted investment from a wide range of celebrities, including musicians like Adam Levine and 50 Cent and actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. NBA players Kyrie Irving and Andre Iguodala have also sunk money into the company, while Shaun White participated in Series C funding.
Bruce Ianni and Davyeon Ross first conceived of Shot Tracker as basketball's response to Fitbit. Players wearing the company's innovative shoe sensor receive an instant run-down on their game performance, and the system generates enough data to satisfy even the pickiest coach. The new technology has been embraced by some of the NBA's most influential figures. Magic Johnson and former NBA commissioner David Stern have helped raise $20.4 million for the company.
Former CEO of Moving Brands, a British branding company, Ben Wolstenholme turned to comics in 2011 when he started Madefire. The company developed a program to help comic book artists add sound effects and music to their creations. The company's cutting-edge comics earned it investments from both Canadian musician Drake and American rapper Nas. Altogether, Madeira has raised more than $16 million.
In 2012, Aaron Mandell and Matthew Stuber decided to make their dreams of clean, environmentally friendly water a reality. They founded WaterFX, a startup that uses solar energy to desalinate water. The company's commitment to clean energy attracted Silicon Valley stars Thomas Middleditch and Martin Starr, who sunk capital into the burgeoning firm.
7. Managed by Q
In 2013, Dan Teran and Saman Rahmanian decided to create an all-inclusive service that would help businesses find a location, hire employees and renovate existing spaces to suit their needs. Managed by Q quickly attracted investors from a variety of backgrounds, including actress Jessica Alba and architect Bjarke Ingels. In 2018, the company acquired NVS, a New York-based project management firm.
8. Vita Coco
A chance encounter in New York introduced Michael Kirban and Ira Liran to coconut water. Impressed by the taste and health factor of the Brazilian treat, they decided to launch their own coconut water startup in 2005. The company's refreshing beverage soon caught the interest of celebrity investors like Madonna, Matthew McConaughey and Demi Moore. Since it debuted, Vita Coco has helped launch a coconut water craze in the US and has raised $17.8 million in investments.
Founded by three entrepreneurs in 2011, Stamped offers users curated reviews. Instead of relying on strangers, Stamped uses ratings from friends and acquaintances to help consumers choose the best products and services. The popular app raised $3 million from pop singer Justin Bieber, Ellen DeGeneres and the former NBA player Baron Davis before it was snapped up by Yahoo! in 2012.
10. Blaze Pizza
Not content to rest on his laurels as the co-founder of Wetzel's Pretzels, Rick Wetzel joined with his wife Elise to start Blaze Pizza in 2011. NBA forward Lebron James was an early investor in the company, helping fund their seed round. True to its name, the Los Angeles-based chain quickly spread throughout the rest of the U.S. Today, it has more than 300 locations in the U.S., Canada and the Middle East.
Actors and professional athletes aren't just talented in their respective fields. Sometimes they also have an eye for sound investments outside their area of expertise. Whether they're sinking money into new pizza chains or funding burgeoning insurance companies, these successful celebrities have hit the mother lode all over again by investing in promising startups.