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📺 15 Celebs Droppin Checks Into Startups

Actors are more than meets the eye, especially these 20 power players in the tech world.

Good Morning, this is Napkin Notes: instead of buying a cold plunge, sauna and monthly subscription to Athletic Greens, the smartest founders open up this bad boy to guarantee themselves a kick-ass morning. 10x less expensive and way more laughs.

In this edition of “Let your hair down and have fun while our CEO is away on paternity leave”, we’re gonna play a round of celebrity checkers.

Haven’t played before? Here’s the rules:

  • 📌 We pick a well-known celeb

  • 📌 We tell you what they invest in

  • 📌 And if you like them, you pitch them your startup idea at the end

Sounds pretty fun eh?

Let’s see what startups these celebs are tossing their money into.

💸 Celebs Dropping Cheques

You see an athlete, Hollywood star or rapper and think “They’re pretty cool”. At Napkin Notes, we see that same person and say, “Damn, they invested in the seed round of that startup? Brilliant.”

Few people really know where these stars are placing tech bets. So we did what any startup nerd would do: we cancelled our dinner plans Weds/Thurs night to go 40 chrome tabs deep to find out an answer.

Some high-level stats:

  • In 2019, celebrities invested nearly US$2.3 billion in startups, an all-time high, according to a report by Tide.co

  • The biggest value add celebrities give cap tables is powerful distribution, creative genius and cultural hype

  • All celebrity VC funds have a kick-ass core team: that manages the day-to-day and works with other funds to be ahead of the curve

  • Every big-name fund is reachable: with pitch forms, portfolios, LinkedIn accounts of partners and emails they want to be contacted by

Let’s take a scroll to see which celebs are dropping the biggest cheques.

1. Ashton Kutcher, Sound Ventures

Ashton may have lost his car in one movie, but you can bet your bottom dollar he knows how to raise and deploy capital quicker than anyone on the market.

Many argue Kutcher was actually one of the first actors to validate the investing arm as an actor. Most recently, he announced raising a $243m VC fund focused on AI in under 5 weeks. The crazier part? They’ve already invested half of the fund into 3 companies: OpenAI, Stability AI Ltd. and Anthropic. His latest fund announced in May 2023 puts Sound Ventures at nearly $1B AUM.

  • Fund focus: AI, Tech, Consumer Products, Digital Media

  • Investments: almost 300 startups, including big winners like Spotify, Airbnb, Uber, Casper, Duolingo, Pinterest, Robinhood and Peloton

  • Key #2’s: Guy Oseary and Effie Epstein

  • Contact: The best contact to reach the firm is here

2. Serena Williams, Serena Ventures

Cleaning up the Tennis court wasn’t enough for Serena. She had to clean up the VC world as well. She’s been dropping startup cheques since 2014 and has quite the record already:

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

  • Investments: 90+ investments including Bumble, Masterclass and Daily Harvest

  • Key #2’s: Alison Stillman, Veronica Reaves

  • Contact: reach them is here

3. “Nas” aka Nasir Jones, QBVP

Nas and his manager, Anthony Saleh, founded, Queensbridge Venture Partners back in 2014 and have made 127 investments and had 49 exits to date, according to Crunchbase.

  • Investments include: Dropbox, Coinbase and Ring

  • Key #2: Anand Murthy

  • Best contact: [email protected]

  • Stage Focus: Early Stage Venture, Late Stage Venture, Seed,

  • Niche: saas, fintech, web3, e-commerce

4. The Chainsmokers, Mantis VC

The electric duo behind “Closer” and “Don’t Let Me Down”, has a new hit: it’s their 3rd venture fund announced in April of 2023. Deets below on their track record.

  • Fund focus: early-stage fund focused on consumer tech, media/entertainment, and fintech companies.

  • Investments: 100+ to date including big names like Synthesis, Superhuman, Stability AI, Alchemy,

  • Key players: Alex Pall, Milan Koch, Jeffrey Evans

  • Best contact: [email protected]

5. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kinship Ventures

In May 2023, Gwyneth announced she was raising a $75 million venture capital fund. She’s eyeing up check sizes between $500,000 and $3 million.

  • Fund focus: early-stage consumer goods and technology companies, including web3 startups.

  • Investments: 14 to date including MoonPay and ResortPass.

  • Key contacts: Gwyneth Paltrow (and the VC at Lightspeed Venture that backed her, Nicole Quinn) are on LinkedIn. Also, Moj Mahdra, the co-founder of the fund, has a LinkedIn account.

  • VC Fund Website: kinshipventures.co; email: [email protected] 

6. Ryan Reynolds, Angel Investor

He may not have a flashy VC brand behind him, but RR knows his way around the cap table and has invested in multiple big-name projects, some passively and some owning and operating. Most recently in April 2023, he teamed up with Rob McElhenney and Michael B. Jordan to invest in Alpine Racing (among other partners) for a 24% stake in the team.

  • Fund focus: Canadian tech, sports, and alcohol; likes to leverage Maximum Effort’s storytelling for distribution leverage

  • Investments: Nuvei, Wealthsimple, 1Password, Mint Mobile, Aviation Gin, Wrexham AFC and Maximum Effort

  • Sales: sold Mint Mobile’s to T-Mobile for $1.35 billion and raked in an estimated $300m from the sale. Reynolds sold Aviation Gin for $610m to Diageo in 2020.

  • Key #2’s: Ricky Engelberg, George Dewey

  • Best contact: [email protected] 

7. Kim Kardashian, Skky Partners

Ever heard of Skky? It’s a next-generation consumer and media investment firm Kim launched with some powerful #2’s behind her. They’re eyeing up 10-12 deals per year.

  • Fund focus: a private equity firm co-founded by Kim Kardashian and Jay Sammons that focuses on both control and minority investments in high-growth, market-leading consumer and media companies.

  • Investments: no public ones to date

  • Key #2’s: Jay Sammons, David Brisske, Brittany Serafino

  • Best contact: this form

8. Robert Downey Jr., Footprint Coalition

You may know him as Iron Man, but FootPrint Coalition Ventures calls them their co-founder. Robert Downey Jr. spun up the firm in 2021 to fund sustainable technologies, which has made over 20 investments to date.

Hold on, there’s more.

Other Celebs Droppin’ Cheques:

  • 🏀 Kevin Durant: founded Thirty-Five Ventures in 2019 and has already dropped 59 investments into startups in sports, media and entertainment. The best #2 contact on their team is Co-founder Rich Kleiman and the best email to send them your deck is [email protected] 

  • 📱 Josh Richards: co-founded Animal Capital, which is a $15M venture fund focused on media and consumer products. Investments include Stir, Lendtable, Poppi, Atmos, SportsHi and Breakr. He’s amassed 40m followers on social and is the 4th highest-paid Tik Tok creator. Not to mention a partner with Mark Wahlberg at CrossCheck Studios. Slide into his LinkedIn DMs and shoot your shot.

  • 🎶 Snoop Dog: founded Casa Verde Capital and has been investing since 2015. They operate as a micro-VC firm that primarily makes seed-stage, early-stage, and later-stage investments. Fill in the form here to get in touch.

  • 🏀 Stephen Curry: he may be a two-time NBA MVP champion, but he’s also spun up SC30, a VC firm and holding co to do his investing. Curry has invested in Tonal, TSM, Oxigen, SnapTravel, Unanimous Media and Literati, a children’s subscription book club. #2 contact is Tiffany Williams, the COO of S30, and the best email to reach their team is: [email protected]

  • 📺 Leonardo DiCaprio, as an angel and as an investor of Tribe Capital, has definitely wet his beak on a few deals. As an angel, he’s done 20+ investments to date including Casper, Rubicon, MindMaze, Mosa Meat and Aleph Farms. Tribe Capitals’s line is: [email protected] 

  • 📺 Priyanka Chopra’s inked 8 investments so far, including the dating platform Bumble. She’s even teamed up with Nick Jonas on a deal. Her focus in the industry tends to be Food & Beverages, Social/Platform Software, and Real Estate. Her manager’s LinkedIn is here.

  • 🎶 Jay-Z: co-founded Marcy Venture Partners in 2019 which has made 50+ investments so far like Altro, Babylist, and Savage x Fenty. The focus covers Consumer Products, Consumer Services, e-commerce, Micro-mobility, Robotics and more. Pitch your startup by emailing them here.

  • Oprah Winfrey: has also dabbled quite a bit with investing through her family office OW Management. She’s inked 10+ deals to date. Want to get your startup on Oprah’s radar? Her key #2 that oversees her investments is Darren. Some former cheque allocations include:

    • Waywire – Seed round in 2012

    • True Food Kitchen – Led the company’s venture round in 2018.

    • Apeel Sciences – Series D in 2020

    • Oatly – Private equity round in 2020

    • Guild Education – Series F round in 2022

Some other notable moves:

  • Tyra Banks also invests through Fierce Capital but hasn’t been active for quite some time

  • Rihanna also made waves in the music industry by taking a stake in the music streaming service Tidal in 2015 and made a notable investment in Uber in 2016 and joined forces with Jessica Alba to invest in the Honest Co. In 2021, Rihanna also invested as an angel in Partake Foods, a company making allergen-free cookies.

The TL;DR: celebrity investing is here to stay and could become a serious part of your fundraising strategy.

So start keeping your eye on the space and maybe hit up the ones that align with your thesis to see if you can land a meeting

🤷‍♀️ So, What Are You Waiting For?

Follow this playbook to secure a celebrity cheque for your startup

  • Pick your startup idea

  • Assemble some compelling stats/KPIs

  • Find a celeb above that aligns with your thesis

  • Reach out to their #2 in a clever way showing you’ve done the work

  • Setup a 15min meeting

  • Pitch your heart out and make the partnership unique

  • Land your dream investment

  • Text the Napkin Notes team to tell us the news

Don’t have a startup idea to pitch? Grab one from Kernal or share one below.

🍷 Laugh of the Week

We’ve all been here. Don’t deny it.

💚 The Kernal Fam

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