Ashton Kutcher has an eye for promising startups.
Most people recognize Kutcher as an actor, but he’s also had success offscreen. He's a philanthropist, entrepreneur, a venture capitalist and was once a Lenovo product engineer. He’s appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank and has made some lucrative investments in companies such as Skype, FourSquare, Airbnb and Uber.
In 2013, Kutcher joined Lenovo as a product engineer, where he helped to create the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro. In the past, he’s also served on management and creative teams at a number of startups and media companies such as Ooma and Katalyst Media. In 2010, he co-founded the venture capital firm A-Grade Investments, and in 2015, he announced its successor, Sound Ventures.
Today marks the celebrity’s 40th birthday. To celebrate, here are some investment lessons you can learn from Kutcher.
1. Listen to and trust others.
Foursquare was one of Kutcher’s earliest investments in a major tech company, and it put his name on the map as an investor. In 2009, Kutcher received advice from one of Silicon Valley’s top tech investors, Marc Andreessen, to invest in Skype. This was a good tip, because in 2011, Microsoft bought Skype for $8.6 billion and Kutcher’s investment tripled.
2. Invest in things that you know.
“Invest in the things that you know. If you drink beer all the time -- if you go to microbreweries and you try all kinds of them -- you probably know which ones are the best,” Kutcher said in an interview with Chelsea Handler.
3. Chase happiness.
In 2011, when Airbnb had only 60,000 listings on its site, Kutcher invested in the online rental service. Today, Airbnb boasts more than 640,000 hosts.
That same year, Kutcher resorted to using Airbnb’s service after his split with actress Demi Moore. At his first Airbnb, his host left him dinner and a glass of wine. “It was … the magic and the love that I needed in that moment,” he said. “I was shocked that someone would care that much about a total stranger.”
During a difficult time, the company helped Kutcher turn his mindset around. In a 2013 interview, Kutcher told The Telegraph, “The companies that will ultimately do well are the companies that chase happiness. If you find a way to help people find love, or health or friendship, the dollar will chase that,”
4. Think about what you’ll want in the future.
“Invest in that which you would like to see become a reality,” Kutcher said in an interview with tech company Grow.
In Uber’s early days, Kutcher saw it as a company that would change the way people view transportation. Rather than owning cars in the future, they would hail Uber. In 2011, with his business partner, Guy Oseary, Kutcher invested $500,000 in Uber. Today, the investment is worth 100 times that.
5. The best investments don’t cost a fortune.
When asked about the best investment he has ever made, Kutcher responded: “My relationships.”
Investing isn’t all about the numbers. When you learn more about the people behind a company -- their motivators, challenges and beliefs -- you develop a better sense of that company’s potential.
“Investing in relationships can cost as little as a few cups of coffee and a handful of emails,” he said.
6. Look for solutions.
Kutcher invested in Spotify because Spotify was one of the first companies that offered a legal alternative to buying music.
There’s a reason that companies such as Spotify and Airbnb succeed, Kutcher explained in an interview with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo. "You have to have the know-how and the moxie to actually put together the pieces and build the solution in a really effective way.”