Ashton Kutcher took on the character of Steve Jobs for a Hollywood movie, but he also channeled Steve Jobs’s life and has made about $100 million in early-stage technology investments through his venture capital fund, called A-Grade Investments.
Kutcher and partner Guy Oseary benefited enormously by having experienced tech masters Ron Burkle and Chris Hollod as their fund general partners. But in a coming of age, Kutchner and Oseary announced Saturday at the iconic South by Southwest Conference in Austin that they will lead their own investing new fund, called Sound Ventures.
One advantage of Kutchner having 16 million Twitter followers is that last July when he tweeted an endorsement of a photo and messaging app knock-off of Snapchat called Taptalk, the buzz for the company was astronomical. Kutchner has not confirmed if he was a Taptalk investor. But he previously tweet-hyped a company called Amen, in which the tech world learned he was an investor when the company was sold to TapeTV.
Kutchner’s partner Guy Oseary started as a teenager at Maverick Records and quickly rose to become Chairman of a label that sold over 100 million units globally, including 33 million copies of Alanis Morrisette’s debut album. Oseary has also been the business manager for Madonna and produced the wildly successful Twilight vampire film trilogy, which has grossed over $2 billion. As a principal of Untitled Entertainment with partners Jason Weinberg and Stephanie Simon, the firm oversees “A-list” clients including Penelope Cruz, Sofia Vergara, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, and others.
Kutchner has privately invested in in Foursquare and Skype in 2009. According to reports, Microsoft bought Skype in 2011 for $8 billion, and Kutcher tripled his money.
He rolled his cash into a new venture capital firm he founded with Oseary called “A-Grade Investments.” One of their first deals in 2011 was Airbnb, an online marketplace that connects travelers seeking accommodations with people renting out their homes. The Airbnb startup had about 60,000 listings at the time and a million nights booked. Three years later, the company had 500,000 listings and over 10 million booked nights.
A-Grade was also an early mover and shaker in the Spotify streaming-music service. Kutchner told CNBC’s top reporter, Maria Bartiromo, in an interview that companies like Spotify and Airbnb only succeed when “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.”
In 2013, A-Grade jumped the pond and took an early position in London’s YPlan mobile app, which lets users find last-minute events happening that evening and ticket purchases with one click. The app recently expanded to New York and San Francisco.
Although Kutcner has been silent in the past about where he bet his money, other social networking investments by Kutchner have reportedly included Fab; Dwolla; Path; Soundcloud; Shazam; Groupon, Nest; SmartThings, and Socialcam.
In moving to manage other people’s money, Kutcher and Oseary have already been successful in tapping institutional cash from global mega-private-equity fund TPG, which has $65 billion of capital under management. But Kutcher told the TechCrunch blog that Sound Ventures would allow him and Oseary to be “stage-agnostic” when considering what companies to invest in.
Up in tech heaven, Steve Jobs has got to be pleased.