Not surprisingly, there is quite a bit of collaboration between tech companies and celebrities. While tech companies enjoy the publicity benefits that come with having a celebrity associated with their business, celebrities undoubtedly appreciate receiving a sizeable paycheck in return. And while some of these collaborations may only involve a celebrity lending his or her famous name to a tech company’s marketing campaign, other partnerships go a little deeper than a simple spokesperson role. From straightforward endorsement deals to providing funds for startups, here are 13 celebrities who are working with tech companies.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
The actor who played a deceptive stockbroker in the film The Wolf of Wall Street is actually a savvy tech company investor in real life. According to VentureBeat, DiCaprio was an early investor in Mobli, a tech company that created a video/photo-sharing app. The actor is also an advisor to the company, although his primary role appears to be as a promoter.
“[DiCaprio] has zero tech background,” Mobli CEO Moshiko Hogeg told VentureBeat. “It’s about him knowing and understanding branding and marketing. [There are] obvious reasons [to work with DiCaprio] such as he’s a major high profile celebrity, which can open a lot of doors,” he added. The company appears to be showing promise and most recently announced a partnership with Takehollywood, the first online learning platform for aspiring actors and entertainers.
2. Jessica Alba
In 2012, this well-known actress launched The Honest Company, a web-based company that specializes in selling nontoxic, eco-friendly consumer goods. “I created The Honest Company to help moms and to give all children a better, safer start,” stated Alba on the company’s website.
The company has an estimated valuation of nearly $1 billion and is currently preparing for an IPO, according to the Wall Street Journal. While a consumer goods business isn’t normally thought of as a tech company, the Wall Street Journal noted that approximately 80% of the company’s sales are still done through its website.
3. & 4. Dr. Dre and Trent Reznor
Apple acquired two famous artists as employees when it purchased the premium headphone maker Beats Electronics and the subscription streaming music service Beats Music in 2014. While Apple revealed that Dr. Dre would take a position at the company when the deal was first announced, Reznor’s job at Apple was largely unknown until he discussed it in an interview with Billboard.
Before the acquisition, Reznor was the chief creative officer for Beats Music. Although the musician abided by his new employer’s rules of not discussing the company’s future plans with the media, Reznor told Billboard that his new job at Apple involved “very creative work that’s not directly making music, but it’s around music.”
5. Will Ferrell
Will Ferrell co-founded the Funny or Die comedy video-sharing website in 2007, according to Bloomberg. Since then, the website has rapidly grown in popularity and expanded to other platforms. Most recently, Funny or Die struck a deal with Snapchat to create a weekly show, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Besides having a stake in this successful venture, Ferrell also regularly creates content for the website. While it’s unclear what Funny or Die is worth since it is a privately held company, Bloomberg’s sources claimed that Funny or Die was recently exploring the possibility of selling the company for between $100 and $300 million.
6. Neil Young
This renowned singer, songwriter, and musician is currently employed as the CEO of a tech startup. “Neil Young is our CEO, founder and the vision, force, energy, and voice of PonoMusic,” states the PonoMusic website. PonoMusic is the company behind the PonoPlayer, a high-quality digital music player aimed at audiophiles. The company also sells high-resolution music downloads through its PonoMusic World store.
This world famous rapper, producer, and entrepreneur has a long history of working with tech companies as both an investor and a spokesperson. Jay-Z was an early investor in Viddy, a video-sharing app that closed down in December 2014, according to TechCrunch. In 2013, Samsung purchased 1 million copies of Jay-Z’s latest album to distribute to Galaxy owners, as reported by Billboard. Kanye West later claimed that Jay-Z’s endorsement deal with Samsung inspired Apple to purchase Beats, as reported by AdWeek.
Now it appears that Jay-Z may soon become the owner of a music streaming company. According to sources cited by TechCrunch, the music mogul has made a $56 million bid to buy Aspiro, a Swedish company that operates several music streaming services, as well as a video content platform.
8. Ryan Seacrest
Like Neil Young did with his PonoPlayer, Ryan Seacrest took an idea he had for a tech product and turned it into a company. This well-known television host and producer is one of the founders of Typo Innovations, a company that makes physical keyboard accessories for Apple’s iPhones. According to Typo’s website, the company also has plans to release keyboard accessories for the iPad Air and the iPad mini.
9. Jennifer Lopez
In 2013, Lopez launched a retail chain called Viva Móvil in collaboration with Brightstar and Moorehead Communications, as announced in a Verizon press release. As the Spanish language name suggests, Viva Móvil stores specialize in selling Verizon mobile products to Latino consumers. Not only does Lopez’s name and face feature prominently in the retail chain’s stores, the singer also works as the company’s chief creative officer, as noted by CNET.
Grammy Award-winning singer Shakira entered a multiyear partnership with mobile carrier T-Mobile in 2013. “Today is all about bringing the world closer together,” said Shakira via T-Mobile’s press release. “I’m excited to partner with T-Mobile and look forward to being able to share my music in new and innovative ways.”
While Shakira promoted T-Mobile’s services, the wireless carrier supported the artist’s latest album release with exclusive content and fan engagement activities for its customers. Part of this partnership included Shakira performing at the company’s media event.
11. Ashton Kutcher
As one of the co-founders of venture capital fund A-Grade Investments, this actor has helped finance several successful tech startups, including Foursquare, Spotify, and Uber, as noted on a Lenovo press release. In 2013, the Chinese computer maker hired Kutcher as a product engineer for its Yoga line of tablets. About a year later, Lenovo unveiled the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro, a multimedia-focused device that features a built-in projector.
As noted by Lenovo mobile business group VP Jeff Meredith, Kutcher played a key role in the device’s development. “The YOGA Tablet 2 Pro is the culmination of the most extensive research and feedback we’ve ever undertaken, and Ashton has been with us every step of the way, bringing new ideas to the table, challenging us and always advocating for users,” said Meredith.
12. Edward Norton
In 2010, actor Edward Norton launched charity crowdfunding website Crowdrise along with several other entrepreneurs, as reported by Huffington Post. The company’s philosophy is that the more fun fundraising is made, the more people will donate.
As noted on the company’s website, “CrowdRise is an innovative, cost-effective online fundraising website for personal fundraisers, non-profit fundraising and event fundraising. Raise money online for causes and have the most fun in the world while doing it.”
13. Justin Timberlake
Like Ashton Kutcher, Justin Timberlake has a long history of investing in tech companies. Unfortunately, many of the startups he has funded — such as the image-tagging startup Stipple — have since closed down, as noted by Upstart Business Journal. Timberlake’s most famous tech company investment may be his stake in the $35 million purchase of Myspace in 2011, as reported by Mashable. “There’s a need for a place where fans can go to interact with their favorite entertainers, listen to music, watch videos, share and discover cool stuff and just connect. MySpace has the potential to be that place,” said Timberlake in a statement obtained by Mashable.
The once dominant social media website was later rebranded as a music discovery platform and dropped the capital “S” from its name. While it’s unclear if Timberlake’s ownership stake in Myspace will pay off in the long run, the Wall Street Journal recently noted that the website still draws 50 million visitors per month.
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