How did Ashton Kutcher turn $30 million into $250 million?
I don’t believe that old cliche that good things come to those who wait. I think good things come to those who want something so bad they can’t sit still.
Ashton Kutcher, actor, entrepreneur and investor
We all know Ashton Kutcher as the handsome actor who stars in Hollywood comedies and sitcoms. But not many people know that alongside his successful movie career he is developing an equally successful entrepreneurial career.
One could say his entrepreneurial skills have shown early in his life. As a teenage boy, Ashton performed odd jobs like working on construction sites, mowing lawns or roofing, all in order to save money. His parents were both factory workers and passed him a strong work ethic.
Don’t let his good looks fool you! His mind is sharp and he is a quick learner. Although he dropped from biochemical engineering university, replacing classes with acting and modelling, he maintained his interest in science and technology throughout the years.
I really think that technology has the greatest potential to accelerate happiness of most things in the world. 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.
In 2000 he co-founded Katalyst Media to develop television and film properties. The most successful production of Katalyst Media is Punk’d, the MTV television series.
In 2010 he co-founded the venture-capital firm A-Grade Investments. He and his partners at A-Grade turned their $30 million funds into $250 million over six years by investing in tech companies such as Skype, Spotify ($3 million), Airbnb ($2.5 million), Uber ($500,000), and Foursquare.
In 2015, he co-founded Sound Ventures, a venture capital firm specialising in early stage to growth and late-stage venture investments. The firm typically invests in financial technology and technology companies.
When investing in a company, Ashton is looking for these 3 traits:
- Appealing founders with whom he and his partners actively want to work;
- A problem-solving mission statement oriented around saving or enriching time;
- A business model that could be boosted by their involvement.
How did he take the leap from actor to investor angel?
When he found himself in the company of Silicon Valley elites, he spent 90% of his time listening and learning. That’s how he developed his ability to identify business opportunities, to see the golden nugget when no one else sees it.
If you’re not doing good, what are you doing?
Ashton Kutcher, the philanthropist
In 2009 he co-founded Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an international anti-human trafficking organisation that works to address the sexual exploitation of children by building technology to defend children from sexual abuse. The 2017 report shows that Spotlight, Thorn’s software allowed law enforcement and investigators to identify 5,791 child sex trafficking victims and rescue 103 children.
Ashton says philanthropy is the driving force behind his business decisions pointing him to the right direction and pushing him to achieve more.
Watch Ashton speak of child abuse and Spotlight’s results before Congress:
Entrepreneurship is about solving problems, not fame or money.
How does Ashton Kutcher define entrepreneurship?
Ashton Kutcher defines the entrepreneur as a person who is always curious, always willing to learn, forever kind to others, and has an unsatisfied hunger to be helpful. When a person’s heart and character illustrate these traits, things start to happen.
Although everybody can set out to become an entrepreneur, to be a successful entrepreneur is challenging. Ashton’s recommendation to aspiring entrepreneurs is to validate their idea and to have a level of domain expertise that differentiates them from the competition. Read our article on how to validate your idea.
What does Ashton value the most?
In his early forties, father to two children and husband to actress Mila, Ashton has outgrown the turbulent days of all-night partying. Although he’s a rich person, money is not his main interest.
Here is what Ashton values the most:
My relationships — taking the time to get to know [people], what motivates them, what their challenges are. These things are often overlooked. Investors get so wrapped up in returns and numbers that they forget that the true privilege of their position is to share a journey with exceptional people.
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