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Chen Feller

14 tech companies founded by celebrities

Not only Dr. Dre - These celebrities founded or co-founded some interesting startups.

Sometimes being famous for one thing is not enough. Sometimes you want people to see how brilliant you and your ideas are, so what do you do? You start a company.

This is a story of these celebrities - Actors, musicians, comedians, hosts, basketball players or just... I don't know, famous for something.
They had an idea, they had the ambition, and sure do they had the money and they decided to open their own startup company. Make it big. Become the next Facebook.

Some of them failed, some of them succeeded, and one of them became mega-rich after his startup was sold to Apple.

 

14Celebs
[Photos: Shutterstock]

So, let's the start with the obvious one (and most famous one) hinted above:

Dr. Dre - Beats Electronics

Andre Romelle Young AKA Dr. Dre, 51 years old, is a rapper, producer and yes, an entrepreneur. After a very successful rapping career back in the 90's (Still Dre, California Love with 2Pac, you name it), in 2006 he decided to open his own headphones company along with Jimmy Lovine (Former chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records) called "Beats by Dr. Dre".
Yes, you already know this product. People are wearing these circular-goofy-filled with bass headphones everywhere, and it translated into numbers. Big numbers.
By 2011 Beats became a monster - Their market share was 64 percent for headphones priced over $100. HTC put their eyes on the prize and bought 50.1 percent of the company for more than $300 million. 2 years later, HTC sold some of their holdings in the company, and cleared the way for The Carlyle Group to invest $500 million for 50% of Beats, and boy, it was worth it.
8 months later Apple acquired Beats for the crazy amount of $3 billion. Carlyle tripled their investment, and Dr. Dre got himself a net worth of $550 million after this deal and was named The Richest Man In Hip Hop. Still is.

 

Now that we're done with Dr. Dre's "Cinderella" story, let's continue with the others.

Ashton Kutcher & Demi Moore - Thorn

I'm not going to talk about Ashton Kutcher the investor. A lot has been said about his VC A-Grade Investments who predicted the future and got their hands on Uber back in 2010 (Insert a "Butterfly Effect" joke here). I'm also not going to talk about his acting career, although I can talk about That 70's Show for hours.
What I am going to talk about is Thorn, the amazing initiative he and the actress Demi Moore founded while they were still a power couple, previously known as the DNA Foundation.
Thorn are developing innovative technology and tools to fight child sexual exploitation. They are collaborating with tech industries and big companies, government, the FBI, and more, all to bring an end to the worldwide phenomenon of child abuse, child pornography and child sex trafficking.
Ashton Kutcher said that in 2016 Thorn's technology for for fighting traffickers helped the law enforcement save 6,000 children trafficking victims, and catch 2,000 traffickers. Thorn is a non-profit organization, aimed for good causes. That's what most celebrities should aim for.

 

 

Jessica Alba - The Honest Company

The Honest Company, or just Honest, was co-founded by the beautiful 35 years old actress Jessica Alba back in 2011. You may recognize Jessica Alba from her roles in the TV show Dark Angel, in Sin City, Fantastic Four and some Rom-Coms, but after she became the mother of 4 girls, she decided to focus on something entirely different. The Honest Company is an e-commerce website that sells non-toxic, eco-friendly products for babies and homes. They sell diapers, soaps, skincare products, vitamins and all sorts of products dedicated for moms and babies. Although Jessica Alba and The Honest Company faced with some lawsuits and some customer complaints about the "truth" behind these products, this company still made a lot of money. $228 million was invested in The Honest Company, most recent funding was in August 2015 when Glade Brook Capital Partners invested $100 million on a $1.6 billion valuation. The Honest Co. is still alive and kicking, and let's hope they are being honest.

 

Will Ferrel - Funny or Die

Yes, Funny or Die is in this list of startups. The comedy video website was founded in 2007 by the actor Will Ferrel, the director Adam McKay and screenwriter Chris Henchy. The perfect formula to create a movie rather than a website, but they decided to funnel their talents to the online channels. Adam McKay and Will Ferrel work great together, in fact, "The Big Short" (Amazing one, by the way) was the only movie directed by Adam that didn't feature Will Ferrel.
Anyway, they created Funny or Die to give a platform where users can upload their own funny material and mixed it with original sketches and web-series they made, along with the help of other celebrities. That's how you go viral. $18 million was invested in Funny or Die, as far as we know, and in November 2016 AMC Network bought a minority of Funny or Die for an undisclosed amount. So, Will Ferrel's company is still funny, and it's going to die anytime soon.

 

Edward Norton - CrowdRise

CrowdRise, co-founded in 2010 by the actor Edward Norton (American History X, Fight Club, etc) and his wife Shauna Robertson along with the entrepreneur Robert Wolfe is one of those startups mainly based on their founders' wealth to do good, just like Thorn. CrowdRise is a crowdfunding platform for raising money for charity, good causes and making the world a better place. Anyone who joins CrowdRise can create his own fundraiser for any non-selfish cause, and it was used for getting donating to the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, American Cancer Society, UNICEF and more. Just last week Edward Norton himself promoted a fundraiser for the people in Aleppo, Syria.
Since it launched, CrowdRise raised from its 1 million users, over $500 million for nonprofit organizations and charities and it was named one of the “Top 25 Best Global Philanthropist” by Barron’s. With all the success, just a week ago CrowdRise was acquired by its rival GoFundMe, and together they'll keep raising money.

 

 


Joseph Gordon-Levitt - hitRECord

I really like Joseph Gorden-Levitt (JGL from now on), he had amazing appearances on 500 Days of Summer, Brick, Looper, The Dark Knight Rises and plenty others, and he gives you another good reason to like him with the startup hitRECord he founded by himself in 2004. hitRECord is an open-collaborative production company where anyone can contribute to productions his own skill set whether its screenwriting, acting, graphic design, photography, animation, editing and more. Afterwards, when the production is made and makes money, the contributor gets paid. It's like a crowdfunding platform where you pay with your talent instead of your money, and it's a great idea. Among their projects you can find hitRECord's own TV show with the same name that lasted 2 seasons between 2014-2015 and even won an Emmy for it.
Also, if you like JGL, you'd be happy know that he's starring in all the tutorial videos in the website. Check it out.

 

 

Will. I. Am - i.am+

William Adams, or actually will.i.am, is rapper and producer famous for his part in The Black Eyed Peas, his solo career and collaboration with countless musicians, and recently he's famous for his wearable gadgets company i.am+ that he founded in 2013. They have two main products, Dial smartwatch and Buttons headphones.
Buttons are premium wireless Bluetooth headphones (Trying to compete with Dr. Dre?) with magnetic discs so you could wear them around your neck. The second one, Dial, is more interesting. It's a smart wristband, that unlike other smartwatches comes with a SIM card and a personal AI assistant called AneedA, and includes a music streaming service that you can listen to with Bluetooth headphones. One more interesting fact about Dial - Last year they acquired an Israeli AI and Machine Learning company called Sensyia for an undisclosed amount. That's cool.

 

Neil Young - Ponomusic

Although Neil Young recently celebrated 71, seems like he's not going to rest (But I would rather keep my mouth shut the losses of 2016). After releasing dozes of albums since its first one in 1969, he hasn't stopped making music, and in 2014 he founded his own music-related company. PonoMusic sells audio players and recordings for people who love listening to music in high quality, just like in the recording studio. Trust Neil Young about it, he has 50 years of experience. So, They launched a music service that streams music in its highest quality, FLAC, and a compatible portable media player called Pono that has the ability to play it in highest quality, and it was all crowdfunded with Kickstarter on 2014. They got $6.2 million from backers and they officially launched in 2015. On July, PonoMusic had to shut down their service temporarily because their content partner Omnifone was acquired by another company, but as Neil Young once sang, "Hey hey, my my, Rock N Roll can never die".

 

 

Reese Witherspoon - Draper James

If you think that Draper James sounds like a clothing company than... well, you're right. The actress Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde, Wild) founded an online shopping site selling clothes, accessories and home appliances inspired by Southern USA, where she grew up. The name Draper James is referring to her grandparents, Dorothea Draper and William James Witherspoon, to show the brand's history, influences and the story behind it. So, ladies, if you want to to have some Southern clothes you'd be happy to know that this online store (And one retail store) isn't going anywhere soon. They launched in 2015 and managed to raise $10 million. Seems that for Reese and her company things are not going south.

 

 

John Legend - Bungalow Clothing

Yup, that's another clothing company, but with an interesting twist. Bungalow Clothing was co-founded by the R&B singer-songwriter and nine-times Grammy award winner John Legend ("All of Me") and others: Jon Snyder, Sergey Sundukovskiy and Meital Bronstein. The company, founded in 2013, is a web platform dedicated to women who dig fashion and offers them online personal styling service. Bunglow Clothing's idea is simple - Choose your style, wait for your curated dressing room to show up at your doorstep, and keep only the clothes you loved. They are working with many fashion designers to give you versatile and stylish results. Until now, Bungalow Clothing raised over $1 million in 3 rounds from many investors, but their idea might make a lot of money in the future.

 

Well, just like in the real startup world, not everything is glamorous, and most of the startups fail, even if you are a celebrity. 

 

MC Hammer - DanceJam 

Some people have the touch of success, but some... Can't touch this. Sorry 'bout that, MC Hammer. The famous 90's rapper tried his luck in 2007 when he co-founded DanceJam, a social network for dancers and people who love to watch other people dance. The idea sounded great, to build a community of dancers (Like MC Hammer), but apparently they didn't find the right moves. Although they raised $4.5 million from 10 investors, DanceJam had to shut down its service in 2011. 

 

Andy Samberg - Canary Hop 

The actor and comedian Andy Samberg well known for his appearances on SNL, Brooklyn 99 and The Lonely Island trio also tried his luck back in 2012 when he co-founded (Or just joined in) the travel startup Canary Hop. It was marketplace for activities, tours, lessons and experiences, not something that we've never seen before, but it made a lot of buzz since Andy Samberg was a part of it. Hell, he even released a cool video ad (That's what he's good at) to promote his company. Well, that that didn't go well. Canary Hop managed to raise only $600,000 and had to shut down in 2014. 

 

 

T.J. Miller - Slang with Homies 

Are you a fan of HBO's Silicon Valley? Well, you must know T.J. Miller who plays Erlich Bachman is no stranger to programming and starting his own companies. He built an app called "Slang with Homies", which is just like "Words with Friends", but you can use street language and curse words. Well, as you can see, it wasn't a huge hit, but after appearing in Silicon Valley, Deadpool and more products to come, seems that T.J.'s career is about to make an exit.

 

Aaron Paul - Yo Bitch 

Remember Aaron Paul? Currently starring in The Path, but became famous after playing Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. One of the things he also became famous for was using the word "Bitch" all the time, but no one thought that he would make an app out of it. Remember the useless Israeli startup "Yo" that its only function was sending "Yo" to your friends? Well, Aaron took this idea, improved it, and let you send "Yo Bitch" to your friends, with Aaron's voice. So simple, so stupid, so irrelevant to 2017.

 

 

Read more on Startup Israel Community: 5 Israeli startups founded by local celebrities

 

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