Ashton Kutcher: A Future In Hedge Funds?

A closer look at Ashton Kutcher’s smart technology investments offers some ideas on growing startups, and may reveal some patterns of success.

Actor Ashton Kutcher’s quiet investments in some of the top emerging tech startups have been getting attention from the media lately. A recent piece at The Atlantic discusses Kutcher’s transition from actor to venture capitalist, detailing 15 startups in Kutcher’s portfolio. With investments estimated between $50,000 and $200,000 per property, Kutcher’s portfolio reads like a list of the hottest companies (and valuations) in Silicon Valley — including a few he invested in before said valuations skyrocketed. With a track record like this, we couldn’t help but wonder: when will Kutcher start his own hedge fund?

While The Atlantic covers 15 startups, we focused on 10 we found most indicative of Kutcher’s relative investing accumen. Do we see any patterns? There are some arguable segment characteristics:

  • Commerce platforms that match up buyers looking for something specific and the sellers supplying it (AirBnB, Zaarly)
  • Innovative media/content delivery platforms (Flipboard and Ubermedia)
  • Alternative, niche social & mobile networks (including Foursquare & Path, which we haven’t repeated in the list below)
  • Internet calling services: (Skype and Ooma, which are not specifically covered below)
  • And overall, a predominance of ideas spanning the mobile and travel categories (AirBnB, Hipmunk)

And now the 10 startups (several of which we’ve previously discussed):

  • Fab.com: A daily, member-only flash sale site offering daily design inspirations and significantly discounted design items
  • AirBnB: Pairing travelers with vacation rentals (and offering real estate candy everywhere)
  • SeatGeek: Price forecasting and ticket comparison site for entertainment and sporting events
  • Flipboard: A ‘social magazine that aggregates Web links from your social circle and displays the content in magazine form’
  • Fashism: ‘Hot or Not’ for the fashion-crowd. Upload a photo of your look at let yourself be judged
  • Hipmunk: A travel site that aims to present flight and hotel information in a more intuitive, innovative & visual format. Flights are presented in a timeline format, while hotel results are displayed on a map that allows users to see how close they are to particular landmarks
  • Ubermedia: The developer recently released A.Plus, Kutcher’s custom desktop Twitter application. The program allows Kutcher to publish ‘all Ashton’ content to his fan base; Kutcher refers to it as ‘a social media surfing device’
  • Blekko: A search alternative that provides ‘better results’ by redirecting its crawlers away from content farms and focusing on three billion ‘trusted websites’
  • Milk: Kevin Rose’s mobile development lab that will experiment with some out-there ideas, expecting that only a few will become viable companies with a big impact
  • Zaarly: A mobile ‘reverse Craigslist service’ that allows you to list exactly what you’re looking for, name your price, and let sellers able to meet it come to you

Ashton Kutcher

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