Wannabe technology entrepreneurs hail gold-plated investors like Ron Conway, John Doerr and Fred Wilson as celebrities. Aspiring Sergey Brins and Mark Zuckerbergs hang on every word they write on blogs or utter at conferences.
Now there emerges another potentially powerful class of celebrity startup backer: traditional celebrities. That list includes sports stars, actors and musicians.
A brand-name celebrity's endorsement may not guarantee success for a new business. Then again, it sure doesn't hurt, especially when trying to carve out a niche quickly in the vast--and vastly crowded--social-networking sphere.
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Future Hall Of Fame point guard, Steve Nash, knows how to diversify his portfolio. Besides his production company, sports club and charitable foundation, Nash announced in August that he now aims to launch Consiglieri, a marketing consultancy and venture capital firm targeting the e-commerce, sports and consumer durables sectors.
"In the world of DVR, people don't care about many things that are live except sports, and we don't think enough has been done in that area," says Mike Duda, the fund's co-manager. Consiglieri's backers thus far include Zig Capital and Deutsch Inc. Nash hopes to raise a total war chest of $20 million.
Duda says Nash's name has definitely helped with fundraising, though "ultimately it will come down to our performance," he adds. Duda says the fund will close its first investment in the next few weeks.
Here are a handful of other celebrity-backed startups from the tech realm. For a complete list of 10, with photos of the stars behind them, click here.
WeMix - Ludacris
Take emerging artists, add a dash of music-mashing, stir in some rap mogul and spread evenly on social media platform. Result: WeMix music network, a 2007 media venture headed by three-time Grammy Award-winning rapper Ludacris and MegaMobile TV founder Chris Apfel. Members of this online community are given the tools to collaborate on beats and encouraged to share ideas with other members. Top-notch performers stand a chance to spit some rhymes with Luda himself (who hasn't disclosed the amount of his investment).
WePlay - Derek Jeter, LeBron James, Peyton Manning
The youth-sports networking site has an all-world trio of backers. Created to merge the interests of young players, parents and coaches, WePlay incorporates multimedia sharing and community discussion. The stars' collective investment: $8.6 million in 2008.
Foursquare - Ashton Kutcher
Social media darling Ashton Kutcher--famous for routing CNN to become the first person with 1 million Twitter followers--is set to cash in on networking enterprise, Foursquare. Established in 2009, the service combines gaming experience with GPS technology to get people out and about. Users check in via smart phone at registered venues, collecting virtual and real-life credits along the way. Kutcher, an early angel investor in the startup, has helped the company raise $21.4 million to date.
The Filter - Peter Gabriel
The ever forward-thinking '80s music vanguard is helping to drown out the sound of online flotsam with a new music and entertainment recommendation system. Launched in April 2008 and backed by Gabriel and Eden Ventures (initial investment: $1.8 million), the telepathic search engine sifts through online media and spits out tracks based on user interests.
Alchemist Management - MC Hammer
Stanley Burrell, better-known as '90s hip-hop sensation MC Hammer, recently announced he is taking on the world of mixed martial arts (MMA), and he'll do it from a corner office. From sudden bankruptcy to social-media resurgence, Burrell signed on in July as chief executive of Alchemist Management, an MMA marketing venture.
Hammer also started a company called DanceJam, a social-networking site where people can perfect their moves by watching dance videos and making their own videos online. DanceJam raised $1 million from a group of angel investors, including Ron Conway. Now that's some star power.