Here’s Where Celebrities Invested Their Money This Year

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Here’s Where Celebrities Invested Their Money This Year

As the popularity of NFTs and cryptocurrencies begins to boom, celebrity investors are looking to get in on the ground floor by backing startups that could either deliver huge returns or risk becoming the next meme stock.

Data provided by PitchBook showed that celebrities who cut checks as angel investors often targeted these buzzy, emerging industries as they looked to diversify their ever-growing portfolios and earn a quick buck.

One of the most active actor-investors this year was “That 70s Show” star Ashton Kutcher, a longtime angel investor who put his name on checks for at least 13 different companies this year, including email platform Superhuman and NFT exchange OpenSea.

The OpenSea investment reflects Kutcher’s growing interest in NFTs and crypto; his on and off-screen costar Mila Kunis recently said her husband turned her onto the idea of using NFTs in content creation.

The two actors recently reeled in an estimated $8 million from the sale of Kunis’ “Stoner Cats” animated TV show, which required users to buy an NFT in order to watch and participate in the interactive narrative each episode. Kutcher stars in the series alongside Kunis and Jane Fonda.

Kutcher’s invested plenty as an angel investor, but he also funds companies through his VC firm Sound Ventures. Both Sound Ventures and Kutcher signed on to back NFT production company NFT Genius in its June seed round worth $4 million. Kutcher was part of a star-studded list of investors in NFT Genius, including Guy Oseary and Mark Cuban.

Certain celebrities’ investment profiles offer a clear glimpse into their priorities. For Leonardo DiCaprio, that was climate and clean energy. DiCaprio has been outspoken about his desire to mitigate climate change over the years, and this year was no exception. He holds an undisclosed stake in Polestar, the electric car company that’s backed by over $600 million from Volvo announced this fall it plans to go public via a $20 million SPAC.

DiCaprio invested in three companies this year, all focused on climate: Mosa Meat, a Netherlands-based alternative meat startup, 3D-printed steak company Aleph Farms and Los Gatos-based carbon capture and storage firm Blue Planet.

DiCaprio has been hungry for alternative meats for some time; he was an investor in Beyond Meat before the company went public in May 2019 for $241 million.

A few celebrities who are already entrepreneurs – like Jessica Alba who founded West LA-based Honest Co. – scaled back their investments, perhaps looking to prioritize their own companies’ growth.

Alba backed only one company this year according to Pitchbook; Pasadena-based childcare startup Bümo, which she first invested in during 2020. Bümo raised a $3.5 million seed round in May which was funded by all angel investors, including Alba and Ryan Rzepecki, the co-founder of Jump bikes, which he sold to Uber in 2018.

A couple of celebrities shared the same company in their portfolios, including Snoop Dogg and Sean Combs (better known as P. Diddy), who both backed PearPop, a Los Angeles-based influencer content in its $10 million Series A in April.

While it can be difficult to gauge returns of celebrity investments on an individual basis, when they are involved in SPACs, it’s a bit easier to identify which bets paid off or not. A recent Bloomberg analysis found that of 33 SPACs tied to famous figures, 21 of them posted losses this year.

That includes Jay-Z, whose cannabis-focused SPAC The Parent Company taking an 84% nosedive into the red this year, and AppHarvest, a SPAC that counts Martha Stewart as a board member and dropped 69% this year. To offset losses, AppHarvest announced Dec. 15 it would sell $100 million in stock.

On average, celebrity-tied SPACs saw an 11% downturn as of mid-December, according to Bloomberg.

Take a look at some of the investment rounds celebrities contributed to this year below.

Data from Pitchbook

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.