Celebrity Angels Land in Silicon Valley
Dave Morin isn't easily star-struck. The early Facebook employee is a close confidant of Mark Zuckerberg, and when Morin left the social networking giant two years ago, it was to launch a start-up with Napster founder Shaun Fanning.
Still, Morin couldn't quite hide his surprise a few months back when Britney Spears walked into his San Francisco office.
The CEO of Path, which bills itself as a more intimate social network than Facebook or Twitter, said the pop princess is among the most active of a growing number of "celebrity angels," stars from the music or movie industries who are aligning themselves with tech start-ups as advisers, evangelists and, sometimes, investors.
"Social media has changed the music industry," Spears said in an email to this newspaper. "For the first time ever, artists can directly communicate with their fans. Technology touches every aspect of my career right now."
Among the "celebrity angels" who've helped found or fund tech startups in recent years are:
- Leonardo DiCaprio, actor: Led a $4 million seed investment last year in New York mobile-social startup Mobli.
- Dr. Dre, music producer: In 2006, founded consumer electronics-maker Beats in Santa Monica; last year, mobile phone giant HTC bought a majority share for $300 million.
- Will Ferrell, comedian: Together with Bay Area serial entrepreneur Randy Adams -- who helped get Yahoo off the ground -- Ferrell in 2007 cofounded humor website Funny or Die, which has landed funding from top-shelf venture investor Sequoia Capital.
- Kim Kardashian, TV bombshell: Cofounded Santa Monica e-tailer ShoeDazzle in 2009; its Bay Area backers include Lightspeed Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz.
- Bruno Mars, singer: This month, joined Silicon Valley's Kapor Capital and 500 Startups to put $2 million into Santa Monica digital music startup Chromatik.
- Edward Norton, actor: Investor and partner in Crowdrise, a New York site that helps raise money for charity.