Like it or not, celebrities are influencers – walking advertisements for clothes, jewelry and cosmetic surgery. The extent to which actors, musicians and sportspeople are put on a pedestal may be nauseating, but sometimes celebrity interest in a product or venture can be instructive, serving as a barometer for its wider cultural appeal. In recent years, several prominent figures have put their money to work by bankrolling tech startups and blockchain projects. Here’s where their cash infusions went.
Robinhood – Snoop Dogg, Nas, Jay-Z
Stock and crypto trading application Robinhood has attracted a ton of capital in the last few years, with its most recent funding round raising $280 million. Three figures vying for the accolade of rap GOAT – Nas, Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg – are among the high-profile investors. Since Hova joined his confrères in early 2018, the San Francisco startup has gone from being valued at $1.5 billion to over $8 billion. Power move? Damn right. But Nas and Snoop were even savvier angel investors, having got in on the ground floor four years earlier, when round one of seed funding raised just $13m. Nas in particular is all-in on crypto, having helped raise millions for BlockCypher and co-hosted an SXSW panel on digital assets way back in 2014.
Although the exact amount each rapper pledged to Robinhood is unknown, we’re betting they’re all pretty happy with their investment right now.
Various Projects – Ashton Kutcher
Perhaps Snoop and Jay spotted a good opportunity when it crossed their path. But like Nas, Ashton Kutcher seems passionate about bitcoin itself. In 2013, the actor waxed lyrical about the crypto while attending the TechCrunch Disrupt conference, indicating his based credentials by noting “the fact that you can buy drugs and ammo with it is actually a validator of the currency itself.”
Kutcher soon put his money where his mouth was, investing in payment provider BitPay via his venture fund A-Grade Investments that same year. Fast-forward to 2020 and BitPay has become one of the industry’s leading payment processors, handling over $1 billion in payments every year. A few years after dipping his toes in, Kutcher plunged funds into crypto eSports platform Unikrn, got involved in a funding round for security platform BitGo and donated $4 million worth of Ripple (XRP) to Ellen DeGeneres’ wildlife fund. A purely beneficent act? Well, another of Kutcher’s investment funds, Sound Ventures, has worked with Ripple to promote financial inclusion so you be the judge.
Lest there be any doubt about the actor’s commitment, he participated in a $3 million seed round for BTC rewards company Lolli just this week. Clearly his love affair with blockchain hasn’t waned since he first laid down some coin.
Coinbase – Serena Williams
Tennis starlet Serena Williams is another celebrity who has supported the digital economy, specifically by investing in crypto exchange Coinbase. The multi-time Grand Slam champ confirmed last year that her fund Serena Ventures had been financing projects since 2014, although it’s unclear exactly when she pledged funds to the San Francisco-based exchange, which has raised well over half a billion dollars since launching in 2012. Given her status as one of the world’s highest-paid female sportspeople though, we’re gonna go ahead and say that it wasn’t a peanut.
While the above names committed their own money to blockchain projects, they aren’t the only high-profile figures to have been linked with crypto in some way. Artists including Björk, Mariah Carey, Fall Out Boy and 50 Cent have accepted cryptocurrency as payment for albums and merchandise, while others – Floyd Mayweather, DJ Khaled, Lionel Messi – have endorsed various projects including ICOs.
Needless to say, you can take the latter with a pinch of salt – especially since Mayweather and Khaled were slapped with fines for unlawfully touting assets on social media. I’d pay good money to hear Floyd Mayweather offer a cogent sentence about any of the three companies he endorsed, namely Centra Tech, Hubii Network and Stox.