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From Punk’d To The $200M Man: Ashton Kutcher’s Fast Rise To Silicon Valley Mogul

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Ashton Kutcher’s lived many roles, from dim-witted Michael Kelso in That’s 70’s Show to the genius billionaire Walden Schmidt in Two And a Half Men. What might surprise many is his eye for promising startups.

Kutcher has founded a successful venture capitalist firm (which turned $30M to a whopping $250M in under six years) and is an active investor in the tech space.

A-Grade Investments

Ashton Kutcher founded A-Grade Investments in 2010 with long-time friends Ron Burkle and Guy Oseary.

The VC firm has invested a little under a million in Uber to date, an investment that’s now churning 100x its value. In 2011, A-Grade invested $2.5M in Airbnb and the investment is valued at close to $100M.

Uber and Airbnb are not one-off lucky investments—A-Grade’s portfolio includes several blockbuster start-ups such as Spotify, Skype, Pinterest, and Shazam.

Silicon Valley stalwart Marc Andreessen believes a VC is one of the best if it can generate 3x returns and considers 5x return a home-run. An 8x return, like the portfolio that turned $30M to $250M, is mighty impressive.

In 2009, Andreessen invited Kutcher to invest $1M in Skype. A little after two years, Skype was acquired by Microsoft [MSFT] and Kutcher raked in a cool $4M. He quadrupled his investment when the world was still reeling under one of the worst recessions in history.

A-Grade invested in companies that have appealing founders, a problem-solving mission statement and a solid business model.

Not all you touch will turn to gold

However, investing in tech is not easy. The disruptive nature of this industry had made seasoned investors like Warren Buffett wary of the same. Similar to other VC’s, A-Grade also had its share of investment failures.

In fact, while investing in start-ups it is normal to experience more failure than success. In 2011, Kutcher’s VC invested in online fashion start-up Fab.com and saw its valuation soar to $1B and then come crashing down to $15M.

Kutcher was also the creative director (in addition to funding) of Ooma which was an unsuccessful web-based phone service. However, A-Grade has managed to offset these investment with a slew of successful ones.

Much more than just a celebrity investor

Kutcher is not a celebrity investor who takes on equity in exchange for endorsements. He is in for the real deal. Funding in tech is more miss than hit and Kutcher invests in products that he believes in.

He extensively uses Uber for travel. Kutcher stayed in Airbnb’s (before investing in the firm) to be absolutely sure if staying in a stranger’s house is as comfortable as a hotel or your own home. He then rented out Airbnb’s for a year after his divorce with Demi Moore.

He passed on investing in Snapchat twice as Kutcher confessed that he did not get it. Though Snapchat went on to become a publicly listed company, Kutcher remains unconcerned and knows that he will pass on many such investments that will go on to be successful.

Leveraged social media influence

Ashton Kutcher knows the power of social media. He was, in fact, an early adopter and the first one to have a million followers on Twitter [TWTR] way back in 2009.

While being actively involved with start-ups, Kutcher managed to use his influence on social media to voice his support for Uber when New York City’s Mayor Bill De Blasio tried to restrict Uber’s growth via regulations.

Now what?

In 2015, Liberty Media pumped in $100M and appointed Kutcher and Oseary to run this investment vehicle looking at their impressive returns. That year, Kutcher and Guy Oseary founded another VC fund Sound Ventures targeting investments in the tech space.

Sound Ventures have made 53 investments to date and has led six rounds of funding. Its latest investment was in the electric scooter start-up Bird that has already raised up to $300M.

Sound Ventures’  hit the bulls-eye with investments in Neighborly, Gusto and Robinhood. Sound Ventures has also invested in b8ta, Cedar, Calm and Modern Fertility in the last four months.

In June, the VC announced that it is looking to raise a second fund of  $150M, to up their investment ante. A successful run here will most likely propel them into the billion dollar league.

Kutcher was paid $20M for starring in the final season of Two and a Half Men. We can see that venture funding is not his second stream of income. He is passionate about tech and believes it can make a huge difference. He is in fact, all-in.

Entrepreneurs

NBA Legend Kobe Bryant Passes Away At 41

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NBA legend Kobe Bryant passed away earlier today in a tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas, CA, according to various reports. Four other passengers, including 13-year-old daughter Gianna, died in the crash as well.

TMZ was first with the news.

The news comes as a shock to not only the basketball community, but worldwide.

Since retiring in 2016, Bryant had reinvented himself as a venture capitalist, raising $100M in 2016 for a fund that’s had made a number of successful startup investments, including Epic Games, the company behind the Fortnite craze.

As of Sept. 2019, Bryant Stibel had $2B in assets under management, invested in 28 companies, 10 exits, with three of them—Dell, Alibaba and National Vision—going public.

 

“It’s finding that winning company as an investor,” Bryant said when asked about what excited him the most: hitting the winning shot in the playoffs or finding a winning company as an investor. “Because I always expected to hit a game-winning shot growing up.”

Overall, roughly a third of the 19 active companies in the portfolio is worth more than $1B.

Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and three daughters, including a six-month old, born in June of last year. Along with a legacy that will live forever.

Rest in peace, Mamba.

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Entrepreneurs

Here’s How Apple’s CEO Tim Cook Starts His Day

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Apple has became a trillion-dollar company. Despite the tech giant’s great numbers, how does its CEO Tim Cook actually start his day?

In a recent Axios interview, Cook revealed he starts each day just before 4 a.m. with a strict morning routine.

What that consists of might surprise you: He reads user comments about Apple products.

“I like to take the first hour and go through user comments and things like this that sort of focus on the external people that are so important to us,” Cook says.

In other words, he reads comments from fans, trolls and everything in between.

You’d think the CEO never bothers to read stuff like that; that he’d have an assistant ready to give him the rundown.

“And then I go to the gym and work out for an hour because it keeps my stress at bay.”

Workouts can be super critical. Billionaires and other successful entrepreneurs cite fitness as a key component to their success (and overall sanity).

“I seriously doubt that I would have been as successful in my career (and happy in my personal life),” Branson once wrote in a blog post. “If I hadn’t always placed importance on my health and fitness.”

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Gary Vee’s ‘$1.80’ Instagram Strategy To Hack Your Follower Count

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Entrepreneur and bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk—aka Gary Vee!— is one of the biggest business on social media today.

His IG currently boasts 4M followers while his YouTube has near 1.6M subscribers.

The CEO of Vayner Media, Gary uses (and absolutely loves) social media to propel the growth of his business, now valued at a whopping $125 million, which even includes a media franchise.

(And no, WealthLAB’s not for sale, G.)

Obviously, if you’re someone just starting out in business, you’re looking for ways to get your business out there. How to get more followers.

For 90%+, you pick a couple of platforms, you post. More often than not, you end up with dwindling traffic, or no shares or comments.

So how do you get around that?

According to Gary Vee, you can get more followers and more engagement through a $1.80 strategy. (Well, sorta.)

Here’s how you do it.

Make a list of every hashtag that fit the work your business does. Apart from this, check out the other tags people use when generating content similar to yours.

With this in hand, check out any hashtag for the top posts surrounding that description—and then share your two cents about it as a comment.

If you were to do this ten times over, your work would equal $0.02*9 posts*the hashtags= $1.80. (Yeah, kinda corny, but you get the logic.)

Check it out here, in his own words.

Over time, this can help you snag followers, and you will continuously learn about what matters to many of your followers.

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