Ashton Kutcher splits his time between investing in startups and acting. He’s poured about $US100 million into companies like Airbnb, Spotify and Foursquare.
Kutcher didn’t mention being close with fellow tech investors like SV Angel’s Ron Conway, who are certainly part of his vetting process. But he did mention what he looks for in companies.
He says he starts by looking for a problem, then trying to find a startup that’s solving it. Occasionally startups will present ideas that solve obvious problems he hasn’t thought of before.
“There are a couple of specific sectors we look at,” he says. “The two-sided marketplaces are a big opportunity that was never before available, Airbnb being one of them.”
He also looks for these specific qualities in startups:
- Consumer-facing software technologies.
- The density of the problem they’re solving. “We’re not looking for companies off the bat that we go, ‘Oh, that company’s going to make an X amount of money and has X market cap,'” says Kutcher.
- Extraordinary entrepreneurs. “A lot of these companies that we invest in, they are two guys in a garage with a PowerPoint and a dog,” he says. “So, you have to sort of see through everything else and go, is this guy or girl going to build something that is going to be enduring?”
- And by extraordinary, he means passionate people with perseverance. “Do they have passion for the problem they’re trying to solve? Do they have the kind of will power that’s going to take them through the challenges? Because, like Steve Jobs, they’re going to face great challenges along the way and they’ll face adversity and they’ll face people who tell them they can’t do it. And when they start, they’re going to call — like Steve Jobs did — and people won’t know [their] name. They’re going to go, ‘Jobs?’ ‘Yes, J-O-B-S.’ And you have to have a level of perseverance and will to actually drive through that.”
- Know-how. Kutcher’s final requirement: “When you have the moxie to actually put together the pieces and build the solution in a really effective way.”
Here’s the full interview with Kutcher, below: