New York hosted the number one technology startup conference this week, Techcrunch Disrupt. It felt as though Silicon Valley had taken over Manhattan, but one of the highest profile attendees was actually from Southern California — actor Ashton Kutcher (OK, I know he’s from Iowa originally). He was interviewed on stage by Charlie Rose (see video) and today is profiled by Jenna Wortham for the New York Times:
Ashton Kutcher, a former model, rose to fame in Hollywood by playing a handsome ditz in “Dude, Where’s My Car?” and on “That 70s Show.” But in certain circles, people know that he is no dummy when it comes to technology.
In recent years, Mr. Kutcher has become a smart early investor in some of the most talked-about Internet start-ups, including Foursquare, the mobile social network; Path, a photo-sharing application; and Flipboard, a news-reading app for the iPad.
He has also clearly mastered the utopian lingo of Silicon Valley: “I look for companies that solve problems in intelligent and friction-free ways and break boundaries,” he said in an interview this week.
It is too early to say how Mr. Kutcher’s approach will pay off, but one of his investments has clearly jumped in value. He was part of a group of investors that bought into the Internet calling service Skype in 2009 in a deal that valued it at $2.75 billion. Last month,Microsoft agreed to buy Skype for more than three times that amount.
Mr. Kutcher, 33, would not discuss the size of his investments, which he has recently been making through a partnership called A Grade. People in the venture capital world estimated that they were in modest amounts, perhaps $50,000 to $200,000 — on par with what other early-stage investors would be putting in.
His firm’s latest and largest investment, to be announced Thursday, is in Airbnb, a start-up company in San Francisco that matches budget-conscious travelers with local people who are willing to rent out their spare bedrooms…