Oseary and Kutcher - Egomaniacs That Want to Win
Madonna's manager and the guy from That 70s Show might not be the first people who come to mind when you think about venture capital. But six years ago, Guy Oseary and Ashton Kutcher joined forces to form A-Grade Investments--which has since turned its $30 million fund into $250 million.
More than 70 investments including the likes of Uber--a $500,000 investment five years ago has since multiplied by 100--and Airbnb have proved the unlikely team's investing know-how. Their secret? "We're both egomaniacs and want to win," Kutcher jovially explained at the 2016 FORBES Under 30 Summit in Boston. That, and the fact that Oseary "doesn't sleep."
These guys are not just Hollywood types throwing their money around. In fact, Liberty Media last year gave the duo $100 of its money for a new firm, Sound Ventures, to invest in companies like doctor-on-demand startup Pager and government-transparency firm OpenGov. With Sound Ventures, Oseary and Kutcher are actually expressly forbidden from spending their own money.
"A lot of people in our community, when we started, weren't spending money. Or at least investing money. They'd get a call from a company," Oseary said about their still somewhat unusual status as part-time celebrity investors. "We were actually calling the companies ourselves. They weren't calling us." But their day jobs are surprisingly relevant to their investment strategies.
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"It's the same skill set that I've had since I was 17 or 18 years old: Trying to find the next great artist. The next great founder," explained Oseary, who has represented musical acts since he was in high school. "It's the same attraction. I've been doing the same thing for 25 years."
That attraction is hard to explain. Over multiple attempts to describe what interests him in any one company, Oseary struggled to explain the gut feeling he gets about certain startups. "Guy is a gut junkie," Kutcher said. "And I'm always trying to deconstruct data." Data, after all, is how the two got involved in Uber: initially skeptical of the demand for black-car service, Kutcher and Oseary changed their minds upon seeing data showing the strong demand for black-car service. Eventually they got in at a $10 million valuation--a number that has since increased by double digits.
Kutcher's advice to his audience of startup founders and venture capitalists, then, was no surprise: "Measure everything that you can possibly measure. And there's legitimately no substitution for hard work."
Kutcher once apprenticed with a closet-builder as research for a role as a closet builder, and compared that hard, weird work to the hard, weird work of venture capital. "To put yourself in the shoes of the consumer but also learn a trade really, really quickly--I think those tools are super-useful in the area of investing," he said.
Kutcher really does put himself in the consumer's shoes: He claimed to have used Airbnb for a year. He thinks it's "shocking" how few investors seem to use their companies' products. And he looks for one thing above all else when considering an investment: "Would you work for them?" For Kutcher, an investment in a company is tantamount to an interview for a job with them.
Or an audition.
Original article: www.Forbes.com
Written by: Sarah Hedgecock