Ashton Kutcher

Actor, producer, and investor at Sound Ventures

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 10, 2015 Thank Ashton Kutcher on Twitter

Discussion

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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
Hi everyone, Ashton here. Very excited to be answering your questions today. Join me for a conversation around startup funding, the future of technology, and more. Ask away!
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Ryan Hoover — Founder, Product Hunt
Ashton! Welcome. 😄 Mobile radically changed the way people interact with each other. What emerging technology do you see having the biggest impact on the way we communicate and build relationships in the future?
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@rrhoover sup ryan. I think that a lot of the big shifts in consumer mobile have been taken on by disruptors. much of the innovation moving forward will be around the edges. However occasionally there are step change innovations that present opportunity. I think there are some emerging mesh tech/ communications companies like Jott that have a chance to disrupt. I also believe that the wearable stuff is just at it's infancy. big shifts will come around voice commands and different light weight frictionless input. (wish I had that now... I'm a slow typer) (-:
Aladdin — CEO, Next Music, inc.
@aplusk Do you use any disruptive technologies, methodologies, approaches while helping your startups to grow? If yes or no, which ones you utilize?

BTW. I'm a founder of an invite-only community of >14K growth hackers. One short curated growth hacking idea a day to your email. People from companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, TechStars, Hubspot, Coca-Cola, Indiegogo, Disney, 500 startups, LinkedIn, Adobe are in the community. Here is a gift for you to keep helping your startups to grow - your personal invite-link to access the service: http://growthhackingidea.com/?re...
Michael Boswell — Design, Facebook
@rrhoover Really surprised there was no mention of VR here.
Pearl 21 — Founder, Pearl 21
@michael_boswell I think it's reasonable to consider VR to be a subset of wearable tech that Ashton alluded to.
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@aplusk thanks Ryan that was awesome
Yvan Scher — Court Jester
@aplusk It's nice to see someone else doing something in this space other than firechat / opengarden. Did you invest in Jott?
Ⓜatt hartman — seed investments, betaworks
@aplusk -- it seems to me that two of the significant benefits you bring as an investor are your celebrity and your experience building your own brand. do you think your involvement in a startup is more beneficial earlier in the company's life, where your experience building your brand may be more relevant, or later when the company needs to grow and your celebrity can help increase awareness.
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@matthartman I think the celeb and branding aspect is really only a small portion of what we do. In fact if I feel a company is only interested in that I generally choose to not invest. Celeb endorsement isn't gonna make anyones product better. We focus heavily on helping companies grow. Sometimes that comes in the form of shaping the brand and the messaging but more often than not its about really understanding the customer conversion channels. I think where the celeb thing comes in handy is in being vocal when companies come up against regulation or simply getting a return phone call from a strategic BD situation.
Eli K. — AlibiChat.com
@aplusk preach it
Sahil — CEO, Vuzelaa
Matt Turney — Designer, Marketer, and Entrepreneur
@aplusk ill uproot that, but it would seem that it could add some steam to a launch?
alex kwon — oneminute
@aplusk Is there any social product that you use as "Ashton" compared to the "celebrity Ashton?"
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@turneycreative no question there is value add on getting eyes on iterations but that's secondary
Aladdin — CEO, Next Music, inc.
@aplusk you mentioned, that you focus heavily on helping companies grow. I'm a founder of an invite-only community of >14K growth hackers. One short curated growth hacking idea a day to your email. People from companies like Microsoft, Salesforce, TechStars, Hubspot, Coca-Cola, Indiegogo, Disney, 500 startups, LinkedIn, Adobe are in the community. If you visit Product Hunt -> “Growth Hacking” search results ( http://www.producthunt.com/#!/s/... ), you’ll see the service is a #1 in the list.

Here is a gift for you to keep helping your startups to grow - your personal invite-link to access the service: http://growthhackingidea.com/?re...

;)
Ray Garcia — Founder @teleporme
@aplusk That was a great answer, Ashton. I couldn't agree more with you. There are many startups who are backed by celebrities​ but that doesn't guarantee success.
somthngcreative — Founder at Initiativv and
@aplusk some good stuff in here. I can't think of many examples of celebrities being vocal for a startup that is coming up against regulation off the top of my head, but I agree with you that it would come in handy. I bet you see more of it in the future as more startups face regulatory challenges.
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Niv Dror — Writer/Social Editor @ProductHunt
@aplusk was this intentional? 😜

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Ryan Hoover — Founder, Product Hunt
@nivo0o0 haha, I remember when I first saw this. Someone tweeted, "nice cameo in Ashton's Lenovo commercial!" 😜
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Niv Dror — Writer/Social Editor @ProductHunt
@rrhoover nice cameo indeed :)
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@nivo0o0 yes "WHAT EVER OUR FOUNDERS NEED"
Kamil — Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@aplusk Thanks for doing this and welcome! I wanted to ask what you're currently reading and what's on your bookshelf.
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@kamilszybalski I'm currently reading an advanced copy of a book call "the lucky years" by dr david agus
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@aplusk tried to attach a selfie but it failed
Kamil — Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@aplusk #shelfie, i.e. picture of your bookshelf http://Shelfie.com
Patrícia Spinelli — fotógafo
@kamilszybalski Boa pergunta :)
Kamil — Growth Entrepreneur. Was @Hootsuitelabs
@ptspinelli Thanks.
Alex MacCaw — Founder of Clearbit
How do the film and startup financing ecosystems differ?
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@maccaw roi !
James McBennett — Designer
@aplusk saw architect Bjarke Ingels was asked about his tech investing recently. Was interesting how he said web had adopted many words from construction such as the obvious 'site'. But then said more importantly, ROI. Buildings take so long and can't be repeated.
Jeff Needles — BI @ Meerkat & Maker of Things
@aplusk HEY! I'm super curious about your transition from hollywood to silicon valley? What is the starkest contrast you've seen between the worlds? What has been the most similar? 😎
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@jsneedles The biggest contrast is that there are no middle men in the valley. The film industry is filled with agents, managers, and execs, that in many cases are just professional introducers that take a cut. Don't get me wrong there are people who do that job that are very good, very creative, and very effective but I find the valley to be refreshingly level and blunt. I also think the valley is far more willing to take big risks on the unknown. The film industry has become littered with copy cats and studios playing it safe with the same product just different costumes. While both are creative places filled with creative people, I think there is a social dynamic an Hollywood that fuels a very different creative process. And because projects here are 6-18mo endeavors you are far more likely to run into someone and say "hey lets work together on something" and then actually do it. There are more creative collisions here.
Alex Wolkov ☭ — UX, Front End
@aplusk I'm one of the early employees at @fundbox, a start up you recently invested in. I wanted to ask you, why did you choose a fintech startup in general and Fundbox specifically to invest in.
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@altryne Fundbox is an amazing company. To list all the reasons would take the rest of this session but ultimately it comes down to the math adding up, the need for this solution, the competency of the team executing it, and the fact that I believe we have some unique access in underserved industries in a way that we can be significant value add investors.
Alex Wolkov ☭ — UX, Front End
@aplusk thank you very much for answering! I'm personally very exited to have you on as an investor.
Natalya Matyushenko — Co-founder/COO at Spycob
@aplusk Hi Ashton, Do you personally meet with startup founders before/after investment? To discuss the project, to share your knowledge or smth like this? How do you support founders beside the money, and do you?
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@ambercamel I try whenever possible to meet the founders prior to investment. There are some cases where there have been logistical challenges that have not allowed that. That being said I believe it's our business the know not only the business but most importantly the people. Eric Schmitt once told me "life is who you travel with" and I couldn't agree with that statement more. The reason I invest is not to make money or to "change the world" is to meet and spend time with bright, creative, innovative, driven people that care about other people. Making money and changing the world is the exhaust of care and compassion for other people and the ingenuity and guts to do something about it.
Natalya Matyushenko — Co-founder/COO at Spycob
@aplusk like that)
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@aplusk We help companies in a variety of ways. Marketing, Crisis PR, product, hiring, lobbying, helping to find syndicate investors, thinking through issues, Biz Dev, sponsorships, Coaching, networking, What ever our founders need we are willing to do our best to step in.
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Ryan Hoover — Founder, Product Hunt
@ambercamel Ashton's an investor in Product Hunt and I can point to emails where he's reached out to help with specific opportunities. The best investors don't wait for you to ask for help; they're proactive.
Inna Semenyuk — Founder, Start Up Your Happiness
@aplusk what's the best way to get my startup introduced to you?:)
Alex Romanenko — CEO, 2for1 inc
@aplusk It's very important to invest in founders not only money. Unfortunately even to buy "brain" (I mean professionals to your team) you need also have the brain, and just money won't help)))
Natalya Matyushenko — Co-founder/COO at Spycob
@rrhoover not guilty)))
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Ben Tossell — Community Lead, Product Hunt
@aplusk When are you planning on giving @bhorowitz a run for his money with your own book "Dude, where's my unicorn?" - I'll help with your launch ;)
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@bentossell I look so far up to Ben I can see the bottom of his feet.
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Ben Tossell — Community Lead, Product Hunt
@aplusk thanks...but what about Ben Horowitz ;)
Suzy Ryoo — venture/tech/innovation at Atom Factory
Heyo @aplusk. We met briefly at CES this past year, thanks for speaking briefly about authenticity+brands with OMD/Omnicom.

Now a new early-stage investor with Troy over at Atom Factory... If you had one piece of advice from your earliest days investing, what wisdom might you impart?

Thanks for joining LIVE on Product Hunt + much respect from Culver City ^.^
@suzywillow Hi Suzy. : ) Glad to see you continuing to kick *ss.
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@suzywillow Always assume that you are not the smartest person in the room. Then ask for help. On most deals I ask the founder to explain their company like they are talking to a high school student. But explain everything! This is effective for multiple reasons.
1. you really learn what the company does, how it works, why it works.
2. you get smarter
3. you learn if they really understand their company and product and can sell it to other people

Listen to the silence, What does the founder not want to tell you? Then ask that question.

The second thing I do is ask for help. I don't know if I've ever done a deal with out reaching out to a field expert in the space we are investing in. I also ask them to explain it to me in super simple terms.

Always do competitive landscape analysis

know what metrics are important and study them

Pray for luck.
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@aplusk one last thing. Ask not what their company can do for you but what you can do for their company!!!!!
alex kwon — oneminute
@aplusk 🙌🏻That's the Sillicon Valley version of JFK's quote ''Ask not what your country can do for you - Ask what you can do for your country"
Craig Stanford — Co-Founder & VP of BizDev @ StageHound
@suzywillow Nice to see you here and congrats on your freshman class at SMASHD LABS!
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Brady — Founder @ Modimize Inc.
Hello Ashton! I am humbled at the opportunity to ask you a question!
Many investors look at the qualities in a founder or founders along side the startup itself.
In a fast paced digital world, a face to face meeting is rare.
Q: A. How do you gauge the qualities of a founder or founders? B. What is the best way to approach
a specific investor if their qualities are in line with yours?
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@iambradyrichard I'm looking for founders with Grit, people who don't give up, people with the execution ability in whatever space they are disrupting, people I'd be willing to work for, people who are flexible, leaders, good communicators, people who know their company inside out. I always ask my team, if we got a call at 1am from this founder needing something are you going to be happy to pick up the phone and jump in. The way we assess this in diligence is different every time but it comes down to asking a ton of questions (not just about the business). But we don't just trust our judgement we try to find people who know them or have worked with them and get third party help.

Driven people with great ideas find a way to investors. I'm approached all the time at events or even in elevators. I get cold calls and cold emails and I or someone on my team takes almost all of them. The one thing I would suggest is, don't be disruptive, be polite, get to the point and expect 2 answers YES or NO. If it's no find out why and fix it then reengage. Everyone you want to work with EVER is busy.
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Brady — Founder @ Modimize Inc.
@aplusk - Thank you Ashton! Greatly appreciated! This advice will be put to use!
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
Hey Ashton!

You've taken it upon yourself to invest in great companies and also and do great philanthropic work through your foundation. Obviously you love it and believe it's important - do you also think celebrities/people in power have a certain social responsibility?
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@eriktorenberg I think we all have a certain social responsibility. I remember 8 years ago watching Bono and thinking, that's what I want to do. I want to use my platform to impact peoples lives in any way I can. I'm not at that level yet, but at least now he's mentoring me and we are starting to make some progress. BTW please check out wearethorn.org if you get a chance. We have an amazing technology coalition helping us build some great software for good.
SOUNDS. — Music for Instagram
@aplusk Do you code or design yourself ?
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
@aplusk huge fan of what you and the Thorn team do! We'd love to promote their work here on PH.
Melissa Joy Kong — Content, Product Hunt
What are 2-3 of the moments in your life that have most shaped the person you are today, and what meaning do you give them in hindsight?
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@melissajoykong
1. 13 yo -My Twin brother had a heart transplant. That experience opened my heart to truly loving another person.
2. 18 yo- I got put in jail for 3rd degree buglary (felony offense). This taught me that the rules applied to me too
3. 25yo- my brother said to me "every time you feel sorry for me you make me less." This gave me perspective that the life and experiences one knows is theirs (the only one they know). The line between care and judgement is thin and constantly in need of being evaluated.
4. 25 yo -I got fired from a movie by a big director. That made me aware what mattered in my life, and reset my work ethic.
5. 37 yo -I had a baby. I learned what unconditional really meant.

There are more but I gotta split. It's been real! Thanks so much for you questions. Thanks so much for being you!
MARK GREENWOOD — Retired
@aplusk Hi, I just began to follow you on twitter. Your 5 life changing events are quite moving and profound. I am happy for you. In watching two and one half men, I watched you grow and mature very quickly, especially as the show wound down. I think you are a very sound and solid person and I wish you many years of happiness with your new found family. You seem like a real nice guy; a gentleman...something not so easily nurtured in today's Hollywood. Hope some day I see you back on the screen. Take care Ashton.
jeff slobotski — founder, router ventures
What tips + advice would you have for a startup who's heads down building a great company outside of the traditional tech communities but working to take things to the next level (raise additional outside capital, attract more national customers, etc...)
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ashton kutcher — founder Sound Ventures, Aplus
@slobotski I think it starts with making a great product that solves a real problem in an innovative way. There is a company called companion that I talked to today based in Michigan that is crushing it out of the gates. He just built a great product and it's working. Meanwhile he's getting international pick up and growing at a clip. Financing will come to you, you don't need to go to it. He's building a killer team of devs right out of Michigan U and doesn't have to pay the competitive valley rates because the cost of living is so much less. I think innovation can happen anywhere you just have to dream big. go OMAHA!
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Seth Louey — Product Designer & Founder
@aplusk Same with the Tech community in Saratoga Springs, NY. :)
Daniel Landy — 📚Babson Student
@sethlouey my brother races horses at the track there hahaha. I didn't know there was a tech community there.
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Seth Louey — Product Designer & Founder
@danoliverlandy There is a huge community within the Capital Region! You should check it out, you'd be surprised what you might find in central NY. :)
Melissa Joy Kong — Content, Product Hunt
You recently got married to long-time friend Mila Kunis (congrats!!)
(1) What's your take on the meaning of long-term commitment/marriage?
(2) And what things are *absolute requirements* for making one work?
Martin Bavio — Full Stack Designer
@aplusk Why did you get into the startup & technology world?
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Ben Tossell — Community Lead, Product Hunt
@aplusk What 20% of your inputs, produce 80% of your outputs?
Marko Islamovic — Founder @ GigRove
Hi Ashton, since you are an investor in Uber & Airbnb, I have a question related to sharing economy apps: Usually, users of those kind of apps need to start dealing with completely unknown folks, so what do you think, what is the biggest reason/motivator for them to break the barriers and to start to interact with the product in such open manner? Is it a social object (belonging to the app's community) or it's just a benefit that they can get from the exchange?
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Jack Dweck — Product Manager at Unroll.Me
Hey Ashton! What’s the most important thing you learned from being a guest shark on this season’s Shark Tank?
Corley — COO @ Product Hunt
Ashton - thanks for making the time! What is one of your interesting life's lessons that you draw on when making decisions?
Erik Torenberg — Former Product Hunt
Since you've been in the mind of Steve Jobs for a while, and since many of us have been thinking about his legacy...how do you approach your own? What do you want people to say at your funeral?
Jay Surovy — CEO, SportPass
@aplusk what kind of tech startups (segment) do you find most intriguing nowadays and why ?
@aplusk Do you watch the show 'Silicon Valley'? Are you ever going to make an appearance on there? If not, how would you feel about a character based on you?
Clément — Co-founder, Nalyze
@aplusk Hi Ashton, thank you to be there! What's the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before you go to bed ?
Ashley Laurel — Marketing @ Accenture
@aplusk What are your tips on creating a healthy work/life balance?