What many people do not know about actor and angel investor Ashton Kutcher is that he’s been interested in science and technology from a young age, starting out at the University of Iowa as a biomedical engineer. That obviously didn’t work out and he went the “Dude Where’s My Car” route until years later he launched Blah Girls at TechCrunch 50, which did not work out so well.
Kutcher said that he’s learned a lot of lessons from Blah Girls during an interview with Charlie Rose at TechCrunch Disrupt today, namely to listen to people smarter than himself, specifically investors Ron Conway, Paul Graham, and Marc Andressen, “The failures that we have are sometimes expensive educations,” he said.
In addition to his company Katalyst Media, Kutcher now has his own investment firm, AGrade, as a partnership between Ron Burkle, and Madonna’s manager. Kutcher has invested in Blekko, Flipboard, Milk and Zaarly thus far and also has another 12 undisclosed investments.
“So were you bringing more talent than money to the table [initially]?” Rose asked. Kutcher replied, “What I’ve become good at is bringing things that aren’t necessarily mainstream to the mainstream. What I did see on Twitter was a potential for mass publication, it’s a mainstream consumer broadcasting device. It transforms customers and companies. You have to be transparent or you fail.”
Since Kutcher is serious about his imprint in the valley, Rose asked him what his criteria for investments were and Kutcher outlined them:
a) Problem solvers — Are you solving a problem for a large subset of people?
b) Who the founders are — The Paul Graham maxim.
Extra credit: Investing in companies that can keep their servers up.
Said Kutcher, “One of the things I’ve become immune to is people talking about market cap and social media platforms,” being more concerned about solving the more pressing issue of finding a way to separate signal from noise.
Kutcher also intelligently likened investing to making a movie, asking himself, “What does the market need or want? Like in a script, every character has a need or want.”