Ashton Kutcher likens venture capital search to 'witch hunt'

Summary:Ashton Kutcher discusses his venture capital investment strategy, comparing it to a "witch hunt" in search for the next magical big thing.

Although actor and angel investor Ashton Kutcher recently faced questions about his disclosure policies (or lack thereof), he didn't face any such questions during a fireside chat with TechCrunch founder and "unpaid blogger" Michael Arrington on Tuesday.

Speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt 2011, the focus stayed on the startups instead of the drama once again. (Although there was a brief discussion about Two and a Half Men at the start of the talk.)

Kutcher got off to what could have been a controversial start if you didn't pay attention to his closely (and sometimes rambling) comments in context. The Katalyst Films co-founder likened venture capitalists and everyone looking for the next big thing as part of a "witch hunt," but in a positive way. Rather, he argued that we're all looking something so "disruptive" that we don't know how it works but want to learn more.

What's at the heart of Kutcher's desire to invest? The answer is simple, but it could be applied to anyone who wants to invest in a startup: "I like to learn how magic tricks work," said Kutcher.

However, Kutcher acknowledged that there are potential pitfalls for companies that he selects.

"I think sometimes for the early stage companies that I've invested in, disclosing that I’m an investor can be detrimental to the story of the company," Kutcher admitted.

For example, such concerns were raised just for his famous Twitter account -- although it turns out that didn't hurt either of them too much. Nevertheless, Kutcher now has a policy of not discussing his involvement until the company has a public awareness, and "their story has already matured far enough."

When asked which kinds of companies Kutcher chooses to invest with, he didn't define specific types of technologies or businesses, but rather pitches from companies that prove they can solve a problem and if he is interested making that happen.

Kutcher acknowledged that he has seen plenty of pitches come and go from companies that sounded great, but he wasn't passionate about nor interested in spending time with -- which prompted one startup attendee to ask the That 70's Show star, "Do you want to spend some time with me?" to much laughter from the audience and Arrington.


Topics: CXO, Banking


Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider,, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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