In the days when Ashton Kutcher was playing the ditsy Michael Kelso on "That 70s Show," few could imagine him as a highly respected and knowledgeable tech investing venture capitalist.
Yet in recent years, Kutcher has established himself as just that — a savvy venture capitalist specializing in discovering and nurturing young technology companies.
Most Americans know Kutcher as Kelso, or from his current role as billionaire Walden Schmidt on the CBS TV series "Two and a Half Men," or from the publicity surrounding his marriage and impending divorce from Demi Moore.
And with his unkempt hair and baby face, the 35-year-old hardly looks like a seasoned, in-demand tech investor.
So you can be forgiven for having the same reaction that many in the venture capital investing community had when they first encountered Kutcher.
"When I first met him, I was deeply skeptical of him because he's an actor and famous, and I thought he just wanted to dabble," David Lee, who co-founded SV Angel, an early-stage investment firm in Silicon Valley, told The New York Times. "I've seen his movies, I've seen 'Dude, Where's My Car?' and was not sure what to expect."
But Lee changed his tune after jointly investing with Kutcher in promising tech startup companies.
"I've come to realize he's one of the most insightful investors I've worked with," he said.
Actually, Kutcher's art has come to imitate his life. The Walden Schmidt character got into tech investing himself after making his billions by selling a Web site to Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) during the dot-com boom.
And in a movie set for release in August, Kutcher plays the late tech icon and Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Ashton Kutcher: Venture Capitalist
Kutcher's interest in technology traces back to when he majored in biochemical engineering in college (though he dropped out to pursue a career as a model).
After working in film production for a while -he co-founded the film production company Katalyst Network in 2000 – Kutcher became more intrigued with the potential in tech investing.
"I realized that the Internet was getting fast enough to allow for the growth of streaming video, and I started getting into that, and into digital analytics," Kutcher said at forum for tech startups in Israel last month.
"[Along the way], I came across a lot of other interesting startups – especially in social media, which appealed to me because it fostered communication between people, and allowed new and novel ways to market ideas, products, movies, and music," he said.
Kutcher became so intrigued in tech investing that by 2007 he was ready to co-found a tech-oriented venture capital fund, A-Grade Investments, with billionaire Ron Burkle and Guy Oseary, who manages Madonna.
Oseary and Kutcher recently confirmed that they've been raising additional money from outside investors which has put the value of A-Grade at $100 million.
And despite a couple of wrong turns early on, Kutcher and A-Grade have shown an uncanny ability to pick winners…