Now, before you get all “what the heck is he talking about” on me, let me explain. Ashton Kutcher, the movie and TV star and Twitter phenom with 13.2 million followers, appears to have some real vision when it comes to financial services.
Kutcher has invested in Square and Balanced in recent months, two of the most promising financial startups out there. (For those who don’t know, Balanced offers a payment system for marketplaces. The company provides an API that allows peer-to-peer marketplaces to charge cards, escrow funds, deposit next day via ACH direct, and collect their own marketplace fees. Kutcher made his investment in Balanced just a couple of weeks ago.) True, both are payments company, but each is trying to carve out new payments markets — Square in small-business payments and Balanced for online marketplaces.
Kutcher invests $25,000 to $500,000 in six to 10 startups per year. Mostly, he focuses on media and social media, although Square and Balanced have found their way into his portfolio. Reportedly, Kutcher — who stars in “Two & a Half Men” and was famously married to Demi Moore — has invested in Skype, Hipmunk, the travel site, and Airbnb. Not bad for a guy who played dimwitted Michael Kelso on “That 70s Show.”
How many bankers today are putting their money on the line — or even their bank’s money on the line, for that matter — to carve out new businesses and product segments? Frightfully few, as you well know. So I am placing my vote for Banker of the Year on Ashton Kutcher because he is investing in startups trying to change banking. And because ”Two & a Half Men” is still kind of funny.