In the past, celebrities stayed in the entertainment space. Whether they were singers, athletes, actors, or models, they tend not to deviate much from what they were originally doing. However, most evidently in the US, prominent celebrities such as Aston Kutcher, Tyra Banks, and Justin Timberlake have entered the world of business over the past couple of years and started investing into startups. By leveraging on the celebrities’ fame and popularity, it would do well for startups to consider this group of individuals as a useful source of funding. Here are some celebrity investors in Asia you can consider reaching out to fund your startup.
1. Manny Pacquiao (Philippines)
Considered as one of the world’s best boxers, Manny Pacquiao has won world boxing titles in eight different weight divisions. Entering the political arena since 2007, Pacquiao was also elected to his country’s House of Representatives twice and won a Senate seat in 2016. Interestingly, Pacquiao has also released two of his own albums and collaborated on other tracks, and has appeared on movies and starred in a Philippine sitcom as well!
Pacquiao’s angel investing career started as early as 2016, where he invested in a Singaporean mobile gaming company, Gtoken, a crowdsourced mobile publisher and advertising platform, developing a virtual currency that players can earn and use in the app. He was a lot more active in 2018, where he invested in Philippines car rental platform startup Graventure. He has also been getting increasingly involved in the blockchain space by investing in GCOX, a Singaporean crypto token exchange for celebrities, launching his own PAC Coin in the process.
2. Ashraf Sinclair (Malaysia)
British-Malaysian actor Ashraf Sinclair is an actor that is well known in both Malaysia and Indonesia. Through his career, he has stared in a couple of popular movies and dramas, including Pashmina Aisha, Gol & Gincu, and Saus Kacang. Aside from his career in the entertainment industry, Ashraf has also established numerous restaurants, production agencies and gyms, even co-producing a solo concert for his wife, Bunga Citra Lestari, for a sold out crowd of 3,500 people.
Asraf’s first angel investment was referred to by Khailee Ng of 500 Startups; a Korean comestics company called Althea. In 2017, it was announced that he would be joining 500 Startups as a Venture Partner, where his role would be to find Indonesian companies to invest in through 500 Durians Fund II.
3. Hu Haiquan (China)
One-half of the soft rock duet Yu Quan which was founded in 1998, Hu Haiquan and his partner, Chen Yufan, released over 10 albums in total and sold over 7 million records worldwide. Haiquan is a household name in Mainland China and has used his fame and popularity well by acting as the Chinese ambassador for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace, and the initiator of a public health fund in China.
Since 2013, through his own personal money as an angel or his venture capital fund (“Haiquan Fund”), Haiquan has already invested in nearly 50 companies, including names such as entertainment company Beijing Wishart Culture Media and projector maker Jiangsu Inovel Display Technology, which are both currently listed. Just last year, he also funded the new Singapore Raffles Music College campus. His proudest investment is Ninebot, a self balanacing scooter company which famously bought over US based Segway in 2015. Through his efforts, Hu was ranked by Fortune as one of China’s “40 Under 40” business leaders.
4. Keisuke Honda (Japan)
Keisuke Honda is a Japanese professional footballer who currently plays for Australian club Melbourne Victory, who was recently announced as the General Manager for the Cambodia national team. Honda has had a rather illustrious football career, having capped for Japan’s national team close to a hundred times and has only just retired after the World Cup in Russia. Honda has also previously played for prestigious clubs such as AC Millan and CSKA Moscow.
Through his experience in the football arena, Honda has launched his own management company, Honda Estilo, which currently runs >65 soccer schools with more than 3,500 students in Japan. The company has also acquired a professional soccer club in Austria, SV Horn. As an active angel, Honda has also made various impact investments, and was named a UN Foundation Global Advocate for Youth in 2016. Most notably, it was announced that he would be setting up a US$100million fund with popular Hollywood actor Will Smith, focusing on investing in startups addressing with social problems. Nomura Holdings has expressed its keen interest to invest in the fund.
5. Amitabh Bachchan (India)
Making his film debut in 1969, Amitabh Bachchan is considered one of the most influential and greatest actors in Indian Cinema today. Over the past 50 years, he has acted in over 190 films, winning various National Film Awards, in the process. He has also been a game show host, a politician, and was even honoured by the Governments of India and France for his contributions to the arts and cinema.
Bachchan has been active in his investing journey, where various news outlets and websites track and cover his stock investments closely. One of his most famous angel investments include Justdial, an online and telephone business listings company in 2013. In 2015, he invested into Singapore-based Meridian Tech Pte Ltd, which owned Ziddu.com; originally a “free cloud storage, global wallet, social commerce & social gaming platform startup”, which was acquired by LongFin Corp late last year.
Also read: 6 bad angel investor practices that will sabotage a startup’s success
6. “Angelababy” (Based in Hong Kong)
Angela Yeung Wing, better known as the iconic “Angelababy” to her fans, is a Chinese model, actress, and signer based in Hong Kong. She has acted in over a dozen movies in China, such as such as “Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon”, and has also entered Hollywood with films such as action thriller “Hitman: Agent 47” and “Independence Day: Resurgence”.
In 2015, she established her own venture capital fund, AB Capital. Its investments include the e-commerce company Ymatou, and fruit and vegetable juice brand HeyJuice (which JD’s founder and Chief Executive, Richard Liu Qiang Dong, invested as well). As an angel investor, she has also invested in other businesses, such as a nail palour, café, and a lifestyle store in Hong Kong.
As the tech startup scene in Asia continues to develop, I hope to see more celebrities entering the space as angel investors. Startups could benefit from leveraging on their popularity and following for greater coverage and potential business, while celebrities could invest in companies not only as a way to diversify their portfolio, but to work with companies that could help with their personal branding or perhaps, to even create a positive impact to society as well.