If you thought startup investments are just for tech geeks, think again. Celebrities the world over are looking to get in on the Startup Nation action. From Jay-Z to Ellen Degeneres and Leonardo Dicaprio, here are 10 celebs who know that Israel is the hottest place for innovation.
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The founding member and rapper of The Black Eyed Peas recently came to Israel to introduce his latest smartwatch to a group of Israeli startups and angel investors. While in Israel, will.i.am (William Adams) also expressed interest in investing in several Israeli startups including Tonara, an interactive sheet music app and Wishi, a crowd-styling fashion app. The rapper also visited other up-and-coming startups like Guster and Fashioholic. When he’s not writing, producing or performing music, will.i.am works as director of creative innovation at Intel and develops his brand I.am+ that came out with the foto.sosho camera accessory for IPhone in December 2012.
2. Bar Refaeli
This Israeli-born bombshell and world-famous model is much more than a pretty face. In 2012, she co-founded Under.me, an online underwear retailer, along with fellow male model Dudi Balsar. Refaeli is also a prominent supporter of MyCheck, a mobile payment application, designed to allow restaurant-goers to pay their bills using their smartphones at any point during the meal. Refaeli even stars in the company’s hilarious commercial that you can watch here:
3. Leonardo DiCaprio
What does this Hollywood a-lister have in common with Serena Williams, Toby Macguire, and Lance Armstrong? He’s an investor in Mobli, the Israeli-originated social mobile photo and video sharing website. Together, these superstars have contributed approximately $6.5 million to this Instagram competitor, which allows users to broadcast their own visual media live feed with others, all from the comfort of their mobile devices. DiCaprio first discovered the Startup Nation during his five-year relationship with Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, who shares his passion for startup investing.
4. Justin Bieber
While he might be best known for hits like “Baby” and “As Long As You Love Me,” this international popstar is also an investor, including in Israeli startup Give2Together. Bieber used the unique platform, which leverages social media for cost-effective fundraising, to launch his latest “Music Makes It Better” campaign, an initiative of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington DC to provide patients with art and music therapy. While it may come as a surprise, Bieber even appeared on the cover of “Forbes” magazine and was named a ‘Venture Capitalist’ for his investments in over 12 startups to date.
Hip-hop legend and Grammy winner Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) is a prominent investor and spokesman for Duracell PowerMat, an Israeli company that specializes in wireless charging for electronic devices. “I believe in the future of wireless energy and I believe that Duracell Powermat is the company to bring on the revolution,” the entertainer said in a company press release. “I’m partnering with Duracell Powermat because they’re providing the solutions for the future.”
6. Ashton Kutcher
Best known as Hollywood’s goofy heartthrob from hits like “That 70’s Show” and “Dude, Where’s My Car”, this Kabbalah enthusiast is also an avid investor in more than 30 startups through his A-Grade Investments venture capital fund, which he co-founded with Israeli entrepreneur and Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary. During his fourth trip to Israel last year, Kutcher not only scouted for companies to invest in, but also hosted an event focused on Israeli startups which drew more than one thousand attendees. Kutcher praised Israel for being the epicenter of Internet innovation, and has plans to open his own Tel Aviv incubator in the startup nation.
7. Novak Djokovic and Billie Jean King
Even some professional athletes have nothing but ‘love’ for Israel’s innovations.Two former world-class tennis players, Novak Djokovic of Serbia (who just lost out to Rafael Nadal during the Roland Garros final) and Billie Jean King of the US, both contributed to a $3.5 million sum investment for PlaySight’s SmartCourt tennis analytics technology, designed to measure and record playing performance. SmartCourt is equipped with five HD cameras, cloud software, and social media sharing capabilities.
8. Scarlett Johansson
This American screen siren is also hopping onto the bandwagon craze for Israeli products and inventions. Hollywood starlet Scarlett Johansson is a brand ambassador for SodaStream, an Israeli invention that transforms water and other beverages into carbonated drinks. Earlier this year, Johnasson unwittingly became embroiled in a political dispute surrounding her work with SodaStream. The Avengers actress left her role as an Oxfam ambassador after eight years in January due to what her spokesman called “a fundamental difference of opinion” with the humanitarian group over SodaStream’s factory in a settlement in the West Bank. “I stand behind that decision,” Johansson said. “I was aware of that particular factory before I signed [on]. It still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to the problem.”
9. Ellen Degeneres
Emmy award-winning talk show host Ellen Degeneres wasn’t about to miss out on the bubbly craze, holding a giveaway of SodaStream machines on her daily talk show. Just last month, the selfie superstar and her production company, A Very Good Production Inc. also bought the rights to the Israeli TV show pilot, “The Gran Plan”, a show where grandmothers give valuable advice to confused members of younger generations.
10. Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research
In addition to Israeli tech, start-ups, and innovations, celebrities like Canadian-American actor Michael J.Fox, also have their eyes out for Israel’s groundbreaking medical and scientific research. In 2007, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research awarded more than $1 million in grants to two Israeli companies — Cell Cure Neurosciences and Proneuron Biotechnologies — to support their ongoing research to find viable treatments for Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease that Fox himself suffers from.