"Shark Tank" fans who know 37-year-old Ashton Kutcher from his comedic roles in films and sitcoms may have expected his appearance as a guest Shark on Friday's episode to be strictly for entertainment value.
But after watching the seventh season's premiere, they'd see he's a formidable investor.
Kutcher made a deal, imparted valuable insight to entrepreneurs, and even sparred with Kevin O'Leary.
We recently spoke with "Shark Tank" mainstay Robert Herjavec, who said he found Kutcher's time on set earlier this year to be very impressive.
"It was interesting," Herjavec said. "He came on and he filmed for the day. ... After the first pitch he looked at the rest of us and went, 'Whoa, what just happened?' But to his credit, by the third pitch, he was right in there. He's a very savvy business guy."
Kutcher explained in an article for his website A Plus that it was his friend, the outspoken Shark Mark Cuban, who convinced him to audition for a guest role this season. He was initially reluctant, wondering if he'd be able to add value to investors outside of his expertise in consumer-tech startups, and he had reservations about how authentic the deal-making would be. Cuban convinced him it was not only real but that he could introduce some of his fans to a new side of him.
Kutcher has been involved in business ventures since starting his production company, Katalyst, in 2003, and has been an investor through his venture capital firm A-Grade Investments and as an angel before that. He's made successful seed round and Series A investments in companies like Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, and Soundcloud. His mentor has been the prominent Silicon Valley angel investor Ron Conway.
And while he hasn't previously invested in companies similar to those on "Shark Tank," Kutcher did go in on a deal with Lori Greiner for a product in a radically different space.
He and Greiner agreed to split a $200,000 investment for 15% each of Beebo, a shoulder strap that holds a baby bottle for optimal bottle-feeding. Kutcher and Greiner decided that Greiner could use her expertise to improve packaging and presentation, and Kutcher could use his name recognition, massive social-media outreach, and role as a new dad to get Beebo the customers it needs.
As Herjavec explained, Kutcher may have started a bit hesitant in the Tank, but after warming up, not even O'Leary's attacks fazed him. When O'Leary began dismissing the merit of entrepreneur Jess McClary's McClary Bros. drinking vinegars company and her ability to grow it, Kutcher stopped him to say, "You're belittling people, and that's not OK!" and made him stop talking so that he could speak.
And even though Kutcher, like O'Leary, was not interested in making an investment in McClary Bros., he used his time to explain to her how she has a great opportunity to expand beyond the world of cocktails into the health market with her products.
"Part of being [on 'Shark Tank'] is being able to have fun and being able to go after each other and at the end of it going 'it's just business,'" Kutcher told A Plus. "That being said, there are definitely times where you feel like you got burned, and you just gotta big boy up after that."
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