Rise of the celebrity tech entrepreneur

Rise of the celebrity tech entrepreneur

It's no secret that Silicon Valley wants to invade Hollywood. But now Hollywood wants to invade back.

California is a house divided, with global entertainment powerhouse Hollywood in the south - epicenter of the movie, TV and music businesses and global technology powerhouse Silicon Valley in the north.

It's no secret that Silicon Valley wants to invade Hollywood with disruptive Internet-based content distribution systems and computer-generated everything.

But now Hollywood wants to invade back. In fact, some of Hollywood's biggest stars have tried their hand at launching and running technology companies and helping to design products.

Some of these celebrities are serious about it and have come out with some surprisingly good or ambitious projects.

Let's take a look at what five celebrities are doing in technology.

Damon Wayans

Damon Wayans is best known as a comic TV and movie actor from Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, The Last Boy Scout, Major Payne and the sitcom My Wife and Kids. He's also had a 30-year career in standup comedy.

That's why it might have surprised his fans to see him this week appearing as a special guest on the TWiT show Triangulation, an interview show with technology luminaries, and also moderating a panel at the Samsung Developer Conference. (Full disclosure: I host a show on the TWiT network called Tech News Today.)

Wayans is a partner with Samsung. He developed an app for creating and sharing business cards called FlickDat, which is bundled with Samsung's flagship Galaxy S5 smartphone.

Wayan's company makes nine Android apps and one iOS app.

Kim Kardashian

Professional celebrity Kim Kardashian was interviewed by Kara Swisher at Re/code's Code Mobile event late last month.

Part of the reason is that Kardashian is involved to some degree in a popular game called Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which boasts that it gives players the opportunity to "create your own aspiring celebrity and rise to fame and fortune!" Kardashian is less involved in the development of the game, and more involved in making it popular.

Kardashian was also in the news last month when it was revealed that she not only loves, but hoards, BlackBerry phones. She told Swisher during the interview that she buys extra copies of an older, physical keyboard model of the BlackBerry because she's afraid something will happen to her main one. She uses the BlackBerry for communication but an iPhone for social media posts., is best known as a founding member of the Black Eyes Peas, and also as a music producer.

Last month, he unveiled a $499 smartwatch called the Puls (pronounced like "pulse"), which he funded and claims to have designed.

The watch functions as a stand-alone mobile phone (it doesn't need to wirelessly connect to a separate device), and also can be used for texting, reading and writing email, playing music and checking social media via the touchscreen, a voice interface or a tiny qwerty keyboard. It even has fitness apps.

One lesser known fact is that is a founding investor in Beats Electronics, which was sold to Apple this year for $3 billion. He's also consulted for BlackBerry and Intel.

Kevin Jonas

The pop group The Jonas Brothers formed in 2005 and broke up about a year ago. Since then, the oldest brother, Kevin, has been thinking and talking tech.

He unveiled a new app called Yood last month, and he's thinking about seeking additional investment to grow his company.

Yood is a hypersimplified way to find food using the Yelp database of restaurants. Overly simple buttons showing styles of food, such as Mexican or Italian or Sushi, can be pressed to reveal the nearest place serving that kind of food, as well as the Yelp rating and phone number.

Tom Hanks

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks launched an iPad app a few months ago called Hanx Writer.

The app is a feature-limited word processor that mimics the sights and sounds of old typewriters. It will also print documents in typefaces that look like old typewriter fonts.

Hanks worked with the software developer Hitcents to reproduce software-based versions of three typewriters from his own personal collection of vintage typewriters.

Of course, there's no shortage of phony baloney celebrity involvement with technology, such as when Jennifer Lopez lent her image to the ill-conceived Viva Movil brand for Spanish-speaking Americans in partnership with Verizon. Or when singer Alicia Keys was named (and later fired) as global creative director for BlackBerry (she was caught tweeting with an iPhone).

Celebrity tech entrepreneurs didn't exist a few years ago. It's a new phenomenon.

I think we're going to see a lot more celebrity tech moguls coming on the scene. That's because they often have money to invest, they're creative, and they have the ability to leverage their celebrity and their social media followings to get eyeballs on their products.

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Tags internetmobile appsInternet-based applications and services


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