When Ashton Kutcher first met Guy Oseary about two decades ago, Oseary needed advice on caring for his new dog. “My first impression was ‘Who doesn’t know how to take care of a dog?’” Kutcher recalls.
Despite the inauspicious beginning, the two hit it off and would spend hours playing, of all things, dominoes — a decidedly analog pastime that led them to go into business together as tech venture capitalists. Kutcher, the actor, producer and entrepreneur best known for starring in “That ’70s Show,” says he and Oseary had crossed paths when they were individually looking at investing in the same Silicon Valley startups.
“At one point Guy came to me and was like, ‘Hey, why don’t we partner up, and we’ll go raise some money, and we’ll do this together,’” says Kutcher of Oseary, Variety‘s 2022 Music Mogul of the Year.
In 2015, they formed VC firm Sound Ventures, which has invested in more than 200 early-stage tech companies to date, according to PitchBook. By its own count, it has had 35 exits — companies in its portfolio that have gone public or been acquired — including Spotify, Airbnb, Casper, Nest (acquired by Google), Pinterest, Robinhood, Shazam (bought by Apple), Uber and Warby Parker. Like any investment firm, Sound Ventures has had misses: The list of exits omits companies it has backed that have fizzled out, including Medinas, a health-tech startup that wound down earlier this year.
“The thing Guy really gets excited about is finding the next big thing,” Kutcher says. “He doesn’t always get into the weeds of, you know, the unique economics of a deal so much as understanding that people are going to want it.”
One “next big thing” Oseary is excited about in 2022: Yuga Labs, the company behind the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection. Sound Ventures participated in Yuga’s $450 million seed round, which closed in March — giving the 1-year-old company an astounding valuation of over $4 billion. Some skeptics saw see it as a sign that NFT collectibles may be at the peak of their hype bubble. Kutcher is upbeat but a bit circumspect about Bored Ape’s potential upside. “I think it’s really interesting art that’s been leveraged into a community, and I think the long-term viability will wholly depend on that community’s ability and willingness to make high-quality, cohesive decisions over time.”
Oseary, asked about Sound Ventures’ financials, defers to Kutcher. But Kutcher won’t reveal numbers: “I think oftentimes, people use the amount of money that they’ve raised or the amount of money deployed as a marker of whether or not they’re successful. And I don’t do that; we don’t do that. We look at the success of the companies that we’ve invested in … that’s us being successful.”
According to Iowa native Kutcher, Oseary is the “slightly more impulsive” of the two when it comes to investment decisions. “I’ve got a little bit more of that kind of Midwest patience,” he says. To which Oseary adds, “I’m more on-edge. He’s very calm.”
“You would think the actor would be the impulsive one, but I tend to be a little bit more 10-year-time- horizon-focused, and Guy is dialed into the short-term calamity sometimes,” Kutcher continues. “So we balance each other pretty well on that front.”