Ashton Kutcher promotes his investments with stickers shown onscreen on Two and a Half Men. Leonardo DiCaprio has posted some photos to his account on Israeli startup Mobli, into which he's sunk some cash and for whom he serves as an advisor.
Serial entrepreneur Brian Lee–who works with Kim Kardashian–says that one of the biggest myths of success is that any big-name celebrity will do wonders for a startup.
“A lot people think that they can have an idea, attach a celebrity to it and it will work,” Lee told TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing,
“When you start attaching Ashton Kutcher [or any random celebrity] to a travel site, it doesn’t work," he said, referring to Kutcher’s investment in Hipmunk.
Lee, of course, is a "big big believer" in using celebrities to start companies. He co-founded LegalZoom with O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Shapiro, and his current project, ShoeDazzle, is with Kardashian.
But he thinks the key to his success is having the right celebrity: "You have to have a true partnership with that celebrity. It's got to match, and almost match perfectly," he said. When Lee started LegalZoom, Shapiro was perhaps the most famous lawyer in the world. Kardashian and sexy shoes–ShoeDazzle members pay a fee for monthly picks from fashionistas–is hardly a stretch. (How did he hook Kardashian? Shapiro knew her.)
"The celebrity has to really believe in the idea and be a true partner, not just be a name," Lee said.
The true partnership is for everybody's (financial) benefit: "If they really buy into it and really understand what the mission is then they will go that extra distance and do every press tour you want them to do and every interview you want them to do," he said.
Lee—who said he is "not really a fashion person" and confessed that his wife dresses him—got the idea for ShoeDazzle when his wife returned home with a very expensive pair of shoes from a Los Angeles boutique that she said, simply, made her feel beautiful. He talked a bit about his startup philosophy.
"I'm not a big believer in raising a bunch of capital to start a company," he said. "You can get something launched pretty cheaply." Finding traction, of course, is another matter–that's where the celebrity comes in.
"When we started LegalZoom [in 2001] and attached Robert Shapiro...we noticed how much traction we got. He drove a lot of traffic."
These days, of course, it's Kardashian who's no stranger to magazine covers, and who—Lee is hoping—will drive the traffic to ShoeDazzle.