Rumors about Ashton Kutcher are typically too lurid and off-topic to fall under the MyBankTracker umbrella. But Ashton Kutcher’s business life is, believe it or not, a bit more interesting than all the things you read about his issues with Demi Moore. A rumor that he — or, more precisely, his venture capital firm, A-Grade — was involved in the $5 million round of Series B funding that Dwolla raised in February turned out to be true.
“Ashton actually was born and raised in Iowa,” said Jordan Lampe, a spokesperson for Dwolla, and he wanted to invest in his home state. “This is his first true Iowa tech investment,” said Lampe.
And despite his tendency to be typecast as a handsome dolt, or for wearing mesh hats, Kutcher is a sharp young man and a savvy investor. He was a biochemical engineering major at University of Iowa, explained Lampe. “Take a look at his CrunchBase profile,” he insisted.
Indeed, Kutcher’s tech start-up portfolio is nothing if not impressive: Fab, AirBnB, Hipmunk, the list goes on. In fact, Kutcher has almost gotten himself into a bit of trouble with his enthusiasm for tech startups. The actor was invited to be guest editor of an online issue of Details — and that issue wound up featuring some glowing references to a number of startups that Kutcher himself had invested in, without disclosing these investments, reported the Times’ Bits blog. The Federal Trade Commission opted not to investigate the actor, though they might have had grounds to do so.
But does Ashton get the payments space? “That would be an understatement,” said Lampe. He really gets it.
“It’s a broken architecture, and we all know it’s a broken architecture,” said Kutcher, in a recent episode of PrarieCast, Silicon Prarie’s video podcast, that he did with Dwolla founder and CEO Ben Milne. He went on: “If you’re a smart finance guy and you’re in New York City, you’re probably working for Goldman, or you know, one of these hedge funds…because you get paid really well to do that. And so you’re already on the nipple of the beast, right? You can’t look at the financial industry from an outside point of view and go ‘How do we break that and build it better?'”
“But from here” — Iowa — “you can,” said Kutcher. Milne pitched the investment to Kutcher in the actor’s father’s garage.
Dwolla’s Series B funding was announced in February, and it was led by Union Square Ventures, which has a portfolio full of tech heavyweights like Twitter and Foursquare. The round of funding was a big deal for those interested in the payments space, due to Dwolla’s disruptive model. Unlike most mobile payments apps, Dwolla seeks to circumvent the entire Visa-MasterCard-dominated world of interchange. In doing so, they can save merchants thousands of dollars and make payments a less fraud-prone business in general.
That’s their pitch, anyway, and it’s been plenty convincing to the smart money crowd. We just didn’t realize here at MyBankTracker that Ashton Kutcher was so passionate about interchange fees, ACH, and the other, finer points of the payments system.