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Britney Spears, Ashton Kutcher, Other ‘Celebrity Angels’ Aligning with Tech Startups

Dave Morin isn’t easily star-struck. The early Facebook employee is a close confidant of Mark Zuckerberg, and when Morin left the social networking giant two years ago, it was to launch a startup with Napster founder Shaun Fanning.

Still, Morin couldn’t quite hide his surprise a few months back when Britney Spears walked into his San Francisco office.

The CEO of Path, which bills itself as a more intimate social network than Facebook or Twitter, said the pop princess is among the most active of a growing number of “celebrity angels” — stars from the music or movie industries who are aligning themselves with tech startups as advisers, evangelists and, sometimes, investors.

“Social media has changed the music industry,” Spears said in an email to this newspaper. “For the first time ever, artists can directly communicate with their fans. Technology touches every aspect of my career right now.”

Other frequent visitors to Silicon Valley boardrooms and startup dens include rappers Snoop Dogg and MC Hammer and actor Ashton Kutcher.

Kutcher’s A-Grade Fund — cofounded with Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle and Madonna’s manager, Guy Oseary — has invested in an A-list of hot startups. Among them are Flipboard, Airbnb and video chat site Airtime, the latest collaboration between Fanning and his Napster co-creator, Sean Parker.

“Ashton is probably the most sophisticated thinker in Hollywood,” Morin said. “I trust his opinion as much as any product entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.”

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, singer Justin Timberlake — who played Parker in the Facebook movie “The Social Network” — has been helping reinvent social networking pioneer MySpace, which he and other investors bought last year.

Also in L.A. is Scooter Braun Projects, launched by the talent scout who discovered a Canadian teen named Justin Bieber on YouTube and turned him into a superstar. Braun recently formed a startup incubator and investment arm; he and Bieber have put money into social music site Spotify and mobile video platform Viddy, among others.

Read more: Mercury News


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