"If we can't add value, we don't invest," their website reads.
That distinction becomes important as the celebrity start-up hype machine has faced criticism. Jay-Z's Tidal, which sports equity shareholders like Nicki Minaj and Kanye West, was slammed when some argued its glittering launch failed to sell the details of the service.
Tidal's launch video relied heavily on the stars' domain expertise, a factor that was also key for Pascal Pilon, CEO of start-up Landr, which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to master tracks at lower costs for new artists. His investors include Nasir "Nas" Jones, hip hop-legend-turned partner at QueensBridge Venture Partners, as well as several other recording artists.
"If there was one thing that was great was those investments, it wasn't the money," Pilon said. "Every celebrity came with insight perspective, credibility, a network. Super useful to get us into the different scenes around the world where we're widely adopted."
That's not always the case, said Cortney Harding, digital strategy consultant and author of "How We Listen Now: Essays and Conversations About Music and Technology." While a top-tier venture capitalist can provide guidance every step of the way, chasing fame for fame's sake may leave entrepreneurs with little in the long run, she said.
"I think the issues is there are pop stars who are like, 'That seems fun, I'm going to do it,'" Harding said. "It's their money to lose. But as a start-up, it may be worse to take money like that — a year down the line, you're going to get a lot more help from a boring investor rather than someone you put in a press release."
Indeed, the level of involvement in the technology space varies widely among celebrities.
Bono, Ashton Kutcher, and Jared Leto, for instance, are well-known for their long-standing and wide-ranging portfolios. Legendary artist managers Troy Carter and Scooter Braun — who helped launch the careers of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber — are also known to be deeply tied to their start-up investments.
Having a trusted team to vet investments and do due diligence can make a difference, Harding said.
"Troy Carter or Scooter Braun, they're really smart guys," Harding said. "They know the business. Madonna's manager has been very forward thinking. These are super-savvy business people. If he's getting his clients to put in money, then everyone wins."
Critics often point to the struggles of celebrity-driven ventures like Lady Gaga's Backplane. But big-name brands like Menlo Ventures and Sequoia were on board too, said Charlie O'Donnell, a venture capitalist at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures who has penned tips for celebrity investors on his blog.
The bottom line is most venture-investments fail anyway, and that's not always a reflection on the celebrity, said O'Donnell. After all, there's very little formal training to become a venture capitalist, O'Donnell said.
"Anyone can functionally do it," O'Donnell said. "Whether or not they do it well is another thing. Some people do it and hit success through some amount of luck. Does every single Uber investor have a higher than normal chance of the next big win? I wouldn't say that that it makes you a good investor."
Still, the trend comes at a time where venture investing is arguably getting more challenging. Venture deal count was down 26 percent year-over-year in the second quarter, KPMG and CB Insights found, as investors have become more diligent over the past year.
"Studying up enough on this ecosystem to get outside of your bubble, figure out who to trust — it's probably the biggest challenges," O'Donnell said. "It's a challenge for a lot of family offices, celebrity or otherwise. It's doubtful [Kobe Bryant]'s going to put his email address up the way mine is. But if the only people you talk to are people you already know …. They aren't in the industry. It's not an easy thing to figure out who to open up to."