“STAR”t-ups: VIPs and Pieces of Cakes

Vienna on May 27, 2014

No matter what city in the world you live in, try being out and about one day without catching somebody wearing a pair of ever-hyped Beats by Dre headphones. The successful alliance between Hip-Hop superstar Dr. Dre, music industry legend Jimmy Iovine, and (until then little known) cable manufacturer Monster was founded over six years ago and took off like a rocket. Today, the company is estimated to be worth more than $3 Billion and rumored to soon be acquired by Apple.

The story of Beats by Dre is a prime example of a famous person cashing in on their power as a testimonial in the steadily growing tech market, but there are many more. Last year, 17-year-old app developer Nick D’Aloisio became one of the world’s youngest tech millionaires when he sold his mobile summarizer app Summly to Yahoo! for $30 million after he had attracted a lot of attention with famous investors such as Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono. However, most notably, it is the music industry that has been reaching out for a piece of the tech cake to compensate declining record sales. Myspace was at least somewhat revived through an endorsement by Justin Timberlake, while his name twin Justin Bieber owns shares in leading music streamer Spotify. And the word “festival” does not simply only apply to music events any longer (think SXSW, or the so-called “Pioneers Festival” we reported about).

But the crossing-over between tech and popular culture also works the other way around, which is why Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs are well-worshipped rockstars in their field. But for all startups’ CEOs that are not quite as charismatic or comfortable with the spotlight, getting an already famous investor or testimonial can not only dramatically increase a brand’s popularity, but also result in a big payday for everyone involved. One way or another, brands need a story and a face behind them and faces need brands to back up their own stories. This is what makes this combination work and very likely to be seen happening much more often in the future.