Talk about a public relations coup for mobile payments firm Dwolla Corp.
Actor Ashton Kutcher–famous for his acting career ("Two and a Half Men," "That '70s Show," "Dude, Where's My Car?") and his support of technology companies–has agreed to invest in the Des Moines, Iowa-based company. He already is talking it up in videos and on Twitter.
Kutcher did not say how much he invested but showed a zeal for his investments that might make Warren Buffett blush.
"The entire financial system is broke, and it's proving that every day," Kutcher said in an interview with The Des Moines Register on Tuesday. The system fosters credit card debt, fraud, identity theft and massive fees for moving money, he said.
"Companies that are doing that are just extracting value from people's pockets," he said. "Fixing that makes me passionate."
"I want to build a killer (bleeping) company in Iowa and put a bunch of people to work here," said Kutcher, who lives in Iowa. "That could happen with this company. I think this company could employ hundreds of people within the next couple of years."
Kutcher was suspected to have contributed to the Des Moines company's February funding round, which was led by Union Square Ventures and raised $5 million. He first confirmed his involvement Tuesday in an interview with SiliconPrairieNews.com. Kutcher made the investment through his venture capital fund, A-Grade Investments.
Ben Milne, the chief executive of Dwolla, and Kutcher talked about the investment in a Silicon Prairie News webcast that aired April 10.
"Ashton invested in Dwolla, which we think is pretty sweet," said Milne, who wore flip-flops and a hoody.
Kutcher's investment firm, A-Grade Investments, already has invested in about 40 tech companies, including Foursquare, Zaarly and Skype. In the Silicon Prairie interview, Kutcher said the firm invests in companies that solve problems, mostly consumer companies.
"If you look at the global economy and what's happening with Occupy Wall Street and what's happening on the streets and the credit card crisis across the country, it's all fine to carry a poster and complain about it and tell a CEO he should be getting paid less, but who's actually doing something to solve that problem?" Kutcher said.
Dwolla "actually presented a realistic, real-world solution to an antiquated architecture in finance that just has to go. … When it does become the standard–and it will because the minority will always become the majority–it's a company that will be very valuable and help people in their lives and put money back in people's pockets and I like that."
Dwolla provides a mechanism for mobile payments that charges 25 cents per transaction.
Kutcher will not hold a board seat or have any role in Dwolla's day-to-day operations.
Milne and Kutcher met through a mutual friend, Bo Fishback, the CEO of the digital marketplace Zaarly, another company Ashton's firm has invested in. They got together over Thanksgiving, first at Kutcher's brother's house, and later in Kutcher's father’s garage.
"I had to go to Target to get a white board," Milne says.
Kutcher has more than 10 million followers on his Twitter account and 12.2 million "likes" on Facebook.
Milne told the Register that he has gotten helpful advice from Kutcher.
"I just try to make myself available," Kutcher said. "I end the day with my inbox at zero."