BY: Andrea Wahbe

Earlier this month, Variety broke the news that Ashton Kutcher will play the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs in an upcoming independent film called Jobs – based on a script by Matt Whiteley and directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Studios is developing another movie about Jobs, based on the 2011 biography written by Walter Isaacson.

Ashton Kutcher – who even plays an Internet entrepreneur, turned billionaire on the popular TV show Two and a Half Men, has recently invested in digital media ventures like Foursquare, Airbnb, Blekko, Flipboard and more, according to

But Kutcher is not the only celebrity to get involved with technology startups. In January, Kanye West went on a rant on Twitter, announcing the launch of his new technology startup called Donda – named after his late mother. West claimed that his new venture will “pick up where Steve Jobs left off.” His company “will be comprised of over 22 divisions with a goal to make technology products and experiences that people want and can afford.” 

The shear fact that celebrities like Kanye West and Ashton Kutcher are so enthralled by technology startups indicates that society now perceives high tech entrepreneurs in the same glamorous light that was once reserved for rock stars.

Just look at the mass mourning of Steve Job’s death late last year. It seems all too familiar to me, a thirty-something former Nirvana fan who remembers the passing of Kurt Cobain in 1994. I recall the candlelight vigils, the tributes through poetry and artwork, and the expressions of grief and condolences to the family from celebrities and media. It happened all over again with Jobs. And people were posting his “stay hungry, stay foolish” quote on blogs and social media for weeks after his death – treating his motto as if they were lyrics from a hit song.

But how did this happen? When did it become so ‘rock and roll; to be a technology entrepreneur?

The media is helping to manufacture this cultural shift in perception. In the technology startup world today, landing a cover story on Fast Company or Wired magazine is similar to what rock stars strive for with publications like Rolling Stone and Billboard.

And tech startups know that they have to be featured on popular blogs like BetaKit, Mashable, Techvibes or TechCrunch in order to be discovered by early adopters and investors. Venture capitalists, who read these blogs, seemingly strive to discover the next successful technology startup in the same way that music producers try to sign the next big indie band.

The blockbuster movie, The Social Network, is also a culprit. The film portrays Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder and CEO who recently announced the acquisitionof the popular photo-editing and sharing service Instagram for $1 billion in cash and shares, transforming from an unknown social misfit into one of the wealthiest and most recognized household names in North America.

As a result, the movie glamorizes the techie lifestyle. Even the character of Napster founder Sean Parker was played by a bona-fide music star, Justin Timberlake. And Zuckerberg’s rise to success was depicted in a similar light to that of Oliver Stone’s 1991 allegedly biographical flick portraying the life of Jim Morrison in The Doors.

Both films focused on the drug-using, free-loving, hedonistic existence often enjoyed by those who earn too much, too fast. The similarities seem to reveal a formula for what society expects from the life of a celebrity or “Silicon Valley” type.

Regardless of how our cultural perceptions changed, the truth is that becoming a thriving technology entrepreneur is as difficult as becoming a famous rock star. The road to success is not as flashy as it is portrayed in the media. According to the US Small Business Administration, “the majority of startups go out of business within five years.”

But we all need a dream to hold on to. After all, what’s more rock and roll than trying to change the world?


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