14 celeb-powered start-ups: Where are they now?

Celebrities are often savvy businesspeople, but stepping into the start-up world does not always work out.

Earlier this week, Gwyneth Paltrow's new start-up Goop.com went live. The site promises to have tips for food, shopping, and life in general from the actress.

There's no telling whether it's going to be more of a blog or an actual business venture with branded products, an editorial staff, and a synergistic TV program. What we do know is that Paltrow is simply the latest in a long string of celebrities who have come off the big screen (or out of the recording studio) and onto the Web with products and services backed with their money and persona.

Below are 14 recent ones, including updates on whether they're still around.

Celebrity: 50Cent
Site: ThisIs50.com
ThisIs50.com is a cross between an online resume and a place for fans to gather. What makes it an interesting business venture is that it's been created using the build-your-own social network service Ning. 50Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson has leveraged all sorts of brand integration like a Kyte.tv video player and links to various places to buy and stream his music, including imeem.

Status: Alive and kicking, although it's a visual mess. There's also a 50cent.com, which is far cleaner and powered by MTV-owned Flux.

Celebrity: Ashton Kutcher
Site: Blahgirls.com
Kutcher, who is also the founder of VoIP start-up Ooma, launched Blahgirls earlier this month at the TechCrunch50 conference in San Francisco. While mainly playing an animated video series, it's also a celebrity gossip blog that plans to make money through advertising and branding that shows up inside the videos.

Status: It's too early to tell but celebrity blogs can rise to prominence and then fall down with startling volatility. Much of Blahgirls' longevity will come down to the content, which in the case of the SouthPark-esqe animated show makes it fairly watchable, even to newcomers.

Celebrity: Andrew Shue
Site: Cafemom.com
Shue, better known as "Billy Campbell" from the 1990s TV series Melrose Place is also the co-founder of Cafemom.com, a social networking site for moms. The site launched in 2006 and offers a place for mothers to share tips and stories and to come together with other nearby moms.

Status: Cafemom is doing very well. It picked up a $5 million round of funding less than a year after launching. According to the site, it's getting more than 6 million unique visitors a month.

Celebrities: Baron Davis and Cash Warren
Site: IBeatYou.com
Davis, the pro basketball player, and Warren, a Hollywood producer, are co-founders of IBeatYou, which is a competition site. Users can create challenges and have others compete in order to earn points. Much like Worth1000, it's become a repository for quirky user creations like photo contests and one-upmanship.

Status: Alive, although it's too early to tell where it will end up. The site launched in late March and has since picked up just under $1 million in seed funding.


The Baron Davis-backed IBeatYou is a fun way to approach casual competition for all sorts of things. In this case it's a photo contest. IBeatYou

Celebrity: Damon Wayans
Site: WayOutTV.com
WayOutTV was a video comedy site that was to be curated by Wayans. Originally slated to be its own site, it became a channel on YouTube shortly after launching.

Status: WayOutTV is effectively dead (for now that is). There's still the WayOutTV channel on YouTube. However, there are no longer any videos. WayOutTV.com is also dead, although according to The Los Angeles Times it will return at a later date.

Celebrity: David Caruso
Site: LexiconDigital.tv
Lexicon Digital Communications may be most famous for its CSI-star founder and CEO David Caruso, who announced the company at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January. What made the announcement noteworthy is that nine months later we still have no idea what exactly the company does.

Status: Still yet-to-be-launched. But if you want to see a really amazing three-minute-plus promotional video that doesn't show you what a company does, you can find it here.

Celebrity: David Hasselhoff
Site: Hoffspace
David Hasselhoff had a posse. So big in fact that he got tired of using other social networks to keep track of all his fans and thus created his own, which has aptly been dubbed "Hoffspace" Like 50Cent, the Hoff has chosen to use Ning. The difference: Hasselhoff has managed to make his site look pretty good.

Status: Hoffspace is alive and well with over 16,000 members after launching in late August.

Celebrity: Gwyneth Paltrow
Site: Goop.com
As mentioned before, it's hard to know what will become of Goop. If anything, Paltrow has enough star power to run a brand without having to do all of the dirty work as Martha Stewart and Oprah have done with some of their online efforts.

Status: Kind of launched. There's no actual content yet.

Celebrity: Kanye West
Site: KanyeTravel.com
Kanye Travel is like any other travel site. You can buy plane tickets, book a rental car, and pick out hotel rooms in the same place, with one bill to pay. Where the hip-hop artist is doing things a bit differently is using the same space to sell tickets to his shows and getting attractions on-board to give out special rates to KanyeTravel.com users.

Status: Alive and kicking but slow. The site has also not yet taken on the challenge of mixing in the ticket sales and discounts.

Celebrity: MC Hammer
Site: DanceJam
DanceJam is a really interesting service that's a bit like an encyclopedia for forms of dance that blends in competitions and instructional videos. We checked it out back before it launched last November.

Status: Alive and kicking. According to Compete.com, it's had a healthy zigzag of unique user growth leading into September, although it's still got a way to go before it's a household name.




Celebrity: Peter Gabriel
Site: TheFilter.com
The Filter is a media recommendation engine that Gabriel has invested in . Users tell the service what kind of music and videos they like, and it spits out recommendations that get smarter as it accumulates ratings.

Status: Alive and well. The site had been focused on the European market, but opened up to other parts of the globe after a redesign in May. The one thing that might hinder its mass adoption is competition: the inclusion of playlist recommendation in both Apple and Microsoft's latest MP3 players .

Celebrity: The RZA
Site: WuChess.com
The RZA may be best known for being part of rap group Wu-Tang Clan. WuChess is an extension of that brand and mixes social networking with online chess. Users can play against the computer or other people for prizes and stat points that are tracked on their profiles and determine their ranking for matchmaking and tournaments.

Status: Still alive, but again we have another case of a celebrity-backed venture that uses existing technology. In this case, it's two-year-old Chesspark.

Celebrity: Will Ferrell
Site: FunnyorDie.com
Ferrell is co-founder of FunnyOrDie.com, a comedy site that lets amateur comedians post their homemade creations alongside content from the pros. The site received a boom in traffic from several of its videos hitting the Web, including "The Landlord" which has netted close to 60 million views.

Status: Doing real well. In June, HBO took an equity stake in the site , which plans to produce five hours of content that will appear on the paid TV network. We also heard that as of late July, more than 140 of its videos had hit the front page of social news site Digg.com since launch.

Celebrity: Will Smith
Site: PluggedIn.com
Back in mid-April Smith was one of the investors in a $2 million round of funding for music video site PluggedIn. The site serves up its videos in spiffy looking high resolution with the use of a special plug-in (which incidentally has nothing to do with the site's name).

Status: Alive and still very much around. Like Peter Gabriel's investment in The Filter, this isn't Smith's idea as much as he's just helping to fund it.

Honorable mentions for tech/Web spokespeople: William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (for Priceline.com), and Barry Bonds (for Bling Software).


Any we missed? Drop us a line.

About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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