One’s a famous actor who’s raised multiple funds to invest in top startups like Airbnb and Spotify. Another’s a media mogul who manages some of music’s top talent and invests in dozens of companies like Dropbox and Warby Parker on the side. The third’s a billionaire and Forbes cover boy who’s built the best seed portfolio in history through early bets on Twitter, Uber and many more.
Ashton Kutcher, Troy Carter and Chris Sacca became successful for different reasons—and with a different sense of style, as neither Kutcher nor Carter would likely be caught dead in one of Sacca’s trademark rayon-polyester cowboy shirts—but all three are big names in our culture’s obsession today with startup investing. All three have a piece of Uber, the sometimes-controversial and highest-valued private tech company in America with a valuation of a reported $46 billion. And all three work with smaller-sized venture funds to find and grab stakes in startups early, before they’ve found success.
But as the new Guest Sharks of the upcoming season of ‘Shark Tank,’ the three will see if their eye for software and techies can translate to spotting winners among plush toys, action figures and baby wipes. Each episode of the hit reality show features products like those—all three appeared in some form last season. The regular sharks include an NBA team owner (Mark Cuban), a real estate magnate (Barbara Corcoran), a QVC-fueled retail expert (Lori Greiner) and a fashion and brand guru (Daymond John) alongside the requisite venture investor (Kevin O’Leary).
Shark Tank’s popularity, with more than 7 million viewers and a major syndication deal on CNBC, comes as much from the diversity of that group and the ideas it pitches as the appeal of megawatt names and potential riches. That’s part of what impressed the Guest Sharks, and part of why at least one is eating his words about the show.
As detailed in a blog post he published Monday, Sacca once mocked the homely ideas that filter through ‘Shark Tank,’ and felt the wrath of the regular Sharks’ fans when they tweeted back at his public snark. Sacca slowly came around to the value of ‘Shark Tank’ as more than fluffy home shopping network type material. Now he’s excited to be a part of it (and use the platform to promote investments like Twitter’s Periscope live video product.)
Sacca told Forbes in an interview that he was surprised by the non-tech pitches he saw in tapings. “The overall quality was very high. What I admire about the entrepreneurs outside the tech bubble is that they are often working on their projects alone and bootstrapping with their own money,” Sacca says. “In the tech world, you are surrounded by like-minded founders and investment capital is abundant. But in the rest of the country, these entrepreneurs have to walk that road alone. So much grit.”
Fellow guest judge Carter says he was excited to join because of the show’s ability to reach Americans outside the Bay Area and New York hubs, “specifically kids that look like me” from less privileged or minority backgrounds.
“I love Silicon Valley, but it doesn’t have a patent on innovation and entrepreneurship,” Carter says. “These are legitimate business negotiations with entrepreneurs who are spending their own money.”
Sacca fills in for Daymond John and Carter for Kevin O’Leary on the season, which premieres on September 25. Both said the experience was intensely competitive, especially because of sharp-talking billionaire Mark Cuban. “No one on the panel is waiting to politely toss it over to you,” Sacca says. “You just have to scream over the others.” In one deal, Sacca says, he even got “left at the altar” by another Shark, who played partner for a deal and then ditched Sacca to take it individual at the last minute.
Says Carter: “The daggers were out along with the checkbooks.” Some new entrepreneurs will reap the rewards.
This article was written by Alex Konrad from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.