Ashton Kutcher Headlines TIA’s Entrepreneur Weekend

Luke Parauda

Ashton Kutcher will speak at Colgate University on Friday, April 11 for Entrepreneur Weekend. Although Kutcher is famous for his acting career, he has been a successful investor in technology startups. Kutcher has invested in Skype, Foursquare and Airbnb among many others, and is the co-founder of the investment firm A-Grade Investments.

Kutcher has worked for at least one tech startup himself, and the Thought Into Action (TIA) Program sees him as an important figure in entrepreneurship and investment. Kutcher has also served as a guest advisor to Colgate leaders in the past, attending a Board of Trustees meeting two years ago in Palo Alto, California.

“Ashton Kutcher was brought in as a panelist to discuss technology in the future of education. He really understands technology in the higher education space,” Associate Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Director of Alumni Relations Tim Mansfield said.

Kutcher is serving on a panel at 6 p.m. on the Friday of Entrepreneur Weekend. He will share the stage with three other dignified panelists: former CEO of Skype and executive vice president at Microsoft Tony Bates, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb Brian Chesky and CEO of Chegg Daniel Rosensweig. The panel will partake in a discussion before listening to Colgate TIA students pitch their ideas.

“[Kutcher] seemed like a good choice given his interests around entrepreneurship and, obviously, his appeal to students,” TIA Program Coordinator Mary Galvez said.

Three TIA groups will make their pitches to Kutcher and the rest of the panel. They are seniors Josh Lasker and Daniel Swiecki for their project Sapling Advisory, seniors Katie Rydell and Amara Wilson for their project Late Date and junior Ariel Sherry for her project Age Together.   

“Late Date is really excited about the opportunity to present in a shark tank environment, and thinks that it’s something that will get people talking about both Late Date and TIA,” Wilson said.

“The prize so far is a spot in the Colgate Entrepreneur Fund this summer. The award for that is $15,000 plus office space, mentoring, etc.,” Galvez said.

The TIA program at Colgate has been growing every year, and Entrepreneur Weekend is a major part of the growth. Recruitment for TIA projects for next year is now in progress, and all students are encouraged to apply.

“There’s a lot of buzz around entrepreneurship on campus, especially with the awesome panel we have for Entrepreneur Weekend and we’d like to capitalize on that by getting students to apply to TIA,” Galvez said.

Entrepreneur Weekend featured Sheryl Sandberg in 2013 and Sir Richard Branson in 2012. The talks were funded by the Global Leader Lecture Series, a fund that comes from donations of parents and alumni rather than tuition. Colgate is moving in a new direction for this year’s Entrepreneur Weekend.

“This year, [panelists] are coming in support of Colgate and Entrepreneur Weekend,” Mansfield said.

Mansfield stressed the willingness of important entrepreneurs and investors to come and talk about something they think is important. Bringing big names to campus, he says, is a way of promoting the university in the cutting edge of understanding entrepreneurship and technology in higher education.   

Contact Luke Parauda at [email protected]