Following my rant on how to get the African tech ecosystem some much needed exposure, I’ve been doing a bit of research. I usually laugh at celebrity endorsements like the Alicia Keys/Blackberry collaboration camouflaged as “a role as Product Creative Director which will give the (celebrity) a more involved role in the product’s design process”. Arrangements like that usually just signifies the celebrity is bringing his/her star power to the brand and not much else.
But it turns out, celebrities have more than just their good looks and talents to contribute to the tech scene. In fact, several tech innovations and gadgets are credited to celebrities. Here are a few of them.
Michael Jackson – Anti Gravity Illusion
Since the 80s, when he secured himself the title of Pop king, Michael Jackson has been known for his slick dance moves. Till today, there are lots of professional impersonators out there. And they do a fairly good job imitating his moves – the crotch grab, the moonwalk, to name a few. But there’s one particular dance move that remains impossible.
Remember the 45-degree lean from the “Smooth Criminal” video? That video relied heavily on special effects but when Michael had to replicate it on stage before a live audience, the king had to come up with something. He went ahead to design anchors that were grafted onto the stage, which dancers could attach themselves to with a special pair of shoes. He registered the patent in 1992. Here’s the live performance with the 45-degree trick.
Incredible stuff really.
Dr. Dre – Beats Headphones
This shouldn’t be news, especially after the acquisition of the Beats brand by Apple (for an impressive $3 billion). Andre Young, aka Dr Dre, and Jimmy Iovine, both music producers, co-founded the Beats Electronics headphone company in 2008. Beats by Dre headphones quickly became the go-to headphone brand in the music industry, accounting for 64% of the $100-plus premium headphone market in the U.S. by September 2013.
will.i.am – PULS
will.i.am is the third musician on this list (seems like they have a knack for tech startups). PULS is a wrist worn wearable, that comes with GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and 3G cellular wireless connections. You can use it to make phone calls and send texts without having to relay communications through a smartphone. PULS runs on a very stripped version of Android and is positioned as a fashion accessory, just like all wearable tech.
Let’s see how well it will fare against other smartwatches.
Ashton Kutcher – Lenovo Yoga Tablet 2 Pro
One of the most active celebrities in Silicon Valley, Kutcher’s involvement ranges from funding several startups like AirBnB, Spotify and Uber, to designing and consulting technology products. Case in point, the Yoga Tablet.
In all these examples, and others I could find online, one thing stood out. In most cases, the celeb usually just created something they had some experience with and were incredibly passionate about the project. And there you have it – knowledge and passion, the ingredients for a successful business.