Ashton Kutcher, the 35-year-old model-turned-actor-turned-Internet-entrepreneur, added a new feather to his cap on Tuesday as Lenovo announced Kutcher will join the Beijing-based tech firm as its newest product engineer. The financial terms of the multi-year partnership have not been disclosed.
“Ashton Kutcher’s authentic, creative appetite for technology and keen consumer insight combined with our innovation engine make this a very natural and powerful partnership,” David Roman, chief marketing officer for Lenovo, said in a statement. “This partnership goes beyond traditional bounds by deeply integrating him into our organization as a product engineer as we look at developing the next wave of products. As we continue to push into new PC Plus product areas and lead in multimode computing, Ashton will help us break new ground by challenging assumptions, bringing new perspective and contributing his technical expertise to Yoga Tablet and other devices.”
Many might find this move unexpected for the former Calvin Klein model and star of “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” but Kutcher was able to illuminate the reasoning behind this move in an interview with ABC. Here are the five things you need to know about Kutcher’s decision to become the latest product engineer at Lenovo.
1. Kutcher went to school for engineering, but didn’t graduate. Kutcher was a biochemical engineering major at the University of Iowa in 1996, a decision he made because he wanted to help cure his brother of his cardiomyopathy, a heart condition he contracted at 13. He only dropped out of college in 1997 after placing first in the Fresh Face Of Iowa model competition. However, he still remembers everything he learned during his brief time as an engineer. “I learned to program when I was 19 years old,” Kutcher said. “I work on a daily basis with engineers that are building some of the finest software products in the world today. I bet if you asked a lot of these people what a MySQL database is they would probably run the other way and not even know what that is.”
2. Kutcher is a big techie. Over the last decade, Kutcher has invested in several prominent technology start-ups as co-founder of his venture capital fund A-Grade Investments, including Foursquare, Skype, Airbnb, Fab.com, and Path. “I've had the benefit to work with guys like Daniel Ek [CEO of Spotify], Jack Dorsey, Shawn Parker, Shawn Fanning [founders of Napster] -- some of the greatest product minds -- and I hope some of their brilliance has rubbed off.” He even played Steve Jobs in the “Jobs” biopic that released this August.
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3. Kutcher is joining Lenovo to learn. Of all of the roles he could have taken at Lenovo, Kutcher decided to become a product engineer to learn more about how product roadmaps work, rather than simply observing them as an outside advisor. “It is easy to come in and say we need to do this and that,” Kutcher said. “I have a list of probably 50 wishes that are like my dream wish -- where I go if the next-gen tablet should have these things and that would be awesome. But for me to start talking about the notion that we can apply those things would be really naive. Because to assume that the team is already there that has been building and working on the product roadmap that's probably longer than my vision would be silly.”
4. Kutcher joined Lenovo because he wants to build mobile devices. Though Lenovo is a big maker of laptops, Kutcher will specifically help engineering the Yoga line of tablets with regards to design, specs, and software applications. “I was looking for a company that was building mobile devices that I could work with,” Kutcher said. “I was also looking for a company that was willing to take risks and wasn't making 'me too' devices. It's a dual faceted role, I will be helping do some marketing with the company but also working with the R&D teams.”
5. To prove his dedication to Lenovo, Kutcher has ditched his tablet for a Lenovo Yoga. Despite playing Apple founder Steve Jobs earlier this year, Kutcher has already committed to using Lenovo tablets and phones – which is interesting considering Lenovo actually hasn’t introduced a U.S. phone, though it’s been rumored to do so by the end of 2013. “I actually replaced my mobile phone today with a product that I actually think is better than the iPhone I was using,” Kutcher said. “As a tech investor, I will still use Apple devices to some degree on behalf of my investments. Some of the applications I work with launch on iOS first, so I will still use those devices. But I already feel my day-to-day devices shifting over to Android-based products. I am just having a better experience on them now.”
Though Kutcher will soon join the ranks within Lenovo, his first task will be to help market the new multimode Yoga Tablet, which was unveiled on Tuesday and features 18 hours of battery life.
“Watching and discovering that people frequently use tablets in three main ways allowed us to break the mold on the current ‘sea of sameness’ designs, giving them a better way to read, browse, watch and interact with content,” Liu Jun, senior VP and president of Lenovo Business Group, said in a statement. “As consumers’ continue to demand innovative multimode designs we’re thrilled to have Ashton Kutcher on board with us to help further develop the immersive and complementary hardware and rich content experience.”
“This partnership with Lenovo brings together my love of technology and design that makes your life better. I can’t wait to dig in and help Lenovo develop future mobile computing products, starting with the Yoga Tablet,” Kutcher said in a press release. “Lenovo is all about innovation and strong leadership. Entrepreneurship is part of their DNA, and I couldn’t ask for a better fit.”