One of Uber's original investors, actress Olivia Munn has gone on to invest in a collection of other top brands. Here, she gets candid about making major money moves.

By Olivia Munn, as told to Samantha Simon
Updated: Jan 16, 2019 @ 10:21 am
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Several times in my life, I thought about investing. But the stock market seemed fickle and intimidating, and I never quite understood it. I considered buying into companies and products instead, but nothing ever felt right.

Then, in 2012, a friend of mine who runs a hedge fund that invests heavily in technology said, “You should look into this company called Uber.” He said a limited number of people — fewer than 45 — were invited to take part in the initial round of financing. I figured that if it didn’t work out, I would learn my lesson. But if it did, being an original investor in a company that could revolutionize transportation would be pretty amazing. 

Obviously, it was a good gut instinct. I wish I’d invested more in Uber, but it’s hard to know when something will be successful. I put even more money into my next investment — a business I didn’t really think made sense but went forward with anyway. It went completely under. I don’t have any regrets, though. It was a learning experience that taught me to ask more questions and to invest only in things I personally get inspired by.

The more you ask, the more you know — and I’ve become good at asking a lot of questions, whether I’m making financial deals or working with [Aaron] Sorkin on a script. I want to understand everything and know how to negotiate. The risk is much higher when you don’t understand an opportunity, and sometimes it’s just not worth it.

There are often crazes, like the whole cryptocurrency thing. It’s OK if you don’t understand it. You don’t have to invest or feel as if you’re missing out. You can’t get caught up in the hype of what everyone else is doing. I never let myself get pressured into anything.

RELATED: Olivia Munn Once Worked at Burger King — and "It Was Awesome"

I invest only in brands that I actually use or that solve a need. For example, I work a lot with Cavu Venture Partners, a company that helps small disruptive brands grow. Through them, I’ve invested in products like Chef’s Cut Real Jerky, Skinny Dipped Almonds, Bulletproof Coffee, Health-Ade Kombucha, and Vital Proteins, all products I love. I also invested in (and am the creative strategist for) Wag, which is like Uber for dog walkers. So many people need their dogs walked when they can’t be home. It’s a service that just makes sense.

I’m frequently asked who does my investments for me. I negotiate deals myself, and then my sister, who’s an attorney, does the paperwork at her firm in Oklahoma. Whenever I come across a small brand or product I’m passionate about, I reach out to the company and ask if I can help them grow. Sometimes the answer is, “Yes, we’d love that.” Sometimes they already have a plan and aren’t looking for more backing.

Thanks to social media and the Internet, there are so many people selling products without traditional brick-and-mortar stores. If you’re looking to invest, go on Etsy or Amazon and search for products that inspire you. Find out who owns the company, cold-call them, and say you’d like to get involved. If they say no, don’t let that deter you. Keep going until you find one that says yes.

When negotiating, it’s important to be smart instead of greedy. You’re investing your money, your time, and yourself. If the initial number isn’t exactly what you want, know that money will eventually come back to you if the company is successful. I have a cap on what I will invest, and I don’t go above that.

If you don’t have enough funds to entice a company to let you invest, try getting a few friends to pool money and come in with that. Then you’ll all share in the percentage of whatever you’re asking for. Or come up with another way to help the company. What skills have you mastered that this company needs? Show them why they should allow you in for what you’re bringing.

Everybody has an ability and something to offer. You just have to know what you want and go after it.

For more stories like this, pick up the February issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Jan. 18.

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