“Jobs,” the first of the Steve Jobs movies, opens tonight. It’s not the one by Aaron Sorkin but the one starring Ashton Kutcher as tech legend Steve Jobs. As an actor, Ashton Kutcher’s made his mark by playing dreamy -- but ditzy -- characters on TV. So playing Steve Jobs could be a breakout role for him in Hollywood.
But the movie could also impact his side-job as an investor in tech start-ups. Kutcher’s invested in popular start-ups like Airbnb, Spotify, Uber, and dozens of others. “My decision to take the role was a tough one. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who knew Steve,” Kutcher told the tech blog The Verge. “If I play this, will the people who knew him who I’m friends with be upset about it? You know what I mean? I’m trying to balance two worlds.”
So we know how Hollywood is going rate Kutcher in "Jobs." But what about Silicon Valley?
“People in technology care a lot about Steve Jobs,” said Ken Goldberg a robotics professor at UC Berkeley. He said Jobs was crucial in the development of personal computers, mobile phones, and tablets. But he didn’t do it alone. He said Kutcher risks alienating people in the Valley who were left out of the movie.
But it’s not just the depiction of Jobs that Kutcher has to get right, said Andrea Matwyshyn, a professor at U Penn’s Wharton School. “It’s entirely possible that someone will view that he did not understand the true culture of the valley,” she said. Matwyshyn said the story of Steve Jobs is bigger than the man. It’s come to symbolize the ethos of Silicon Valley. Jobs wasn’t afraid to fail and generally ignored Wall Street and others who stood in his way. Matwyshyn said, if entrepreneurs feel Kutcher, the investor, doesn’t capture this ethos, “maybe that will make him a less attractive investor,” she said.
Nonsense said Robert Hendershott, a professor of entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University. “Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are not going to turn down money just because they saw a movie,” he quips. Hendershott said the movie could have an upside for Kutcher.
“If they look at him and think he really gets it, he knows Steve Jobs, he’s like Steve Jobs, it can’t help but make him more attractive,” he said.
Because, Hendershott said, even Silicon Valley isn’t immune to the magic of Hollywood.