‘Deadpool’ actor Ryan Reynolds on what happens when a superhero turns tech investor
He’s the second-highest-paid Hollywood actor who is best known for his starring role as superhero extraordinaire Deadpool.
And like many celebrities, Ryan Reynolds also has a side hustle as a tech investor. But he has taken it far more seriously than most.
Reynolds is an owner of wireless startup, Mint Mobile, for which, surprisingly, he sometimes fields customer service calls. He’s also on the board of online dating service Match, alongside the usual assortment of suits.
In an interview with Fortune, the Canadian actor said he considers himself just a scrappy entrepreneur who enjoys throwing himself into businesses that capture his imagination. And no, he doesn’t really talk tech with other celebrity investors like actor Ashton Kutcher, tennis star Serena Williams, and actress and Goop guru Gwyneth Paltrow.
Here’s what Reynolds had to say about tech.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You’re one of the most successful actors in Hollywood, why did you decide to become a tech investor?
I think it’s important to have skin in the game, particularly when you look at the brand ambassadorships that celebrities typically get offered. Those roles are fading as celebrities take more ownership in the products they’re selling to consumers. Having skin in the game leads to authenticity and authorship over what you do and creates a level of care that you would have if you worked for a company, rather than just being told what to do.
How did the Mint Mobile opportunity come your way?
Cofounder and CEO David Glickman and I both sit on the board of directors of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. At a meeting for a fundraising gala, he introduced me to the wireless service. I have a lot of employees whose phone bills I pay, so I decided to try it out and wound up saving money.
At the time, my partner, George Dewey, at my production company, Maximum Effort, had been advising me to seek an ownership stake in something pragmatic that we could grow in a way that’s not only explosive but fun. So I bought a pretty big chunk of Mint Mobile, and it’s been a wild ride ever since.
What’s your role at the company?
I don’t really have a formal role. I kind of do everything including getting into the weeds on the unsexy stuff. We have four to five huddles a week where we discuss marketing and how to shift with culture, but we also talk about more granular things like customer service. There’s almost no aspect of the business that I’m not involved with.
You bought into Mint Mobile in November 2019, and soon after the world shut down from COVID. Does tech investing have anything to do with market timing?
You can’t plan for these sorts of things, all you can do is react. Mint Mobile was growing very fast before the pandemic. When it hit, we just listened to our customers and employees and tried to move quickly to get them what they needed.
It’s a hot IPO market, are you hoping for a quick exit?
It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling being part of a hyper-growth company knowing that what we’re doing is making a mark, but absolutely nothing would change in terms of my involvement with the company no matter where it decides to go. I’m pretty intricately woven into its fabric at this point, so whether it’s an IPO or staying the course, it doesn’t change my role in any way, shape, or form. If the entire company were bought out from under us tomorrow, my role would continue in the exact same way that it’s continued with my other company, Aviation Gin.
[Diageo bought Aviation Gin for $610 million in August. Reynolds retained a stake after the sale and continues to make ads for the company.]
Are you seeking to make other tech investments?
Right now, I’m very focused on building Maximum Effort, and George and I are looking at a variety of unorthodox ways to grow the business.
We want to lead innovation in the marketing space, tech space, and product growth, and will scale to a certain degree to get there, but feel quite strongly about staying scrappy. That has served us incredibly well—necessity being the mother of invention is our mantra at Maximum Effort. The less you’re given, the more creative you have to be. That applies to not just marketing, but to where the company goes in the near term and future.
Your production company has been a viral hit machine for many of the brands you work with. For example, your Match commercial, “When Satan Met 2020,” has racked up millions of views across social media. Do you have a wish list of brands that you’d like to make commercials for?
Well, we’re not actually seeking a whole lot of new clients; we have far more ideas than places to put them—a good problem to have. But it’s great getting to do what we do, and that when we do things, we get to do them well.
Many celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Serena Williams, and Gwyneth Paltrow have invested in tech unicorns, startups worth more than $1 billion. How are you navigating the landscape? Is there some sort of Facebook group to help celebrity investors network?
Not that I’m aware of [laughs]. I don’t actually have a ton of experience with other celebrity investors. Like with everything, I just try to discipline my way through by working hard and sometimes falling flat on my face.
I have found that every industry is relationship-based, which means that you have to invest time, that’s the ultimate currency. My biggest challenge is making sure that everything I’m a part of gets its fair shake in terms of my time.
With everyone from Jack Dorsey to Paris Hilton making millions of dollars off NFTs [digital ownership of creative assets], what do you think of the current craze?
I think it’s an interesting democratization of the market, and I love watching where it’s going.
Will we be seeing a Deadpool NFT soon?
If you do it’s probably because somebody told me it might be a good idea, but not because I thought, “Hey, we need a Deadpool NFT.” I don’t have any expertise in that area.
During the Netflix earnings call on April 20, you got a shout-out for Red Notice, your action comedy thriller costarring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Gal Gadot. What was it like having production shut down by the pandemic, then having to resume in September while cases were still spiking?
It was definitely a challenge, but Red Notice was handled well and had amazing infection prevention. What was scarier was my next film, The Adam Project [a time travel action-adventure movie costarring Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, and Zoe Saldana, also for Netflix]. As its producer, the stakes were so much higher because it was on my watch to make sure everybody stayed safe. Having the right people around proved essential, particularly when having to do scenes maskless. We had to quarantine for two weeks and then again after Christmas break, which was very hard on budget and logistics. But we got through it, and I’m excited to be delivering the film to Netflix in the next couple of weeks.
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