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Kevin Costner on investing in audio storytelling app HearHere

November 14, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

Kevin Costner likely needs no introduction. The actor, director, and producer has starred in more than 50 films over the course of 40 years, including such beloved movies as The Untouchables, Dances with Wolves, and Field of Dreams. He has won two Academy Awards, two Golden Globes, a Primetime Emmy, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards, plus a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Outside of the entertainment industry, he is an avid songwriter who performs with his country rock band, Kevin Costner & Modern West.

The thread through his work is storytelling. So it’s hardly surprising that Costner would invest in the audio storytelling app, HearHere, which champions indigenous voices in telling stories of America.

Kevin Costner
Europa Press Entertainment—Europa Press via Getty Images
  • Startup: HearHere
  • Location: Santa Barbara, Calif.
  • Year founded: 2017
  • Valuation: Not disclosed
  • Investment level: Pre-seed
  • Number of employees: Eight
  • Other major investors: Camping World Ventures, AAA, Yellow by Snap Inc., Pasadena Angels

Why he invested, in his own words

There’s a huge opportunity to preserve stories about our history before they’re lost forever. As a kid, it was always the bronze markers that got me [when traveling]. My dad would never stop as I pointed them out, but I do now. It’s probably the bane of my children’s existence. But as you read them, you discover that real drama has occurred in that location. I don’t think we’re alone in our love for storytelling and that’s when something has a real application. Are there other people like me? The answer is yes.

That’s how it was with HearHere. I get really caught up in the potential of it. What if we could start to collect these stories of America and make them available to everyone? HearHere is the idea that wherever I’m driving through, I can tie into it. These bronze historical markers that no one reads can become a three-minute story about an area. I know that if I tap into a story, I come away more knowledgeable, entertained, or even thrilled. The stories have universal appeal—even kids that have their noses stuck in their devices look up for a minute and look out the window.

I have a lot of confidence in the background and business acumen of CEO Woody Sears. He has a quiet calmness and is the type of person that I could go on a road trip with. My son and Woody’s daughter went to the same pre-school, and our wives had kept in contact. One day, my wife mentioned something new that Woody was cooking up and if I might be interested, and I said, “of course.”

I understand the celebrity thing, where you can be used as a hood ornament, but I like to help the person with the idea in any way that I can. There’s authenticity when I create these connections. My strongest personal interests in history have been primarily first-contact: the first people, the resourcefulness, violence, and resilience that made this country. When I got involved, I said we need to work with Native Americans, not out of generosity, but out of truthfulness. There’s a certain level of respect that comes with beginning there, and I’ve enjoyed shaping this core value for HearHere.

We’re a startup that has the whole horizon in front of us. These stories will continue to evolve as we grow from overviews to deeper and more personal stories, more contextual stories, that move us. As we always say, it’s about the right story at the right time.

This is an installment of Why I Invested, a series featuring famous investors from all different backgrounds and industries, revealing what inspired them to invest their own money in a new business.