Jared Leto

A constant drive to learn keeps actor Jared Leto’s hands in a number of pots, from songwriting to acting to investing.

“I love to learn,” Leto told The Wall Street Journal’s D.Luxe conference Wednesday afternoon, held at the Montage in Laguna Beach, Calif.

While most know Leto for his films or his band, he’s also been consistently involved in start-ups having invested in companies such as Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Reddit, Slack and Nest. The bug to invest began in the late Nineties, Leto said, when his band Thirty Seconds to Mars was signed to a record label and wanted to create a web site, which became an introduction into technology’s role in helping build community.

“When you’re in a band, you have to be really entrepreneurial,” Leto said. “As an actor, you have a studio and a huge marketing budget that can support a lot of the advertising and promotion of the film. But when you’re a musician, you have to become art director. You have to be really creative doing it and that was the very beginning. I started to learn how technology could help us to build community and solve problems. And then I’ve always been entrepreneurial.”

Leto said he looks for businesses that excite him.

“Companies that are changing the way that we behave,” Leto added of what else grabs his attention. “Founders or ceo’s who are incredibly passionate and smart geniuses and opportunities that teach me something.”

Leto said when he began investing in companies, he would cold-call people at a time when the excitement and interest around technology and start-ups wasn’t what it has become today. “I begged and groveled for it,” he said of some of the big deals he was involved in. Some deals happen; others haven’t panned out.

“I got an e-mail today from a company that got away,” Leto said. “It happens all the time. My investor friends know, too, you can’t be a part of everything and that’s OK. It’s not your investment, but there was something that I was chasing that just got bought today and I got an e-mail from the founder.”

Instagram was another company that got away from Leto, who aimed to invest in the app before its acquisition by Facebook.

“I was one of — I don’t know how many — but certainly one of a few that were begging [to invest],” Leto said. “At that point, it was a camera basically. It was a digital camera that had some filters on it. The social component wasn’t what it is at all now, but it was a creative company and it still is and I love that about a lot of the companies that either I work with or that we’re seeing so transformative is that they’re not just utilities. It’s a combination of creativity and technology that’s making things really interesting.”

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