Hip-hop artist and tech investor will.i.am has a large digital rolodex of business leaders that he often turns to for advice on his various ventures.
Those mentors include names like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Oprah Winfrey, music legend MC Hammer, venture capitalist Ron Conway and Beats investor Jimmy Iovine.
“Marc Benioff is my big brother and my mentor,” will.i.am told Yahoo Finance Live at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland this week (video above). “I love Marco.”
Oprah proved to be another positive influence in the music artist’s life, according to will.i.am, as her legendary talk show was part of how he was able to launch his solo career and land his I Am scholarship.
“I love her,” said will.i.am. “I went there to start my foundation on her show. She pushes me to bring out the best in myself. I’m blessed to have a great network of people who keep me on the straight and narrow and push me to solve problems.”
More Yahoo Finance coverage of Davos 2023:
‘The guy who really saw the spark in me’
Fame, fortune and natural curiosity sent will.i.am into the world of business and investment. Before that, however, he was born William Adams in Los Angeles in 1975 and grew up with modest means.
After all, will.i.am rose to fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a member of the Black Eyed Peas, a band that sold more than 58 million singles worldwide.
He was an early investor in headphone maker Beats, earning an undisclosed amount when Apple ( AAPL ) bought the company for $3 billion in 2014, and also struck a partnership deal with Intel ( INTC ) to promote various hardware.
Many of these ventures have come to fruition thanks to the connections that will.i.am has made over the years.
“MC Hammer — that’s the guy who put me in touch with Ron Conway,” said will.i.am. “Jimmy Iovine — that’s the guy who really saw the spark in me. They’re my favorite.”
Oprah’s close friend, journalist Gayle King, is also a mentor to will.i.am, as he has stated that he loves her “like an aunt”.
Now, will.i.am is a regular attendee at WEF and spent this year’s event discussing the future of technology, particularly artificial intelligence. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Industrial Revolution Advisory Board and the Global Alliance for Artificial Intelligence Action.
On Thursday, he had a group lunch with mentor Benioff and Williams-Sonoma CEO Lara Alber, among other esteemed guests.
“I’m blessed to have a great network of people who keep me on track and push me to solve problems,” said will.i.am.
Brian Sozzi is the editor-in-chief and anchor in Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and so on LinkedIn.
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