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Here's who will.i.am turns to for big business advice

Hip-hop artist and tech investor will.i.am has a large digital rolodex of business leaders he taps often for advice on his various ventures.

These 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 Marc."

Host will.i.am and honoree Marc Benioff attend will.i.am's i.am.angel Foundation TRANS4M 2017 Gala on February 9, 2017 in Hollywood. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for i.am angel foundation)
Host will.i.am and honoree Marc Benioff attend will.i.am's i.am.angel Foundation TRANS4M 2017 Gala on February 9, 2017 in Hollywood. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for i.am angel foundation)

Oprah has proven to be another positive influence on the musical artist's life, according to will.i.am, as her legendary talk show is part of how he was able to launch his solo career and introduce his I Am scholarship.

"I love her," will.i.am said. "That is where I went to start my foundation on her show. She pushes me to bring the best out of myself. I am blessed to have an awesome network of folks to keep me on the straight and narrow and push me to solve problems."

More Yahoo Finance coverage of Davos 2023:

'The guy that really saw the spark in me'

Fame, fortune and natural curiosity sent will.i.am into the world of business and investing. Before that, however, he was born William Adams in Los Angeles in 1975 and grew up with modest means.

Eventually, will.i.am rose to fame in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a member of the Black Eyed Peas, a band that has sold more than 58 million singles worldwide.

He was an early investor in headphone maker Beats, netting him an undisclosed amount when Apple (AAPL) purchased the company for $3 billion in 2014, and also struck a partnership deal with Intel (INTC) to promote various hardware.

Many of these ventures came to fruition thanks to the connections will.i.am made through the years.

Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas performs at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Christopher Pike
Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas performs at Expo 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, January 25, 2022. REUTERS/Christopher Pike

"MC Hammer — that's the dude that connected me to Ron Conway," will.i.am said. "Jimmy Iovine — that's the guy that really saw the spark in me. They are my go-tos."

Oprah's close friend, journalist Gayle King, is also a mentor to will.i.am, as he stated that he loves her "like an aunt."

Now, will.i.am is a WEF regular and spent this year's event discussing the future of technology, particularly artificial intelligence. He's a member of the World Economic Forum's Industrial Revolution Advisory Committee and Global Artificial Intelligence Action Alliance.

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 an awesome network of folks to keep me on the straight and narrow and pushing to solve problems," will.i.am said.

Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.

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