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Investing, Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy - the story of will.i.am

Will.i.am, born William Adams, is a multi-faceted entertainer and creative innovator, a seven-time Grammy Award winner, and founder of I AM. Born in 1975 in East Los Angeles, will.i.am grew up poor. In the absence of money to purchase trendy brands, he and his friends acquired “old-man suits” at thrift stores, forging their own distinctive style and sensibility.

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Known for his work with The Black Eyed Peas, who have sold 31 million albums and 58 million singles worldwide, will.i.am is the first recording artist to send a song to Mars in conjunction with NASA’s Curiosity Mars Space Lab. His songs and imagery have entertained and inspired millions. In 2011, will.i.am executive produced and starred in his first prime time TV special “i.am FIRST: Science is Rock and Roll” to get young people excited about maths and science education, as well as technology and science-related careers.

 

Investing

Now based in London, will.i.am released a statement earlier in 2017 to confirm he is linking up with startup, app-only bank Atom as a "strategic board advisor’ after investing and acquiring a £3.5m stake in the Durham based business.

The Black Eyed Peas singer has dabbled in tech over the last few years, investing in startups such as app Knock Knock and launching gadgets such as his own line of headphones. 

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Back in 2014 will.i.am invested £5m in Music Messenger’s Series A round, closely followed by a further investment of £5m in Shellanoo Group and £3m investment Honest Dollar, all companies were early stage businesses at the time the investments were made.

 

Entrepreneurship

i.am+ launched in 2012; the technology startup at the intersection of Will.i.am’s entertainment empire and entrepreneurial ambitions. Years before i.am+ launched with its foto.sosho camera accessory line for the iPhone, the musical legend and his multi platinum hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas attracted sponsorships with everyone from Apple to Coors to Best Buy to Honda.

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Along the way, will.i.am landed deals with firms like Intel (which in 2011 named him director of creative innovation) and Coca-Cola, his partner in Ekocycle (a brand devoted to sustainable goods). He was also a founding shareholder in Beats Electronics, creators of the wildly popular Beats by Dre headphones brand.

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Going back to will.i.am’s start in life, his entrepreneurial ambition has led to the creation of 150 jobs throughout his companies. He has specifically sought to give people from underserved communities the opportunity to develop a profession and a career.

 

Philanthropy

With a commitment to inspire kids to stay in school and go to college to become the leaders of tomorrow, will.i.am has opened doors for Millennials in the hopes of creating the next Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. He's launched the i.am Scholarships, which offer "future visionaries, leaders and innovators with financial assistance for post-secondary education" and since 2009 has awarded $550k to 37 scholars. In addition, will.i.am is a strong supporter of First, an annual robotics competition for youths in which his own children compete.

The i.am.angel Foundation has also created i.am.STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), an elementary and middle school initiative to provide underserved students with learning and interaction opportunities beyond the classroom in collaboration with Discovery Education. The i.am angel foundation is also active in the U.K. through a STEM education and computer skills joint initiative with The Prince’s Trust.

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As part of will.i.am’s philanthropic commitment, he hosts his annual TRANS4M Conference and Benefit Concert during Grammy Week. “TRANS4M 2013: TRANS4Ming America” Conference featured keynote speaker President Bill Clinton and the evening concert was headlined by Alicia Keys and will.i.am who were joined on stage by featured performers apl.de.ap, Taboo, Coco Lee, Estelle and Bobby Brown.

Will.i.am has expressed his determination to continue to invest finance in technology and time and advice in altruistic causes.

“It’s the hardest thing in the world, using your own money, and no one believing in you because you are supposed to stay in music,” said will.i.am. “When you believe in something, nothing is going to hold you back, no matter if your pocket is burning your skin – and if you are making hardware your pockets are going to burn your skin. I don’t mind taking a risk, shedding blood, to raise opportunities or awareness of certain things.”

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