Pop star Will.i.am. says he did a favor for Page that the Google co-founder later repaid. As for the source of his interest in tech, he said "music is technology."
- Pop star Will.i.am, of the Black Eyed Peas, exclusively tells Business Insider about his friendship with Google cofounder Larry Page.
- The friendship began in 2003, after the Black Eyed Peas first visited the Googleplex. They've kept it up to this day.
- Will.i.am is actually active in the tech space, and sums up his interest thusly: "Music is technology."
The past six years or so, pop star will.i.am has seemingly done everything he could to earn the same kind of street cred in tech circles as he acquired in music.
Whether he's accepting a position with Intel as "director of creative innovation," or designing hardware add-ons for the iPhone or palling around with Segway inventor Dean Kamen, will.i.am has worked hard on establishing his bona fides in tech.
Apparently, the source of his interest in technology goes much further back. In an interview with Business Insider, the music impresario — whose given name is William Adams — said he's been friends with Google founder Larry Page since 2003. That's when Will's band, The Black Eyed Peas, visited the Googleplex in Silicon Valley.
Later, Page asked a favor.
"As Google developed new features and services, Larry and I would be in touch," said Will, 43. "When Google+ was created and [the company] first revealed the Hangout, Larry called me to ask if I would host one. I invited Black Eyed Peas bandmates and some music industry friends and we hosted a hangout from a recording studio."
He said the resulting video chat on Hangout was hugely successful. Will said that Page eventually returned the favor. "Larry commented one day that my name, will.i.am, was recognized as a URL link," Will said. "So I pursued, and bought, the .am domain."
And Page and Will have stayed in touch. "We catch up via phone periodically," Will added, "often when Google has something new to review."
Will could have found his side hustle in a million other areas. Like other stars, he could have just peddled a clothing line or cut ribbons at dozens of supermarket openings. Instead of receiving credit, his foray into Silicon Valley has often been met with skepticism. Some in the media snickered when his camera "enhancer" target="_blank" for the iPhone failed to catch on.
The common criticism of him and other celebs who have dabbled in the sector, such as Ashton Kutcher and Justin Timberlake, is that they're dilettantes scratching around for a payday.
None of the criticism seems to slow Will down. He is due next month to judge the Chivas Venture competition, which pays $1 million to the startup with the most potential to make a positive impact in the lives of others. And lest the haters forget, Will received a founders' share when Apple paid $3 billion to acquire headphone company Beats by Dre. Will was instrumental in marketing the brand.
The truth, says Will, is that his teachers at his East Los Angeles high school helped spark his interest in technology. Music also helped.
"Music is technology," Will said. "Thomas Edison invented the Gramophone, the basis of the music industry’s highest honor, the Grammy Award. Without recording equipment, vinyl records and CDs, radio, stereo gear, portable music players – all based on technology – there would be no music industry."