will.i.am: We live in a world where destroying people and their dreams is a business

The rapper, TV talent-show judge and serial tech entrepreneur talks about the finale of The Voice Kids and why terrible reviews dont matter

Hello, will. Its The Voice Kids final this weekend. It seems to have been fun?
I like the show a lot. Its emotional, its joyful, its what the UKneeds right now.

What else do you think the UK can do to increase the joy?
It [children singing for a cash prize on prime-time ITV] just seems like the right recipe for whats needed. I cant think of anything else.

The winner of Voice Kids receives 30,000. How would you advise them to make that money work for them?
Theyre kids.

Yes. (1)
I would leave it to their parents to decide that.

If I suddenly got 30K, what should I do with it?

How old are you?

Im 40.

I would say: enjoy your weekend! (Extended guffawing) Im joking obviously.

When we met a few years ago, you said the internet wouldnt exist after 25years, and that wed have what you called the mesh instead. Can you explain more about the mesh?
What was that, five years ago? So: 20years from now the internet will be totally different. Everything will have computation. You wont need a phone. Everything will be connected. The whole idea of having a phone to do your computation thatll be dunzo.

It feels like that might not even take 20 years.
People arent getting rid of their phones for a long time.

Is that something youve found with your own wristwear? (2) Did you have pushback from people saying, I quite like my phone, actually?
I think Apple and Samsung found that about wristwear everyone found it and came to the same conclusion: its the phone era right now.

Lets talk about Planet of the Apps. (3) Its had mixed reviews, how was the experience?
Its been great! Its the first show that Apples ever put out and funded, so for that, its a feat and an accomplishment. There are always tough reviews for everything. The Voice had tough reviews, here we are six seasons in! Everyone whos afraid of reviews doesnt need to be in the world of entertainment.

In the world of tech, a series of bad reviews can really affect a product la
No, youre wrong. The iPhone had the worst reviews for any device, and it changed the world. Youre wrong on that. Apple is the biggest [tech] company in the world, its used to everything it puts out being ripped to pieces! Fact!

Surely when your first wristwear wascoming out, and reviews of production models said thatyou hadmade objectively the worst product of the year, you must have thought, Thatsnot ideal?
We never launched it. We revealed the proof of concept and our OS passing AT&Ts technical acceptance. We had 70 employees [at the time], and here we are in 2017 with almost 300 employees. So, obviously, those reviews didnt hurt the growth of the company. Entrepreneurship is about how you take a loss, or take criticism, and learn from it and keep on moving. Right? We live in a world where destroying people and their dreams is a business. People want to see the bad in everything. For example, this interview. Three times youve brought up something Ive learned from and built from. For whatever reason.

Im interested in the way youre able to carry on launching products with huge amounts of confidence and investment, yet in terms of the tech world I havent seen you do something thats been a roaring success.
No, no, no, theres a thing called Beats that I was a part of (4). Research before empty blanket statements Research would be good.

I was thinking in terms of your ownenterprises (5)
Doesnt matter. Certain things take time. Do you think things grow in fiveyears?

They can do.

Not everything is at the same pace. Itsabout a persons tolerance and how theyre going to stay at it. I remember my first go at music. It was 1992. I got a record deal. In 1993, we recorded. [Potted history of Black Eyed Peas follows] Then, in 2004, we saw some success. Some things just take long. Some people are in it for the long haul. And throughout the whole journey of growing, you have the people on the sidelines who are afraid to fail, criticising people who are fearless.

Which finalists in The Voice Kids have a huge career ahead of them as recording artists?
A lot of these kids are nine, 11, 12. Ten years from now they could be VRartists. Or augmented [reality] artists. Recording artists are old technology! Now, we live in a world of 3D immersive worlds that mimic the way you look now. These kids could be the artists of that medium.

So, who from the finalists could dothat?
[Lengthy pause] All of them.

(1) Theres a clue in the shows title.

(2) will.i.ams tech company i.am+ designed two wearable wrist devices which, unlike many others, were intended for use without a tethered phone.

(3) will is a judge on what is basically Dragons Den for app developers.

(4) will once suggested that Jimmy Iovine move into hardwear. A year later, Iovine suggested speakers to Dr Dre; will became an equity partner in Beats.

(5) In addition to the first smartwatch (One of the worst things Ive ever reviewed) these include a $315 iPhone case that reportedly sold 2,000 units and a subsequent watch only available in the UK through one network. He has also just launched some headphones.

The Voice Kids semi-final, Saturday, ITV, 7.30pm and The Voice Kids live final; Sunday, ITV, 7.10pm.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2017/jul/13/30-minutes-with-will-i-am

You may also enjoy...