When we recently asked Adam Platzner, an investor, serial entrepreneur, and cofounder of personalized news app ZIG Media, to name his business icon, he immediately responded: “Boz is not only an icon, she’s a dear friend. Her story is epic.”
“Boz” is Bozoma Saint John, chief marketing officer at talent giant Endeavor. Like Cher, Beyonce, and Madonna (icons in their own right), she’s mononymous–at least in the business world–after high-profile stints at Uber, Apple, and Beats Music. In a series of recent email exchanges, Saint John and Platzner shared with Fast Company the story of their almost-instant friendship and what they’ve learned from each other over the years. Excerpts from our conversation follow, lightly edited for length and clarity:
Platzner recalls trying to set up a lunch with Saint John in 2013, when she was global head of music and entertainment at PepsiCo.
Platzner: Like, 10 dates [were] calendared and rescheduled later. We had never met. And I was like, “Who the heck is this woman?” I never expected what would happen next.
I decided to look her up and follow her on Facebook. I quickly found out, along with Boz’s other followers, that I was on a riveting, emotional, raw, very personal journey. Boz’s husband, Peter, was battling cancer. They had a little adorable daughter, Lael, and I think as part outlet, part therapy, and just a way to keep all her friends and family in the loop, she shared her experience. I found myself understanding why she had to cancel so many meetings. And not understanding how she could work, take care of her daughter, take care of her husband, and actually take care of herself, all at the same time. I began to become inspired by her courage. And when Peter passed away, it was heartbreaking.
Then I started to see the aftermath in my feed, the tributes, the way she handled things after Peter’s death [at the end of 2013]. I just had to finally meet this woman. Boz had recently left Pepsi to be the CMO of Beats, and I didn’t have her new email. So I took a chance and sent her a DM on Facebook. She replied pretty fast and we arranged to have lunch during SXSW in Austin.
Saint John: I remember looking at my calendar at SXSW and feeling overwhelmed by my emotional exhaustion and deep grief over my husband’s death. I knew that I’d rescheduled Adam a few times already, so I didn’t want to cancel, but I could barely pull myself out of my hotel room. I prayed that I wouldn’t burst into tears at lunch in front of this stranger, but as I approached the table, he stood up and gave me a big hug. I knew instinctively that it wouldn’t matter if I cried or not; somehow I was safe with him, and it would be okay. It turned out to be more than okay, because we talked about work, life, and he mercilessly made fun of me for canceling on him. In that first meeting, I knew I’d made a friend for life. He’s driven, compassionate, funny, obsessive, and caring–all traits he exhibited within the first 20 minutes.
Platzner: Boz is an incredible listener. I don’t think people value this enough. It’s innate in real-deal leaders, and as a friend it means everything. On the personal side, you cannot admire what an amazing leader Boz is, or admire her as a friend, without really appreciating what an incredible mother she is to Lael.
Platzner was an early advocate of Saint John’s move to Uber, which she joined as chief brand officer, in 2017, after heading up global consumer marketing at Apple Music. (Apple acquired Beats in 2014, shortly after Saint John joined.)
Saint John: Adam has incredible vision. It’s instantaneous and infectious. He knows where the cultural conversation is going before most of us have begun to see any changes. He’s the one who saw what had begun to take shape in the public opinion of Uber, and told me that’s where I needed to go. Of course, I hung up on him. But over the course of six months, and many other “serendipitous” events, I knew I had to go to Uber, too. It’s that same knowing that makes him a brilliant entrepreneur and businessman–he can see ahead and make the call even when it seems highly unlikely.
Platzner: So many times I think Boz and I give each other the same-ish advice. But it helps to be able to talk through things and examine all the sides with someone you believe in. As an entrepreneur I always describe myself as “strategically impatient” because you’re constantly up against crazy odds. Boz always tells me to just be patient.
Saint John: I thought I was an aggressive risk taker before I met Adam. Then I realized that I need to be more so. He doesn’t take no for an answer–ever. He’s constantly pushing me to do more, do it faster, and do it now.
Platzner: I’ve always said with a smile that I look forward to being chairman of “Boz for Governor” or “Boz for Senate.” But I’m not joking. Bozoma Saint John will be governor of California one day and/or serve in the U.S. Senate. There is also a really nice house on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., that I could see her settling into quite comfortably. We would be lucky to have someone in there with such an abundance of empathy, discipline, and character.
Saint John: He thinks I should run for office. I believe he should do the same. Maybe we’ll run on the same ticket … a black woman and a Jewish man … sounds like a winning combo to me.