TORONTO – A new incubator program delivered in collaboration between Nobellum Enterprise and The University of Toronto Scarborough is aiming to help launch at least 100 Black-owned tech startups by 2025. Called the Nobellum Innovathon Pitch Competition, the program allows aspiring Black entrepreneurs at U of T to compete for a chance to take part in incubation programs, training, and receive leadership.
The pitch competition took place on July 9th and saw ten teams come to pitch their ideas. The winners of this year’s contest? The team behind Soundwav.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Aubin Cooper, CEO of Soundwav, to discuss how the incubation program helped his team and what they’re looking to accomplish.
The concept of Soundwav was born from Cooper’s own experiences working within the music space.
“What I’ve found is, yes the space has evolved in terms of the new identities that are showing up. People feeling free to express themselves within the space,” Cooper explained but says that the technology and tools needed to aid these creators are not available.
“So I asked why is there a constant bias? It’s almost like they want to advance the consumer-facing side to monetize. But on the creator aspect, it’s almost like, let’s put this on the back burner!” Cooper explained.
Understanding what it means to be creators themselves, Cooper and his co-founder Ben Giannis knew what pain points artists and creators are experiencing and worked to provide something to help resolve them.
“Soundwav is looking to centralize all of that. When it comes to communication, when it comes to permission access, when it comes to file and project management. Things of that nature all in one centralized space for people within the audio space,” Cooper explained.
Cooper was encouraged to apply for the program by a mentor of his, who encouraged him to network with other people of colour working in the tech industry.
“He let me know this is the initiative that’s going on. You’ll feel comfortable within a space where you won’t have to ‘code switch’ or ‘try and fit in’ to make somebody feel comfortable while you exist there,” Cooper explained.
The founders of Soundwav actually missed the original deadline for entry to the pitch contest. But as organizers received an abundance of applications they had to extend the closing date, allowing Cooper and Giannis to apply.
Cooper said that his experience as a Black man in the tech world has been “different”.
“There’s a lot of ‘what do you do within the space?’ where it almost feels like I’m being sized up for my role,” Cooper explained, adding that at networking events people rarely assume that he is a founder or a CEO.
“It’s almost like they downplay capabilities within the space like I’m not capable to join this space and introduce something of value to my industry through technology,” Cooper said.
He has an important message for young, aspiring Black entrepreneurs. It all starts in your mind.
“If you can believe that you can accomplish something, that’s the first step. Because now you’re in the mind frame to work out how it’s going to happen,” Cooper explained.
“I believe if you’re in a space to say ‘I’m ready and I can take this on’ everything will work itself out,” Cooper added.
He is also a strong advocate for women’s rights. Wearing a shirt that reads “STOP PLAYIN’ WITH WOMEN’S RIGHTS”, he says that he made the shirt himself in order to use his platform to help spread awareness of the issues that women face in society.
“My sister, my wife-to-be when that does happen, my daughter, it all kind of correlates. It [means I] need to make sure that I create, or have those individuals in my life exist in an ecosystem where they can be entirely authentically themselves without worrying ‘why is there a bias against my existence?’,” Cooper explained.
Aubin Cooper is the CEO and founder of Soundwav. Cooper has over nine years of music industry experience both on the creative and executive side and he is setting out to utilize his experiences coupled with music technology to resolve what he calls “pain points” in the digital music ecosystem. Aubin is a music producer who has worked with a number of talented artists including Tory Lanez, Jazmin Sullivan, and Shenseea.
Ben Giannis is co-founder and lead designer at Soundwav. Giannis is an experienced developer who started learning the skill of web development when he was 11. After working hard on his development skills while in high school, developing apps and iPhone jailbreaks, Giannis studied Computer Science at the University of Toronto. He is currently working towards a degree in Interaction Design from York University.