Non-Profit Real Startup Paves The Way For Music Innovators

Real Startup is a non-profit organisation that brings music entrepreneurs and industry experts together to create spectacular new innovations…

real startup
Universal Audio CEO Bill Putnam shows a sample from the studio construction – the architectural design is both acoustically and aesthetically aware.

In summer 2017, four teams from Stanford University, UC Berkeley and Berklee College of Music ventured to Silicon Valley to receive industry mentoring, challenge one another’s assumptions, and expand their audio technology networks.


Armed with their own original startup ideas, the teams spent the month of September developing their products and business models with the mentorship of industry experts from Sennheiser, XPERI (previously DTS), Dolby Laboratories, Turtle Beach, Warner Music Group, Zeitgeist Artist Management, and founding industry partners Universal Audio, iZotope, LANDR and Stashimi.

How Real Startup works

Real Startup teaches university students how to apply their classroom learning to entrepreneurship in the music and audio technology industry. Describing his experience, Yuval Adler, program participant and CEO of SterIO said, “interacting with industry partners gave me a more mature view of the opportunities and challenges in going forward with a new business venture.”

Demoing 3D immersive audio for VR in Sennheiser’s San Francisco in-house studio with Sebastian Chafe, Strategic Innovation Manager and Katrina Kosenko, User Experience Researcher…

Students participated in workshops, site visits, and ran customer interviews with industry, while learning about subjects such as Business Model Canvases, Intellectual Property, UI/UX Design and Product Management directly from the top minds in those fields.

Introducing startups to a group of passionate industry leaders who can support their next phase of development at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University.


“We want to educate and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs by taking them behind the scenes of industrial innovation” said Real Startup’s Program Director Priyanka Shekar, “so that they can gain the knowledge, resources and networks to grow in the real world.”

Meet the new 2017 Real Startup class of music tech innovators

Real Startup is the first-of-its-kind — founded in 2017 by Jay LeBoeuf and Priyanka Shekar, as an initiative of nonprofit Real Industry.

The program provides structure and process to the best and brightest entrepreneurial teams from top university music, media, entertainment and technology programs, to commercialise their ideas and expand their professional networks. Students received mentorship from the program’s network of almost 200 industry mentors including industry veterans.

A private tour of Studio 610, a modern production studio with classic vintage studio hardware at Universal Audio’s HQ in Scotts Valley.

“The teams rolled up their sleeves and applied feedback immediately, it was like watching a business transformation happen in hours rather than months.” said mentor Dave Hill Jr., Go 2 Market Coach (previously Director, Ableton, and VP of Sales and Marketing, iZotope). “Real Startup provided opportunities to interact with students learning about music and technology, the intersection of which is central to Pandora”, said Mike Herring (previously President & CFO, Pandora), “my team heard perspectives of a new generation of music lovers — invaluable insight and a fun way to get it!”.

  • String Theory Labs (Stanford University, UC Berkeley): Delivers immersive 3D audio and multimedia content to live music events, enabling artists to create immersive experiences and allowing music venues to deliver them.
  • MAD Archives (Stanford University): Addresses the “merch stigma” by transforming surplus physical merchandise into classy, sophisticated, and chic lifestyle collections, allowing artists to promote their brand as a lifestyle, increase profits, and gain exposure to new markets of fans.
  • SterIO (Stanford University): Uses psychoacoustics and signal processing technology to automatically attenuate sound levels in audio playback systems to lower and safer levels without any noticeable change from the user’s perspective, reducing long-term hearing damage.
  • Between the Dimensions (Berklee College of Music): Audio-visual production house creating interactive and experiential art installations that translate new scientific insight into artistic expressions that are intriguing and immersive.

The challenging three-weeks program culminated in teams gaining support from a group of industry executives and connectors in a private showcase event. Leading up to their pitch test, the teams had met with a diverse range of over 70 customers and mentors. They are now poised with focused business plans, skills, and networks to be able to successfully grow on their own.

The Real Startup class: (back row from left) Jay LeBoeuf (staff), John Snelgrove, Yuval Adler, David Abrams, Matthew McIntyre, Wisam Reid, Priyanka Shekar (staff), (front row from left) Madison McClung, Tejaswi Gorti, Itamar Orr, Eesha Choudhari (TA)

Find out more about the work Real Startup does.