From campus to incorporated: Engineering grads launch Audilent Technologies Inc.


- Julie Sloan

When Sean Cunningham, Carissa Ouellette and Matt Holland started working on their final engineering design project last September, they had no idea that it would become the foundation for a new company, but they knew they were onto something really exciting.  The three electrical engineering students began their joint “3D Stereo Navigation” project, an audio-based GPS mobile application for the visually impaired, and soon discovered that what they were working on had never been done successfully in the academic or commercial world.

The idea behind the audio-based GPS mobile application was to replace a guidance caregiver. Ouellette wanted to take it a step further and replace confusing spoken directions with a sound beacon based on their GPS coordinates to guide them to their desired location. At the time, they had no idea of the technical challenges they would face to make this happen, so they restructured the project to test the technology on a large, less vulnerable audience.

As the trio continued with research and development, their project advisors became increasingly excited about the innovative work being done, and advised them to begin thinking about market potential and how to wrap their technology into a product.  Through the Gustavson School of Business ICE (Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurs) program, they came up with a business plan outlining how spatial audio could be introduced into the music industry.

Specifically, they decided to create a product for the entertainment industry that would help them develop and test calibration filters for customizable 3D sound. As Cunningham explains, they’re building a “starter product for customizable, virtual surround sound that will stimulate the market enough to get the interest of big content creators.”

They entered PlanIt! 2013, a UVic business plan competition, and won second place overall. From there, the wheels kept rolling.  “We were lucky in that we were able to structure all of our technical electives to support the skill sets we required for product development. While finishing our degrees, we continued on with the ICE program, filed a provisional patent, were incorporated as Audilent Technologies, and were accepted into VIATeC’s Venture Acceleration Program,” says Ouellette.

As they finished their last semester and other students sought out jobs, the Audilent founders were looking for venture capital. It was a leap of faith, but it paid off—they brought home their first paycheques last month. “For me,” says Holland “the biggest challenge was balancing the project with school and family life with two young children at home. I’m lucky to have such a supportive wife.”

When asked if she was surprised at their success, Ouellette says “yes, and no. I’m not surprised because of the confidence I have in our team, but I hadn’t expected the overwhelming support we received from our advisors—and from the tech community in Victoria, which has been pivotal in getting us to where we are now.”

Holland and Cunningham will graduate in this month’s ceremony, and Ouellette will convocate in the spring.


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Keywords: convocation, student life, alumni, electrical engineering

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