Swimming WIth Narwhals
2023 Music Tech Startup Competition
Spotlighting creative startups through this competition is one of the ways the Music Tectonics conference focuses on music innovation—wherever it’s shaking up the industry.
The semi-final jury's votes were so close—a tie in fact— that the Music Tectonics team made the decision to open a fifth finalist spot to move on to the final round of the competition at the Fifth annual Conference!
An audience of conference attendees will witness the final round of pitches at the Music Tectonics Conference before a jury of experienced investors. Jury Choice and Audience Choice winners will be announced October 26 at the event.
Meet the Semifinalists
Our panel of experts selected ten fresh companies from an exceptional pool of applicants. Each one is poised to transform the music industry!
They pitched live at our online semi-final pitch event on September 13, 2023.
All conference ticketholders were invited to attend the event to witness the pitches, a keynote with Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Research, and a Q&A with the investors on the semi-final jury:
Tracy Maddux, Downtown Music Holdings
Aadit Parikh, Sony Ventures
Juliette Rolnick, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments
Conference Ticketholders can watch video of the entire event in the Event App!
Applicant companies must:
purchase at least one conference badge. That's the only application fee! Early Bird rate badges are available through August 15.
be less than 5 years old.
have a working demo of a product/service/platform or a finished product.
work in any part of the music innovation ecosystem: creating, distributing, listening to, or monetizing music; managing rights or data, engaging fans, running live music events, and more.
July 12, 2023 Applications open
July 12 Narwhal Kickoff Event - watch event video here for tips from past Narwhal winners!
August 13 Applications closed at 11:59pm Pacific Time
August 22 Last day to purchase badges at Early Bird rate of $249.
August 31 Ten semi-finalists announced, selected by a panel of music tech entrepreneurs, investors and experts
September 13 Semi-finalists pitch at the Music Tectonics Online Preconference, 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM PT / 1:00 - 3:30 PM ET / 6:00 - 8:30 pm UK
September 18 Five finalists announced
October 24 Startup Carousel demos at the Music Tectonics Conference in Santa Monica, CA.
October 25 Finalists pitch in-person at the conference.
October 26 Jury choice and Audience Choice winners announced at the conference.
What do the winning startups receive?
Feature in a press release about the competition
Founder interviews on the Music Tectonics Podcast after the event
Free badge for the 2024 conference
Winning the 2023 competition does not come with a monetary prize or investment, but winners benefit from recognition and the warm embrace of the Music Tectonics community. The winner of the first “Swimming with Narwhals” competition in 2020, Jacquelle Amankonah Horton, sees the experience as a springboard for her startup Fave, a platform for fans to unite and support their favorite artists with passion and creativity. “Winning the Music Tectonics startup competition completely catapulted my company,” Horton recalls. “It was the first time I spoke publicly about my vision outside of moonlighting on the project, and the direct support I received from the judges, industry leads who saw or heard of me from this stage, and the amazing fellow attendee community is what led to me closing a $2.2M seed round from top industry companies just a few months later. So grateful and feel indebted to the MT family for this kickoff.”
Is there an application fee?
Yes: one member of your company must buy a badge to the conference. Early Bird badges are $249. Get yours before the price rises to $350 on August 15!
Why should I attend the conference if I am not selected as a finalist?
So many reasons!
Being Seen: Even if you're not selected as a semi-finalist, a panel of investors and experts will pay attention to your application. At the conference, you'll have the chance to meet investors who are speaking at or attending the conference and looking for great new ideas like yours.
Networking: We’re designing an online preconference event for all badgeholders that includes the semi-final round of the pitch competition. Network with your cohort and get advice from our panel of judges at a Q&A. MT online events are fun, fast-paced, and dynamic- a far cry from the usual webinar.
Time to shine: The first day of the conference features a Startup Carousel - a ring of startup demo tables at Santa Monica’s historic Merry-go-round. All Semi-finalists have top priority to join the finalists and present their demos, followed by applicants in order of application.
Getting Business Done: Conference attendees tell us every year that they meet new partners, clients, and investors at Music Tectonics. Music Tectonics makes space for meeting and building relationships outside panels and keynotes with breaks on the schedule and a third conference day for your meetings.
Planning for the future: Innovation in the Music Tech space thrives on conversation and connection across industry boundaries. Get ideas and actionable insights for your startup by taking part in deep conversations about the future of music and tech.
I have a great startup, but I can’t afford the cost of a conference badge. What should I do?
Apply for a badge scholarship! Music Tectonics is offering three badge scholarships to startup pitch competition applicants. Email Shayli (or use our contact form) by August 8 to apply, explaining briefly what this support means to your company.
Preference for badge scholarships will be given to founders belonging to groups historically excluded from tech and music industry leadership.
Who judges the competition?
All applications will be reviewed by an independent panel of music tech entrepreneurs, investors, and experts. The Music Tectonics and Rock Paper Scissors teams do not select semi-finalists. Juries for the semi-final and final pitch sessions will be announced soon.
Past judges include:
Kareem Akhtar (Amazon Investor Fund)
David Dufresne (Investor)
David Gabeau (Union Street Ventures)
Meng Ru Kuok, (BandLab)
Brian Mac Mahon, (Expert DOJO)
Fred McIntyre (Capacitance)
Bob Moczydlowsky (Techstars Music)
Isabelle Persson (Expert Dojo)
Arabian Prince (Investor & NWA founding member)
Tom Windish (Wasserman Music)
Sometimes called the “unicorn whale,” the narwhal mascot represents the spirit and goals of the competition. We invoke the real one-horned animal to poke fun at the cultural obsession with billion-dollar unicorn startups, since we keep the focus on innovators with real-world solutions. And while shark tanks pit founders against each other and antagonistic judges, the Music Tectonics competition is designed to be welcoming and mutually supportive.
What's the story behind this competition?
See the 2022 competition page to find out who competed and who won!