Deaf owned business Wavio wins prestigious award for innovation

A Deaf owned business, Wavio, founded in 2015, created a sound recognition software to help deaf people recognize sounds. The Daily Moth did a business spotlight on Wavio in 2017.

Last Saturday, Wavio recently became the first Deaf-owned start-up ever to win a Cannes Lion and the Grand Prix Award for the Innovation category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in France.

[Video tweet from @Cannes_Lions showing audience cheering Brandon Marin, who accepts the award and gives a speech]

Brandon Marin: “It’s a really big honor to be here tonight and to make this special announcement in American Sign Language. This Grand Prix Award in Innovation is a really emotional one. This shows that two teams have already broken down a huge barrier for 466 (million) deaf people in the world.”

[Captioned video feature of the Wavio product]

Renca: Wavio partnered with Area 23 to showcase their See Sound solution.

Wavio won 4 awards for different categories, but the Grand Prix Award is considered the most prestigious award in the Innovation category.

Spencer Montan, Brandon Marin, and Greyson Watkins are the founders of Wavio. The Daily Moth reached out to Wavio for an interview. We were able to chat with Montan and Marin.


BRANDON MARIN: We ended up winning the Grand Prix award. That’s one tier above the Gold prize. So, in the Innovation competition, there were 100 categories with awards for each one. The Innovation category is one of the most prestigious of them all because typically big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft would compete to win. We’re considered small time entrepreneurs yet we still won?!

I want to say that everyone there did such a beautiful job creating technology solutions. How they did it was beautiful, but this was a verification for us that we’re their equal. It’s an amazing feeling and I’ve got goosebumps.

SPENCER MONTAN: We’d been working on this company on the west coast focused on the software. It just so happened that Area 23, which is another innovation agency, so we had all these different innovations. One of them was developing the See Sound. We’re doing the hardware part on the east coast and we’re making progress with that. I think it was last year when we learned more about each other. We got connected and developed that relationship. This was a great opportunity to create that film because we wanted to work together to create that technology and make it available for all deaf people to install into their houses. So, we realized that competing against each other wasn’t the way to do it and there’s a bigger cause at hand. So, we needed to work together so we’re really excited about that and the really cool thing is we’re RIT alumni and the See Sound team also have RIT alumni as well. One of the co-founders’ husband is deaf too. So, we all have the same problems where the water is left running and we don’t hear it. It could be the fire alarm, baby crying, dogs barking, and we keep overlooking these indicators.

I’ve experienced being around a wildfire. It was 2017, it was 3 a.m. in the morning when I woke up to my family members urging me, telling me that we needed to evacuate. I didn’t hear the sirens urging us to evacuate or the police and the firemen knocking at the door. So, this is actually a life and death situation so we realized that this was a big opportunity to create an important tool that can really help deaf people to be aware of different sounds being emitted in different environments.

BRANDON MARIN: Really, our whole company’s philosophy is that it’s deaf owned. If we get more and more investments, then our own equity would be reduced. This means that hearing investors could seize control of this company then what happens? Will they continue to provide jobs for deaf people? Will they make sure that our vision of a deaf owned company remain intact? Who knows? So that’s why we want to make sure that we keep that and run with it for the long term. So that’s really important to us and we’ve realized that after several years, wait a minute, the equity is really important to us.

SPENCER MONTAN: Yeah, we do really care about the deaf ecosystem too, so we want to make this software available for all to come up with new solutions for our daily problems. We want to say to everyone, “Here you go!”

Take it, take it!

So far, we’ve been focused on licensing our software and look forward to continuing to develop our idea with many new partnerships.


Renca: Marin mentioned that because they won that award, it means they become one of the top 10 start-ups to watch out for in 2019. It is nice to see how they have progressed up to this point. If you are interested in signing up for their product, you can check out their Facebook or website.

Congratulations, Wavio!

Video Tweet from @Cannes_Lions:

Wavio Video for the Festival


Deaf Business Spotlight

Wavio Facebook Page