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Founding Uber Engineer Joins PK Sound Board of Directors

Alberta's PK Sound has appointed Uber's founding engineer, Conrad Whelan, to its board of directors. Hailing from Calgary — where PK Sound is headquartered — Whelan will assist the company in its fundraising efforts and hopes to serve as a visionary for its product line.

As a result of his experience as an accomplished engineer, Whelan brings his technical expertise, an extensive professional network, and a longtime passion for the PK Sound brand to the company’s executive leadership team. In addition to helping with the company’s current fundraising efforts, Whelan says he is already looking toward the tech side of live sound and thinking about how to make loudspeakers “smarter.”

As an example of the "smarter" approach PK Sound has already taken, Whelan points the Trinity advanced robotic line array, which features PK Sound's 3D Wavefront Control technology, letting engineers precisely steer and focus sound. "Trinity is a pretty epic innovation,” he says. “Because, the thing about electronic music is that it's loudly amplified, and it’s being played more and more, especially in places like America."

"Electronic music culture is coming to more outdoor shows,” Whelan continued, “and more festivals. And the fact that Trinity has a tunable sound field makes it much easier to place more festivals in more densely populated areas, because you can tune the field of sound so that you're not disturbing neighboring areas.”

Born and raised in Calgary, Whelan earned a master's degree in electrical and computer engineering at the University of Calgary, where future Uber co-founder and CEO Garret Camp was also studying.

After graduation Whelan worked as an engineer in Calgary. But it was his love of live music that first brought him to PK Sound.

While moonlighting as a DJ in 2004, Whelan volunteered to do the sound engineering at one of the stages for Shambhala Music Festival, a four-day electronic dance music festival in Salmo, British Columbia. After hearing PK Sound loudspeakers at work, Whelan said he’s been a fan of the brand ever since.

As he became better acquainted with PK Sound products, Whelan also became familiar with the company's founders. While attending a later Shambhala Music Festival, he met fellow Calgary native Jeremy Bridge, president and CEO of PK Sound. "I loved the fact that these guys were from Calgary, my hometown, and they were building speakers," Whelan said. So, the two kept in touch.

After establishing a relationship with PK Sound’s leadership team, Whelan moved to San Francisco in 2010 to join Camp's newest venture, then UberCab, which Camp co-founded in the wake of his earlier success with web-discovery platform StumbleUpon. Later, in 2016, Whelan left Uber and began building an entrepreneurial investment portfolio. First, he turned toward his love of the arts and helped with fundraising for Hodgee Films Inc., a Vancouver, British Columbia, film company focusing on music, travel and pop culture based documentaries.

Now, with his recent board appointment to PK Sound, Whelan said he is looking forward to learning, "what it takes to run a company like this." And, while he suspects his role will evolve with the company, he has already started making calls on behalf of PK Sound, helping with fundraising efforts and using his network to reach out to potential investors.

"Whether it's at festivals or clubs, in Western Canada, PK Sound is like the gold standard,” Whelan said. And he hopes that, with the help of his network, he might be able to extend the brand’s footprint well beyond North America. "These guys are making speakers that can modify how they're passing sound through the air, and it's modifiable through software." And, for Whelan, it's just these kinds of innovative software solutions that made joining the board a no-brainer. "I think software is eating the world,” he said, “and PK Sound is on the cusp."

For more information, go to www.pksound.ca.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Professional Sound. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.