By Roya Soleimani Winner, Sunstone Staff Writer
As early as the age of 5, Axel Villamil experienced the power of dance in bringing people together. Every Sunday, he went down to the basement of his family’s church with the dance crew, in awe of the talent and energy that was in the air.
He says he remembers the defining moment when someone saw his potential and said, “Go into the circle and show them what you got.” From breakdancing to ballet, and jazz to hip hop, Axel found joy and community through movement.
As the founder and CEO of StageKeep, a productivity tool for choreographers, Axel bridged his passions as both a creative and a computer scientist to solve an unmet need. StageKeep helps dancers and performers plan their routines, choreography, and formations with technology. He is working to grow his company now as a member of the summer cohort at Lair East Labs in New York City.
Drawing on his 20 years in the entertainment industry, Axel knew that dancers “needed to learn where to be on stage, and you needed to be there to feel the people around you.” Using pen and paper, formations would be written out that were often unreadable.
But recent advances in computer technology offered a more modern approach. The first version of StageKeep went into development bringing software and dance together.
It was 2018, and as a new graduate from the University of Toronto, Axel and team were featured in an alumni spotlight. That helped StageKeep gain momentum and users, including the Toronto Raptors dance team, which used the software during their NBA championship games in 2019.
While the COVID-19 pandemic essentially stopped in-person performances and events, StageKeep provided a way for dancers to collaborate, even when they couldn’t be together. StageKeep even helped a local dance company in Ontario, Canada, stay open during the pandemic through virtual collaboration tools, Axel said.
In 2022, Axel forged an unexpected path by pitching a dance performance using StageKeep at a national tech conference in Canada. After many “no’s,” he was able to secure a spot — a first for the conference and for Axel.
Wearing a traditional formal Filipino Barong Tagalog, Axel and his crew of dancers lit up the stage at the Collision Conference, hosted by WebSummit.
“Seeing dance, especially while representing my culture, at a tech conference made me feel seen,” Axel said. “I went from being a student observing speakers in the audience, to being on the same stage performing and pitching my app.”
Noah Tansingco, a Junior Business Development Manager at StageKeep, added, “Axel is always human first. He is not afraid to show who he is and be himself in every room.”
“To believe in something that’s very hard is the mindset you need as an entrepreneur,” he said. “And to have such supportive people around you makes it so much better.”
StageKeep is at another inflection point after releasing V2 of their software. They have been focused on “intentionally integrating AI into their app since 2019, and will have new video features coming soon that will help reach a broader market,” Axel said.
For more, go to the website, stagekeep.com.
Note: We refer to early-stage technology entrepreneurs as Founders. Information provided here is to inform about the types of small business start-ups that have been selected for participation in certain programs in which Sunstone participates. Information provided here is aspirational and there is no assurance of success. Early-stage investing comes with an inherently high degree of risk. The information provided is neither an offer to sell or an inducement to offer to buy interests in any Sunstone sponsored fund that may have invested in the Founder.
About Lair East Labs
Lair East Labs is a startup accelerator based in New York that empowers founders to expand internationally. In the first five years of operation, our portfolio companies have raised over $45 million in funding after completing the accelerator. Our program combines the best of two worlds – learn from alumni founders of top Silicon Valley-style accelerators and gain access to a network of mentors and investors with extensive experience navigating the U.S. and Asian markets. In 2019, Lair East Labs was recognized as one of the “Top 100 Accelerators Worldwide” by Crunchbase. www.laireastlabs.com.
About Sunstone Management
Sunstone Management is a diversified private capital management firm with headquarters in Southern California that provides a range of early-stage venture capital, real estate, and fixed income funds to qualified and accredited investors. The firm delivers new and exciting options for economic growth through innovative public-private partnerships, making use of its unique experience across government, education, and private sectors. Identified by Financial Times as one of America’s Fastest Growing Companies three years in a row. Ranked 18th in the United States on the list of most active venture capital firms by PitchBook.
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