Art of Cool Festival

Innovate Your Cool

Innovate Your Cool: A Conference on Innovation

Presented in Partnership by Art of Cool

Innovate Your Cool (IYC) celebrates the power of cool ideas and its impact on business and music. This year’s program will pack inspiration, ideas, innovation and fun into Saturday, April 29, 2017.


To advance innovative thinking by creating maximum collisions of intelligent people, cool ideas & improvised music.




American Underground @Main
201 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27707 [map]


Innovate Your Cool Speakers


In the history of the Hip-Hop, few artists have had as great an impact on the development and progression of the art forms lyrical style as Rakim Allah. Universally referenced as one of the Masters of the Microphone and an influence and inspiration to his peers and followers alike, Rakim first exploded onto the scene with the release of iconic Eric B. is President in 1986 with long time collaborator Eric B. The single marked a turning point in the Rap world – raising the bar for future emcees and revolutionizing the way rhymes are delivered to this day. No serious discussion of the music’s greatest performers is held without a deferential accounting of his achievements, and no serious rap artist grips a microphone without channeling some of his legend. Rakim’s intricately intellectual lyrics draw their force from his worldly experience, inner faith and progressive contemplation; his liquid and seemingly effortless delivery – often imitated but still unrivaled – from a fire fueled by a deep understanding of not just Hip-Hop, but also the Jazz and R&B influences that have surrounded his family since his youth. His recordings – including the all-time classics Paid In Full, Follow the Leader and The 18 th Letter – have sold in the multi-millions worldwide. Billboard, Rolling Stone, MTV and a host of others consistently refer to Paid in Full as “the greatest Hip-Hop album of all time” – a claim that often repeated in audience polls.

Luisa Covaria
Luisa Covaria is the Principal Community Designer for OpenIDEO– IDEO’s open innovation platform. Luisa designs programs and leads projects focused on building social movements. As part of her role to push the boundaries of what is possible, she has designed boot camps, online environments and programs blending online and offline experiences to help early stage entrepreneurs in the social impact space take their initiatives to the next level.
Luisa has a passion for working in international development. She has led projects to increase participation of those with no access to the Internet in online challenges and has designed and built in-country networks to empower social entrepreneurs in East Africa and Asia.
Before joining OpenIDEO, Luisa worked as a user experience designer for various boutique agencies and NGO’s in New York City, started a social venture to facilitate collaboration and co-creation around pressing social issues and developed programs to empower marginalized communities through participatory filmmaking, from Asia to South America.
Luisa graduated with masters in interaction design from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University and a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College. She is the recipient of various social entrepreneurship fellowships such as the Reynolds Fellowship and is part of the United World College scholar program.
Scott Shigeoka
Scott Shigeoka is curiously and joyfully creating at the intersection of community, stories, design and collective change.
He is a Community Designer and Storyteller with OpenIDEO. There, he’s supporting community-driven projects that address social challenges. He supports OpenIDEO Chapters, on-the-ground communities activating people in more than 20 cities around the world to design solutions that impact their communities.
Prior to his work at IDEO, Scott was a Fulbright-MTV Networks Fellow in Iceland. There, he researched the role of music in the country’s modern environmental movement. He also founded a social enterprise that designs creative experiences—like music festivals, residencies and leadership summits—that imagines a world where community activism is the norm.
Scott has worked with institutions like the University of Pennsylvania as a strategist, community designer and facilitator. He is a writer that worked as a contributing music reporter for The Washington Post, and has also sporadically published his thoughts on culture, arts and community for other media outlets.

Tru Pettigrew

A certified Life Coach, a celebrated author, engaging speaker, trusted consultant, and award-winning marketing executive with over 15 years of experience at the country’s top advertising & marketing agencies. He’s also considered one of the country’s top Millennial Empowerment experts and cross-generational thought leaders. These are just a few of the accolades that are used when introducing Tru.

And as proud as Tru is, to have been able to achieve these accomplishments throughout his life, these things simply describe what he does, but not who he is. Tru Pettigrew, the person, is a man of faith that loves his family and exists to serve others by inspiring greatness in all that he does.

Angie Jones

Angie Jones is a certified Java programmer and a Master Inventor with more than 20 issued patents in the US and China. Angie works at LexisNexis as a Consulting Software Engineer and also Durham Technical Community College as an Adjunct Computer Science Professor. While Angie is local to Durham, she travels all over the world to teach technology workshops. She is a very passionate advocate for minorities in technology, and leads the Raleigh-Durham chapter of Black Girls Code, as well as volunteers with TechGirlz. Angie has been featured in several publications for her work in Technology including Ebony Magazine,  the News & Observer, Women of Color Magazine, Spectacular Magazine, and several other online mediums.

William Spruill

Bill is co-founder and CEO of The Global Data Consortium (GDC). The Global Data Consortium helps e- companies with mobile onboarding, fraud prevention and anti-money laundering compliance via its Worldview Global Electronic Identity Verification Platform.  Customers include Amazon, Mercado Libre, DHL Global and Tipalti.

Bill has had broad experience with the challenges facing high growth technology companies. He is currently a board member of the North Carolina based Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED), one of the oldest and largest organizations focused on high growth business. As part of his volunteer work with the CED Bill has mentored over 50 companies through varied issues and challenges.

Privately, Bill has also been involved in advising a number of data management companies through strategic growth & acquisition including AddressDoctor GmbH, Intelligent Search Technology, Siperian and Delos Technology.

Bill is also an active angel investor in North Carolina. He is a member of Triangle Angel Partners a $2.6 million early stage angel fund. Current and past companies invested in include: Magnus HealthIT, Union Metrics, Loqate, WaterPlayUSA, Windsor Circle and Offline Media.

Pierce Freelon

Pierce Freelon is an Afro-futurist, professor, musician, and organizer. He is the creator of Blackspace – a digital makerspace based in Durham, North Carolina; and the co-founder of the Emmy-award winning PBS web-series Beat Making Lab. He has taught in the Departments of Music and African, African American and Diaspora Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, and is the front-man of the jazz/hip hop quartet The Beast.

Leigh-Kathryn Bonner

Leigh-Kathryn Bonner is a fourth generation beekeeper and the Founder and CEO of Bee Downtown based out of Durham, NC. The company, created her junior year while at NC State University, installs and maintains beehives for companies in cities, where bees thrive, while also providing a green marketing opportunity for the businesses that purchase the hives. Since starting Bee Downtown the company has been featured and cited in Country Music Television as one of North Carolina’s most interesting businesses, National Geographic, The New York Times, Google, Our State Magazine, The INDY, and more.

Donald Thompson

As CEO of the technology company I-Cubed, Donald Thompson was given the reins at age 36, and dramatically grew the organization until it was acquired by the global technology enterprise, KPIT in 2014.  Currently, Donald is the CEO for Creative Allies, an integrated marketing firm that focuses on helping celebrity and consumer brands execute marketing campaigns and engage customers.  Donald also serves on the Board of Directors for iCiDIGITAL, a spin off business from I-Cubed, where he groomed his successor from technologist to President.

Donald was appointed to the North Carolina Board of Science, Technology and Innovation, is an emeritus member of the strategic advisory board for North Carolina State University‘s Computer Science Department, and is Executive Chairman for Walk West.  With a focus on accelerating North Carolina’s next generation of technology companies and entrepreneurs, Donald also is an advisor and investor to several startups and successful firms.

A former college athlete, Donald has stayed involved in sports as franchise owner for the Navi Mumbai Sabers of the Elite Football League of India and the High Country Grizzlies of the National Arena League.  Donald is currently authoring his first book, Underestimated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success.  Learn more at

Cedric Brown

Cedric is the Chief of Community Engagement at the Kapor Center for Social Impact, working to increase diverse representation in the high tech sector. He has 20+ years of experience as a funder, convener, and adviser, including collaborations with the Obama White House Office of Science and Tech Policy, the UNCF HBCU Innovation Summit, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, and an appearance in the CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap documentary. He co-founded Brothers Code, the Oakland Summit on Blacks in Tech, the College Bound Brotherhood, and the Oakland Startup Network. Cedric has received leadership awards and recognitions from The San Francisco Chronicle, TheRoot, ABFE, East Oakland Youth Development Center, Startup Weekend Oakland, and the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club. Cedric is a proud board member of Color of Change Education Fund and the Association of Blacks Foundation Executives (ABFE); he is also a published author and creative artist.  A native of Winston-Salem, Cedric holds degrees from the University of North Carolina and Stanford University, and now lives in Oakland with his partner Ray.

Aaron Saunders

Aaron is the CEO and Founder of Clearly Innovative Inc., a minority-owned digital solutions provider headquartered in Washington DC. The firm shapes ideas into viable products and transforms clients’ existing technologies into stunning digital solutions. Clearly Innovative is a leader in early adaption and implementation of cutting edge technologies to create web and mobile solutions, exemplifying this through work for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Queens Public Library, and even the American Red Cross, to name a few. Clearly Innovative provides support and expertise through services focused on product strategy, user experience, design and development.

Rashad West

Rashad has built a dynamic career spanning professional basketball, finance, and business development. Rashad has brought his leadership skills and a competitive spirit to the roles he’s held in both Corporate Finance and Tech.

Devoted to education and community service, Rashad is a founding member of The Catalyst Network Foundation, Inc. that assists underserved youth by creating a career roadmap for their outlined ambitions in New York, NY. He is also a founding member of BWS Tech Futures in Durham, NC, a quarterly event for kids to see new technology and learn about careers in the tech sector.

Lessons in Jazz

Kevin “The Moose” Anderson:  The brainchild of The World Famous Lessons in Jazz Series, Kevin “The Moose” Anderson started his professional career as a radio host for WHOV-FM.  Born in Richmond, VA his training at the radio station sparked an interest in jazz music and led to him becoming the youngest Jazz Music Programmer in the Country. Anderson spent time working for Warner Music Group and held various positions in music retail.  Currently, Kevin “The Moose” Anderson is the Operations and Program Director at WHOV-FM, a sample coach to many hip hop producers!  His experience and knowledge on Hip Hop’s legacy and relationship with sampling has led to a host of speaking engagements, and the creation of “A Piece of the Present and a Pinch of the Past”. This black music appreciation/history course is designed to raise the student’s awareness of the rich legacy of black music.

Montez “The Whiz” Martin:  Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Montez “The Whiz” Martin is accomplished as the youngest Program Director at WPAL-FM “Mega Hits,” where he served as PD from 2005-2007.  With roots in jazz music and an upbringing of hip hop, Montez “The Whiz” Martin began his radio career at the age of 13 when he began training to become a DJ at WPAL Power 730 AM.  His love for music and radio led him to Hampton Universities WHOV-FM  Whiz’s work at WHOV-FM as a Music, Production Director and On-Air Jock led to him receiving a Golden Microphone Award (among a host of other awards, and most importantly sparked a relationship with the stations Operations and Program Director, Kevin  “The Moose’ Anderson).

Celeste Beatty

In 2001 Celeste Beatty, a North Carolina native and graduate of Shaw University, launched Harlem Brewing Company. That year Harlem Brewing Company became the first commercial scale craft beer company owned by an African American woman distributing its products globally to retailers including Walmart, Whole Foods and Fresh Direct. Celeste is a 2-time Harlem Business Alliance Entrepnreuner of the Year recipient and has been featured in Forbes, NY Times, Ebony, Draft Magazine and MSNBC with Tamron Hall. On September 24, 2016 Harlem Brew was the featured beer for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture ribbon cutting ceremony with President Obama. Celeste is passionate about brewing it forward, supporting countless charitable causes through beer service and offering free brewing classes. In the Spring time you can find her training her hops and swinging the brews at a local bar or beer fest near you! Cheers!

Dr. Khaalisha Bintu Ajala

Dr. Khaalisha Ajala, M.D., MBA is a board certified internal medicine physician and founder & CEO of HeartBeats & HipHop, Inc., based in Atlanta, GA. She is a DJ, community activist, and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Society of Hospital Medicine and National Black MBA Association. Her goal is to erase health disparities in urban communities by way of education, prevention and charity.  She believes hip-hop culture has become a global language that has created a teachable moment about health in the African American community. A lot can be learned from the lives of those in hip-hop who have battled HIV/AIDS, diabetes, gun violence, drug abuse and low self-esteem . She has lectured at universities such as Tennessee State University, Fisk University, Morgan State University and Clark Atlanta University. Also, her non-profit organization focuses on prevention with their Pop-up Street Clinic, where they screen for HIV and give health education to the back drop of hip-hop.

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