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Fall 2013
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Online Exclusive | Student Entrepreneurs

A New Spin on Hip Hop

By Alex Koeberle

In the beginning, there were boom boxes, turntables, and mix tapes recorded on cassettes and traded among fellow hip hop fans. Technology has come far since the 1980s, and Teddy Brinkofski has found a way to harness it as a way to return to the roots of the music genre and industry he loves.

Brinkofski is the founder and CEO of Hulkshare, an online community of hip hop artists and fans who share music. It has become a paradigm for music sharing, with support not only from fans, but also artists such as Lil Wayne, Drake and Wale. Started while he was a student in 2009, it is now the third most popular file sharing site in the world.

The idea for Hulkshare came from an unexpected source: Brinkofski’s Cornell track coach, Robert Johnson. 

“He founded one of the largest running websites in the world,” Brinkofski said. “I’ve always been passionate for hip hop and felt the industry needed change, so I thought, why can’t I do the same?”

Brinkofski didn’t know much about coding, but he didn’t let that stop him. He turned to the internet for help, enlisting the expertise of programmers and engineers from places such as Russia, Norway and Ukraine.

“That’s the power of the internet. I can come up with a vision and work with people remotely to achieve this,” Brinkofski said.

What he lacks in technical expertise, he more than makes up for in insight into the industry and a passion for transforming it.

Most music today is disseminated online, rather than through CDs, and many fans are able to download it for free. Brinkofski considers this a positive step, as it shifts power away from record labels that are often oppressive to artists in their quest to make money. Artists benefit from increased exposure and are still able to make money from touring.  

“With the internet, power is becoming decentralized,” said Brinkofski. “New artists emerge from creativity. Hulkshare especially supports these younger, emerging artists.”

In today’s world of copyright concerns and piracy, many question the longevity of Hulkshare. But Brinkofski insists that everything about Hulkshare is completely legal.

“Artists upload their own music, essentially cutting out the middle man, or record label,” he said. “I don’t want to make money from this site, I want to make the hip hop industry better.”

The next step? A mobile interface.

“We always want to simplify, make it easier for fans to directly support artists,” Brinkofski said.

In addition to Hulkshare, Brinkofski is involved with several other business ventures in the Ithaca area. Yorango targets local real estate transparency, connecting landlords and tenants. Another venture, Fiberspark, aims to bring high speed internet at low cost. Lastly, Yado is a website focused on simplified online money transmission, alternate forms of payments.  

The applied economics and management major said Cornell was the perfect place to make Hulkshare possible, and he actively encourages other students to follow their entrepreneurial dreams.

“You don’t always need all the technical knowledge, just a great idea and some creativity,” Brinkofski said. “I suggest to any student to have confidence. With $500 or less you can pitch your ideas and passions.”