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Helsinki-based Yousician, which claims to have 20M MAUs across its music education app and guitar tuning app, raises $28M Series B led by True Ventures

According to his own admissions, Chris Thur wasn’t the most natural person to launch an educational company in the field of music.

Thur (previously an investigator in lasers) was able to recall an earlier conversation with an investment banker who inquired whether he and Mikko Kaipainen (an electrical engineer) were music educators or musicians. They then went “down to the bottom of things that could possibly be a prerequisite for us to enter the world of,” denying him each time.

Thur said that he and another person wanted to study an instrument but felt excluded. “Obviously, we were not the only people who wanted to play an instrument.”

Though they weren’t able to convince the unidentified investor to send an unnamed check, Thur and Kaipainen did begin Yousician, which now has 20 million users per month across its two mobile apps: the music education application Yousician and the app to tune your guitar, GuitarTuna. The Helsinki-based startup announced this morning that it’s raised $28 million in Series B capital.

Thur (Yousician’s chief executive officer) has said it’s been “a little bit of a trip” to arrive at this point. The company, formerly named Ovelin, was founded over a decade ago. It initially targeted children before achieving success using an approach that was not geared toward age.

He described the Yousician application as offering an interactive and gamified approach to learning the piano, guitar, ukulele, or bass, yet the app isn’t too gaming-like. The app allows users to progress through a standard syllabus by playing for fifteen or twenty minutes per day, and the app will listen to their performance and award them one to three stars based on the number of errors they commit.The app offers one lesson a day for no cost; however, should they wish to access more lessons or the complete collection of music (or in the event that they wish to take on several instruments), it is necessary to subscribe to a Premium or Premium+ membership, beginning at $19.99 per month.

Thur said Yousician lets people learn music according to their own schedules and at a cheaper cost than traditional in-person lessons. However, Thur said that it’s not a “zero sum” competition with music instructors. Teachers suggest the programme to their students to help them keep studying and improving during lessons.

Thur used the story of Karen Gadd, who (as described in the video below) “went from not having performed on an instrument to appearing on stage” in her group to demonstrate how Yousician can help those who use it. However, he was quick to point out that the app has value even if you’ve never performed for anyone else.

Thur said, “Everyone should be able to sometimes play and benefit from it. We would like to make music as accessible as literacy.” […] I believe that learning with a tutor is beneficial to some, but it’s not for everyone.”

The last year, he explained, was “a challenging year, but an exciting one for all of us.” With students mostly moving to online education, “a lot of music lessons weren’t able to take place,” so Yousician tried to compensate for the lessons that were lost by offering the free subscription to more than 100,000 educators and learners.

Additionally, the interest of many in learning an instrument during the outbreak was part of a general effort to improve themselves, which led to “a massive organic growth” in its use. The monthly number of users increased by 14.5 million to around 20 million, subscriptions increased by 80 percent, and the company made a profit of $50 million in 2013.

Yousician has raised $35 million. True Ventures led the round, which included participation from the new investors from Amazon’s Alexa Fund and MPL Ventures and Zynga creator Mark Pincus, LAUNCH Fund founder Jason Calacanis, Unity Technologies founder David Helgason, Trivago co-founder Rolf Schromgens, Cooler Future founder Moaffak Ahmed, and Blue Bottle Coffee Company executive chairman Bryan Meehan.

“Yousician has been the top platform for music education for more than a decade, and more people than ever before are seeking out musical creativity with renewed energy,” said True Ventures co-founder Jon Callaghan in a statement. “We’re delighted to support the team and company that bring the excitement and joy that comes from playing an instrument to more families and homes.”

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