As he himself admits, Chris Thur wasn’t the most obvious choice to launch a company for music education.
Thur (previously an expert in laser research) told of a first conversation with an investment banker who inquired whether he and Mikko Kaipainen (an electrical engineer) were music educators or musicians. They then went “down the list of all the things that would somewhat qualify us for that world.” Every time, they had to deny him.
“We were just two individuals who wanted to learn an instrument, and we felt that we were not being heard,” Thur stated. “Obviously, we were not the only ones.”
Even though they weren’t able to convince the unknown investor to sign for an unspecified amount of money, Thur and Kaipainen did begin Yousician, which is now serving 20 million users per month across the two applications—the music education application Yousician and the app for tuning your guitar, GuitarTuna. The Helsinki-based startup has announced that it has received $28 million in Series B financing.
Thur (Yousician’s chief executive officer) stated that the company has been “on a bit of a journey” to arrive at this point. This company, earlier known under the name Ovelin, was established around a decade ago. It initially targeted children, but then found success with an approach that wasn’t geared towards age.
He explained the Yousician application as offering an interactive and gamified approach to learning piano, guitar, ukulele, or bass singing; however, the app isn’t too gaming-like. The app lets users progress through a standard syllabus, and they are required to play for 15-20 minutes per day while the app listens to their performance and grants three to one star depending on the number of mistakes they have made. The app offers one lesson each day for no cost; however, should they wish to access additional lessons and the entire catalogue of music (or in the event that they wish to master several instruments), then they must enrol in the premium or Premium+ subscription, which starts at $19.99 per month.
Thur said Yousician lets people learn music at their own pace at a significantly lower cost than individual lessons. In the same way, Thur said that it’s not a “zero sum” competition with music teachers. There are teachers who suggest the programme to their students as a method of working and learning during lessons.
For an example of the ways in which Yousician could help the users it serves, Thur spoke of the tale about Karen Gadd, who (as she is described in the video below) “in one year went from never having played an instrument to performing on stage” with her band, but he was quick to add that the app has value even if you’ve never performed for others.
“We want to make musicality as common as literacy,” Thur explained. “Everyone should play from time to time and get all those benefits.” “I think learning with a teacher works for many, but unfortunately it doesn’t work for everyone.”