Innovative musical digital keyboard start-up ROLI raises £7.6m
London-based start-up ROLI, the company behind the digital keyboard Seaboard GRAND, has raised a total of £7.6m in venture capital in a bid to expand further in the music-hardware industry.
The Seaboard Grand is a completely new type of keyboard instrument with keys made out of soft silicone. The flexibility of the continuous playing surface means that performers can bend and shape a pitched note the way a violinist can bend strings on their instrument, a radical invention that has never been seen on a keyboard instrument before. The keys can also produce other sound effects whilst allowing the player to experiment with different dynamic changes and is described by ROLI as a ‘radical reimagining of the keyboard’.
Venture investors involved in the Series A financing, one of the largest for a music hardware firm, includes Balderton Capital who are investors in LoveFilm and Kobalt Music Group, Index Ventures who invested in Sonos and Sound Cloud, FirstMark Capital who were involved in Pinterest and Shopify, and strategic investor Universal Music, who is the world’s leading music compny.
The companies have united to support ROLI’s plans to increase production capacity to meet demand for the keyboard and expand internationally by helping the start-up grow its leadership and product engineering teams, according to WSJ.
Founder and chief executive of ROLI, Roland Lamb, studied at Harvard and have lived in a Zen monastery in Japan. He also worked as a jazz pianist before inventing the Seaboard in 2009 while studying design at the Royal College of Art. The prototype was developed in his spare room before receiving angel funding for ROLI in 2012.
The Seaboard was created by utilising the pressure-sensitive three-dimensional surfaces developed by Lamb. The technology focuses on the material science of the silicon it uses, its construction and how the data from the sensors is captured.
“The Seaboard is just the first in a line of breakthrough music hardware and software products, and the investment will speed development of core platform products like our sound engine Equator,” said Lamb.
“Ultimately, ROLI’s mission is to create new interfaces that expand the bandwidth of interaction between people and technology, and this financing is a major step towards realising that goal.”
Trained as a classical musician from a young age, this particularly excited me as I have long waited for someone to come up with ideas to make classical music more appealing for the younger generation.
Lamb highlights that the product is “based on the piano, one of the most ubiquitous and successful musical interfaces of all time. Music written on the piano can be played on the Seaboard.” He also mentioned that musicians who play the piano can pick up the Seaboard rather quickly.
The first edition of the Seaboard currently retails for $8,888, with two smaller versions going for $2,999 and $1,999. However, the waiting list for the product now stands at 12 months.