Skoogmusic puts the power of music creation in everyone’s hands

1 Oct 2018

From left: Skoogmusic founders Dr David Skulina and Dr Benjaman Schögler. Image: Skoogmusic

Our Start-up of the Week is Edinburgh-based Skoogmusic, creator of a pocket-sized device that turns any smartphone owner into a music maker.

“We make technology that lets anyone create music, regardless of their level of skill or training,” said Skoogmusic co-founder and CEO Dr Benjaman Schögler.

Skoogmusic’s first product, Skoog, is “the musical instrument that anyone can play”, with the potential to unlock the fun of making music for all children and families. Skoog’s multidimensional, tactile technology opens up music to everyone. Inclusive and accessible, budding musicians can create and control musical sounds with just Skoog and iPad, whatever their level of training, skill or dexterity – at home, in the classroom or in the studio.

‘Scottish inventions are famous all over the world so let’s keep it that way’

Last week, the company unveiled Skwitch, Skoogmusic’s first new hardware release since Skoog 2.0.

The Skoogmusic team believes it is the first time that music creation, coding and accessibility have been combined into an iPhone accessory, so users can keep up their creative flow, wherever they go.

In 2017, Skoogmusic was a finalist in the Midemlab music start-up competition in Cannes. In 2018, Schögler was a guest at the TEDx ‘The Future is Now’ event at Lancaster University.

The market

“Anyone who likes music is a potential customer for our products,” Schögler explained.

“Our first device, Skoog, was initially designed to address the fact that no musical instruments existed that were specifically for children with physical or learning disabilities. What soon became apparent, however, was that the barriers that these children face, such as dexterity and musical knowledge, are the barriers that many of us face. We realised that if we addressed these effectively, then we can help everyone.

“Since its launch in 2008, Skoog has evolved from an education- and disability-led invention, into a musical instrument that anyone can play.

“To continue our ‘music for everyone’ mission, we unveiled our first new addition to our product range this month, a transformative iPhone accessory called Skwitch. The gadget puts the power of music making into the palm of everyone’s hands, in one light, pocket-sized device.”

The founders

Skoogmusic was founded in 2008 by Dr Benjaman Schögler, a developmental psychologist and a musician, and Dr David Skulina, a physicist and also a musician. It was born at the University of Edinburgh during an educational research project that aimed to address the fact that there were no musical instruments designed for children with physical or learning disabilities.

This led to their first invention: the Skoog. A successful first funding round in 2010 allowed the company to begin manufacturing Skoog at its workshop in Leith and in 2012, Skoog 1.0 launched online with the Apple Store across the EU.

A crowdfunding campaign in 2015 supported the development and launch of the current Skoog 2.0, a wireless model that was launched globally online with and in select Apple retail stores.

The technology

Children making music using their smartphones.

Children making music using the Skoog device and their iPhones. Image: Skoogmusic

Both Skoog and Skwitch use Skoogmusic’s tactile interface technology.

“In short, we make squishy tech that people enjoy interacting with,” Schögler said. “The devices sync with a free app on your iPad or iPhone, allowing users to create music.

“A cool feature of Skoog is that it can automatically sync up to your iTunes or Spotify account, tuning your devices to the music so you can focus on unleashing your inner rock star.”

Schögler said that the ultimate goal is to see Skoog technology in every home. “Over the last year, we have had the opportunity to reach more children, families and educators than ever before, so we feel like we’re on our way to achieving that.

“Skwitch is our second product launch and we have more in the pipeline. We have achieved all this with the support of our investors and, as we continue to grow, we hope to attract new investors to help us build the company.”

Schögler said that the biggest challenge has been raising awareness. “No matter how good your products are, people need to know about them to buy them.”

Starting in Scotland

Schögler said that the start-up scene in Scotland has come a long way in the last 10 years. “It is such an exciting place to be right now. But there is always room for improvement.

“The scene needs to be more ambitious and forward-looking in terms of time, funding, scale and runway. We need to be bolder, less conservative and aim higher. Scottish inventions are famous all over the world so let’s keep it that way.”

His advice to fellow or budding founders is to just get going. “Just start! As the great quote by Goethe goes: ‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’

“It sounds clichéd but it is so true; get out there and see what happens. And network, network, network as much as you can – it is so important to be connected to people.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years