Learning to play the piano is a challenge at the best of times, but what with our busy lives, trying to fit lessons in can just be prohibiting, and sometimes our goals just fall by the wayside. Enter Skoove – the first online interactive piano lessons – done from the comfort of your home PC. We spoke to co-founder Dr Florian Plenge to find out how this all came about…

Tell us a bit about Skoove

Sure. Skoove is a fun music learning platform that offers the world’s first interactive online piano lessons. With our simple and effective techniques, aspiring and returning pianists can now learn the fundamentals and extend their repertoire, all at their own pace and with real-time feedback. Skoove works through any web browser and delivers a library of interactive, expertly designed lessons – controlled via connecting a keyboard or e-piano to one’s computer. Our mission? Making music education fun, effective, and fully accessible to everyone.

My cofounder – Stephan Schulz – and I both ran successful music tech business in Berlin before Skoove and recognised and are very proud of the city’s status as one of Europe’s leading tech hubs, so this is a natural home for us. Berlin’s vibrant music scene, and the still very cost effective infrastructure, made this city the ideal choice for Skoove.

What made you launch this project?

Both my cofounder and I were especially drawn to the field of music instrument teaching and learning. We were motivated by supporting research that 61% of the population in OECD countries would like to learn a musical instrument but only 18% actually do (Sources: GFK (2012), Gallup Poll (2009), Nexus (2007)). While there were a number of static video learning options and a few early attempts at practicing with feedback, none incorporated a complete and interactive course system with popular tracks and live feedback technology. Thus, the idea for Skoove was born.

Stephan and I both have strong track records running music technology ventures and both wanted to start a company since we first worked together at Native Instruments, the world’s leading brand for digital musical instruments, in 2004. It took until spring 2014 until we could realise our plans, with both having other ventures that we wanted to get off the ground.

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What makes Skoove unique compared to your competitors?

By offering the world’s first truly interactive online piano lessons, our users – across 30 countries – can play along to popular songs from their first tutorial and improve lesson by lesson with our live, real-time feedback.

We feel Skoove’s combination of interactive lessons, control through the keyboard, and simple song arrangements puts us into a category of our own in the music learning space.

And how long have you been working on this idea?

We started developing the project in October 2014, when our Director of Software Engineering – Sascha Turowski – joined the founding team. We have been testing in closed beta since May 2015 and recently opened for public beta in September.

Were there any inspirations in your childhood that started you on this path?

Music has always been such a huge part of my life ever since I picked up the guitar as a child. I then went on to learn the drums and played in a number of thrash metal bands for 15 years – now I’m learning the piano, naturally!

My parents are both very entrepreneurial and were an inspiration to me growing up. My father – as well as having two full-time jobs – turned his love of Anchor Stone Blocks into a business restoring the stopped product and company.

So when I finished my PhD, it felt natural for me to follow my passion and create a career for myself in the world of music. My first venture in 2003, was to try and build a MP3 download store for independent labels. This was not meant to be in the end, so I moved on to Native Instruments where I worked for 10 years, in my last role as VP of Sales & Marketing.

My entrepreneurial drive never left and in 2014 I was excited to get stuck into building and launching Skoove.

Can you tell us a bit more about your co-founder Stephan?

Stephan has a background in consulting (PWC) and telecoms – he was Director of Product Development for MCI Worldcom in London. In 2008, he founded Raumfeld – which was recently acquired by HG Capital / Teufelin – where he made multi-room wireless HiFi systems.

Having been friends for years and with a mutual passion for music and entrepreneurialism, in 2014 I resigned from my role at Native Instruments to finally join forces with Stephan and we founded Skoove together.

What was the most inspiring moment since you started Skoove?

The most exciting moment I’ve experienced is when we got feedback from our first set of users who told us Skoove actually helped them to play piano! Helping people to make and enjoy music is the reason Skoove exists and it’s so exciting to see it happen.

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Every day is a buzz watching the company grow and attracting an amazing team of talented people to work with us – Sascha Turowski, Director of Software Engineering (ex Dev Team Lead at Mediacala.com); Dominik Schirmer, Director of Instrumental Teaching & Course material (ex Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts lecturer) and Ariella Raucher, Director of Marketing (ex Berklee Online).

Where would you like to see your business in the next couple of years?

We want to help as many people as possible to realise their dream of playing a musical instrument. Today, only 2 percent of the existing market for music education is realised online. We want to grow this segment and realise the huge potential of people that just don’t find the time or money to start. Our goal is to make music instrument education synonymous with Skoove.

And finally, what one bit of advice would you leave for someone considering starting their own business?

I would tell anyone looking to set up a business to trust their gut feelings and act quickly on them.

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