Yousician strikes right chord with growing fanbase
Yousician was founded in December 2010, the company’s benchmark app has been featured as the editor’s pick on the Appstore and their users exceed the 13 million mark.
Co-founder and CEO Chris Thür has a pragmatic approach to business and the company’s newest app is making waves on many fronts. Thür and Yousician’s COO Mikko Kaipainen met while studying in Tampere University of Technology, Finland, and were teamed together on a student project. The end result was their first prize as a business team and the reward was 20 euros. The real reward, however, was the relationship that was formed and would continue on to bigger and better things.
The students figured “we are either going to be the guys who talk about it or the guys who actually do something about it”, Thür explains. They decided to be the guys who did the latter.
Both men had played instruments growing up but quit because of the way the lessons were delivered. In Thür’s words, “we wanted to do something we found meaningful and had the idea of gamifying the process of learning an instrument to make it more fun and accessible.”
The audio technology on the first app, Wildchords, was not yet able to handle advanced guitar playing. The team built the first product around simple chord progressions with a focus on children as their market. The app was very well received but Thür and Kaipainen knew they wanted to cater to more advanced guitar players.
Fast forward to today and the Yousician app boasts a sophisticated design and mature user interface, advanced audio technology and more focus placed on the journey that is learning an instrument.
“We thought, ‘how would we build a product based on everything we have learned with our previous products, and turn it into the best product that we can imagine?’”
Thür is confident in saying that “Yousician is our main product and is the product that we always wanted to build.”
Awards and more awards
Yousician have won over 20 international awards on several different platforms and under many categories. It began with the 20 euro prize in the university and the team has continued to collect prizes under the Mobile Applications category, within the Education category and then an initiative by the European Union – the Best European Learning Game Award.
“That was really cool because someone with a focus on education sat down, looked at our product and thought our product can really help children learn how to play the guitar.”
Another award that Yousician has collected is the top award for Music Technologies at SXSW, which Thür and his team collected a large novelty check from.
Thür wanted to share the big check with his team, so he insisted on taking it home with him on the flight back to Finland. It was too large and the flight attendant had to ask the captain whether it was allowed on board. The captain seemed to understand what it meant to Thür and he managed to find a place on the plane for the check. It hangs proudly on Yousician’s wall along with the city of Tampere’s Innovation award among many others.
The company flew all of its employees including their partners and children to Greece last year for one month and plan to fly everyone to Thailand this year. This might sound like just a fancy holiday or a crazy idea but it plays into the overall culture that is cultivated within the company.
“When someone comes to us with an idea, we try to think of ideas why we wouldn’t do it instead of reasons why we would do it.”
From coffee breaks in the music room in order to learn the guitar riff of the day, along with colour-coding the notes on the guitar and encouraging people to paint their nails in the same colours to promote quicker learning, Yousician has its finger on the pulse of innovative ideas.
When Thür and Kaipainen started Yousician, they did not know any other people that had started their own companies. It sounded like a “crazy thing” that other people did as a form of career. However, the beginning of their journey coincided with the startup grassroots movement growing in many parts in Finland.
“You need a good number of dumb ideas in order to generate one great idea,” Thür says, “and we welcome all kinds of ideas.”
Text: Robert Dunne