At FirstMark, we love to back companies that are pursuing differentiated ideas and building entirely new markets. ROLI is a perfect example. The Seaboard is one of the most unique music instruments ever created, and certainly the most ambitious. It represents the intersection of deep material science, advanced hardware capabilities, high performance firmware and development framework, an expressive sound engine, and a user facing application to boot — all of which had to satisfy the simple needs of Grammy winning musicians. Not quite the “MVP” model of startup design.
You can read much more about the products online but please don’t mistake the ROLI for “just another keyboard.” In the place of keys on a traditional keyboard is a soft, pliable, sensor-embedded surface that enables players to shape notes like a stringed instrument. The sounds achievable with the ROLI are like no other. We have a ROLI Seaboard RISE stationed in the FirstMark office and it’s been incredible to see and hear the reactions it receives from friends who visit FirstMark. It’s truly a product that wows people. And yet, it is the broader vision to transform all elements of the music creation process in a seamless, elegant way that inspired us to see a different and much larger opportunity.
It’s been nearly two years since FirstMark initially invested in ROLI and I’m very proud of what Founder & CEO Roland Lamb and his amazing team have accomplished. ROLI keyboards and software are used by artists such as A.R. Rahman, Hans Zimmer, and Jamie xx; and in major studios such as Abbey Road Studios, Atlantic, and Interscope. What’s equally exciting is seeing ROLI keyboards used in music education at schools like Central Bucks High School West in Doylestown, Pa.
The keyboards are incredible, but ROLI’s software efforts have been as groundbreaking as its hardware. The free NOISE app transforms the surface of your iPhone into a powerful multidimensional instrument. JUCE is the leading engine for the creation of audio applications on all platforms. And Blend is a unique social network that helps music producers share music projects in source format for remixing, collaborating, and gathering feedback from others in the global community. Ultimately, ROLI’s vision is to build smarter ways to connect people and technology. I believe they are well on their way.
FirstMark has been a proud backer of ROLI and we were happy to re-up with Roland for their new $27MM Series B round of funding led by our friends at the Foundry Group. I couldn’t be more excited for the music that will be made with ROLI for years to come.