Iceland Venture Studio is leading a syndicate investment through Funderbeam in Mussila. If you are interested in music and education technology you should look into what the team at Mussila has been building for the past 5 years. I am inspired to be able to decentralize how someone learns music, I have always been a consumer of music but never took the time to learn. You can download their iOS App here and Android App here.
Today, technology enables anyone, anywhere to take the time and learn hard skills like music. I wanted to do a deep dive into our methods i.e. how do we make decisions on choosing to work with founders. Since I invest in seed/pre-seed stage there is no data or metrics to hang your decisions on you need to believe in the founders, the team and the problem that they are going after. This is not the path for the faint of heart (no pun intended due to my own condition! 🙂) That being said, I think breakthrough companies can be built if we work on hard problem with some guiding principles. Here is the deep dive into Mussila’s answers to the 7 questions that we ask founders to answer. I think it beehoves any founder working on a startup to answer these questions because it will clearly show you where you need to spend time working on. Everyone thinks funding will solve all these problems, the truth cannot be further from that. Funding is important and you need to solve that problem but that is not the most important problem to be solved. I will repeat this until I turn blue (again no pun intended).
1. The Engineering Question
Can you create a breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
Yes, we can! Our mission is to revolutionize how music is learned and taught, both at home and at school. We have developed Mussila Music School, a music learning environment for children aged 5-11 that applies research-based music education methodology to gamified adventures. The App
has shown excellent product-market fit, with a conversion rate of over 8% and excellent reviews from educational authorities and customers. We want to expand our product range to cover the educational sector’s needs, which has demanded solutions for homeschooling since the COVID pandemic broke out.
We have engineered multi-platform competing solutions for music teaching using advanced technology standards. Mussila features include but are not limited to MIDI technology, music notation, live tone and clap recognition, NoSQL cloud database, analytics, e-mail reports, notifications, deep-links, and live A-B tests.
2. The Timing Question
Is now the right time to start your particular business?
Now is the perfect timing for the market uptake of Mussila, the complete EdTech solution for music education in schools. Educational systems are changing to adapt to the age of digital native students. Before the digital age, a series of music textbooks was the foundation of primary music education, a custom dating early nineteenth-century methodologies. The general music program still maintains this model in the elementary school levels. However, this current age of digital natives brings in a need to transform the educational system to supplement traditional pedagogy. Digital tools for music education can employ Technology as a learning tool, evaluative assistant, multi-media resource, and curriculum developer.
There is a growing demand for excellence in music education and digital tools to teach it. Realising the untapped potential of music education, in the last six years, Education Ministries in Europe have implemented programs supporting accessible music education for everyone, for example:
● France has funded public school choirs.
● The UK has favoured creating specialised “Music Hubs” linked to 87% of public schools
● In the BENELUX, state-funded projects like PROPOSAL merge the use of ICT and music learning. ● Heavily funded public music schools can be found in Scandinavia, Belgium, and Germany.
Moreover, in our survey that members from Mussila did over the summer (2020), amongst music teachers 75% of them already use music apps or digital tools in the classroom, and 40% pay for them themselves. Nevertheless, they find no single holistic tool that adapts to each country’s curriculum targeting young children.
COVID highlighted the need for digital resources to engage homeschooled kids. The importance of digital learning was evident during the lockdown caused by COVID early this year. We received requests from several schools to adapt our system to school use, and our downloads increased 57%, with paying customers almost multiplying by four led by customers coming from countries where schools were closed (IT, ES, FR)
Internally, our enterprise is well-positioned to enter the school market: We have developed a methodology that has achieved excellent test results and has been validated by experts (Education Alliance Finland). We have Mussila successfully in the global consumer market, acquired the confidence and support of experts and families, and requested that schools develop Mussila School Edition specifically for remote and school learning.
3. The monopoly question
Are you starting with a significant share of a small market?
We are starting with a significant share of a fast-growing market! In Mussila, we teach Music Theory, and we focus on teaching children aged 6-10. We believe we are the best in the field when it comes to teaching children Music Theory through a digital solution.
Music Theory is a major obstacle when it comes to motivation. Most children quit music studies because they find traditional music methods, boring and demotivating. With our game-based solution in Music Teaching, we offer a solution to that problem.
The EdTech Market
The game-based learning segment within the EdTech market is the fastest-growing: it is sky rocketing at a CAGR 2018-2023 of 37.1%. With a 3.14b EUR market value in 2018 (2.30% of the Ed Tech market), it is expected that by 2023 the educational gaming market will reach 15.43b EUR, a 5.13% of the Ed Tech Market.
We know that we have significant potential in the market, and we are often even named one of the potential leaders. Mussila is the winner of the Nordic EdTech Award 2019. We have been named one of the top 50 EdTech Nordic-Baltic EdTech companies. We were recently mentioned one of the Top 10 EdTech Startups in Europe in 2020 at education technology insights.
4. The People Question
Do you have the right team?
In Mussila, every team member brings his unique talent, and together we make a strong united team! We are a team of artists, music educators, hardcore gamers, and business people who bring domain knowledge and advanced teaching music to the global market. We put creativity at the core of our business, and every team member has a voice that is heard and can work with and manage others when we start to scale up the team!
Jon Gunnar Thordarson: MBA Degree and BA in Directing. Jon Gunnar has produced, directed, and written over 40 theatre productions in Iceland, UK, and Scandinavia. He can work with a team and bring the best of every team member to maximise the companies capability.
Hilmar Þór Birgisson has an MSC degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He is the mastermind behind the IT of Mussila. His passion is games, and he can teach and manage teams in Technology.
Arngerður María Árnadóttir. The Musical Director of Mussila and the holder of the Icelandic Music Awards. Arngerður is a Choir director and a composer who brings the musical knowledge needed to build Mussila!
Ægir Ingvason has a BSc in Computer Science and is a graphic designer and animator. His visuals and drawings are outstanding, and he is the man that draws the beautiful landscape of Mussila!
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT AND SALES
Adolf Bragason. He holds an MBA degree from Aarhus University in Denmark and an International Business degree from Copenhagen Business School. His strength is finance and to bring strategy to life. He is also an excellent team coach with a UEFA A coaching license in football and has been a football trainer for many years.
Snorri Siemsen holds a BSC in Computer Science and has over ten years in software development, diverse work experience. He does everything that you don’t see, all the magic behind the imagery and music!
5. The Distribution Question
Do you have a way not just to create but deliver your product?
We have two distribution channels, one for our B2C version, another one for the B2B version.
Our app is available in 32 languages in 155 territories on the App Store and Google Play. Mussila has been featured as the App of the Day on App Store in over 30 countries. We were also selected for the Google Family Link on Play Store. Most of the traction comes from organic users that are searching for the top educational apps for kids. We also gain traffic from paid advertising through social media. Our Cost Per Acquisition is over 20 $, and our goal is to get the Cost per Acquisition under $10 before 2021. But we don’t put all our eggs in the same basket. We are also building supply chains through partnerships. We started collaborating with BuddyPhones, the world’s leading brand of volume-safe kids headphones, at the beginning of 2020. The two brands will collaborate on distributing the Mussila app when customers purchase a pair of BuddyPhones headphones. If this partnership works well, we can partner up with other products in the field, for example, Manufacturers of Instruments. We have also plans for the Asian market and know that it is important to cooperate with a strong publisher or distributor. Earlier this year NetEase published Mussila on their new Educational Platform in China. NetEase Games is one of China’s largest video game producers and distributors and we have high hopes for that collaboration. The platform is still in early testing and Mussila has already gained over 100 installs per day in the testing period.
In January 2021, we will launch the Mussila School Edition. Our Entrance Strategy for the School market is to give schools in Birmingham and Aarhus in Denmark free access to our multiple accounts solution. Why Birmingham and Arhus? Because they are the 2nd most large cities in the UK and Denmark. We have already signed up schools in Birmingham and Aarhus for the pilot project. Our mission is to get as many schools in these cities onboard, and from these cities, we will spread out our brand awareness by sending them physical letters, emails, in Newsletters with other brands, and through Social Influencers. Our free users will later convert into paying subscribers. In the educational market it is important to collaborate with professionals in the field that can influence schools to start to use our solution. Mussila will collaborate with the Symphony Orchestra and the Reykjavik School District with the mission to make music education more accessible to everyone. Through the School District we distribute our solution on a large level with multiple accounts. If this model works, we plan to scale this strategy up in other cities, starting in Birmingham, where the sister house to Harpa is, The Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
6. The Durability Question
Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
At Mussila, we have felt just how important music is as a field of study, as the skills developed in the course of music have broad applications and support children’s success in most other areas. The Mussila methodology teaches the essential elements of music theory through challenges and exercises and can be applied to other academic subjects and fields of study. This opportunity brings us to spin-off opportunities that Mussila School Edition can create for us over the next five years of our product use.
Our technological solution generates value by building connections with parties that have direct access to the market. Once the solution that is Mussila School Edition is distributed through the partnerships that have been established, it will become possible to utilise the platform, methodology, and distribution channels in a broader context.
In 5-10 years, we can use the already-existing game engine to develop teaching materials in other subjects, thereby making Mussila a creative solution in the natural sciences, for example. Our methodology can be used in music education and in teaching math and coding to children worldwide.
Today, however, it is not the time to expound about developing our product for other subjects; we must first prepare it for use in the school system. However, we expect our work to become fully sustainable in three years. At this point, it will be time to expand Mussila even further using the interface already designed to teach subjects such as math and coding.
Therefore we believe we can have a significant impact on the Educational System around the world!
7. The Secret Question
Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?
Game-based tools have shown tremendous potential in education, especially for children with special needs. They maintain engagement with students by presenting material in a fun and creative way.
Recently we have been hearing that Mussila can make a difference in Music Therapy with Autistic Children. We started to collaborate with Tónstofa Valgerðar, who specialises in teaching music to people with disabilities. She told us that she has been using Mussila in her teaching. Valgerður told us about her teaching method, and now we are implementing some of her techniques into Mussila. With this collaboration, we have with Ingvar Pétursson, former CFO of Nintendo, started talks with Music Works in the USA. They specialise them-self in assisting families in managing their children’s challenges through the use of music therapy. We want to elaborate on this unique opportunity to make Mussila the best in teaching children on spectrum music.
Mussila is proposing an education solution for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) based on an advanced music-learning software platform. The system will utilise cutting edge research on gamification techniques, focusing on content and controls specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum. The envisioned product will improve communication skills, capacity to learn, and music knowledge of the student. This will be accomplished by developing appropriate patterns that
challenge the student without frustrating him/her. Importantly, it will be based on features that bridge the gap between the virtual environment and the real-life environment by integrating steps with the teacher.
Educators using existing music learning tools have expressed anecdotal evidence that such learning programs improve communication skills among students with autism. If successful, the software tool and eventually a complete music learning application for schools will help ASD students develop communication skills in a fun and engaging way. It will also serve as a valuable resource to teachers, who currently devote a disproportionate amount of individual attention towards ASD students.
When we develop our app focusing on autistic children, we create a world-class app for music teaching, easy skill-building challenges, and reputation and gamification. This opportunity gives us a competitive advantage; it doesn’t defocus the team; it goes all hand in and enables everyone to learn music!