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Hillel’s Tech Corner: It’s like music to global ears

I think we can all agree that one thing we can use more of in our lives right now is music. Thanks to services like YouTube and Spotify, we have more music at our fingertips than ever before and that’s great. A Tel Aviv-based start-up called JoyTunes wants to take it one step further.While we are all mostly stuck at home or at the very least, spending significantly more time in our homes due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, JoyTunes offers a platform that uses cutting-edge technology we will get into later to help you learn to play a musical instrument.The company started with the piano but their site speaks of the “guitar, sax, singing, or any other instrument” bringing music learning and playing to every home around the world.Before we jump into the technology and how it all works, let me share some numbers and statistics with you. The company has over one million monthly downloads and one million people learn to play music every week using JoyTunes’s products. Of all US-based music teachers, 10% use the platform, and their apps have been chosen as among the best apps by both Apple and Google.JoyTunes has raised over $43 million from venture capitalists including Qumra Capital, Insight Venture Partners, Aleph, Jeremy Stoppelman (CEO and founder of Yelp), Kaedan Capital, Founder Collective, Zohar Gilon and others.It is important to mention that as we all cope with the ramifications of a pandemic, learning to play an instrument can help us not only keep busy, but it can provide real therapeutic value to cope with the anxiety and pressures caused by COVID-19.JoyTunes was founded in 2011 by Yuval Kaminka, a former Weizmann Institute algorithmic researcher and IDF technology unit graduate, his brother Yigal, (who holds a double MA degree in the study of oboe, recorders and Baroque oboe), and Roey Izkovsky, a fellow IDF unit team member.

The company has developed multiple applications for learning and practicing music: one for self-learning, another for use by music teachers in training students, while a third offers music learning for toddlers. The company recently launched a guitar-learning app, currently only available on Apple devices. The apps turn learning to play musical instruments into an intuitive, “gamified” experience. The system detects playing and provides instant feedback.JoyTunes currently employs 75 people and is one of the few companies that has actually seen significant and understandable growth during the current challenging situation. More people want to take up new hobbies and learning with a teacher could be more challenging now for obvious reasons.JoyTunes’ apps use educational methods, sound recognition, and their own patented MusicSense Engine technology to make the experience of learning music an intuitive and enjoyable one. MusicSense is an artificial intelligence-based software engine that identifies which notes are played by the user and provides personalized feedback and instructions all in real-time.Not to get too philosophical here, but the reason I find JoyTunes to be so fascinating is because essentially what they are doing is democratizing music. What I mean by that is that if you examine many of the most successful companies in the technology sector, what they all have in common is that they took an industry that pretty much always existed and made it much more accessible to everyone by means of technology.Uber did it to transportation, Airbnb did it to hospitality, Facebook did it to networking, and JoyTunes did it to music.One of the many technical challenges involved in JoyTunes’ apps is the ability to detect the music being played in real time despite background noise. The company’s founders were told by many skeptics that it was impossible to accomplish at the level of accuracy that was needed. After years of developing the technology, the company now has, what is most likely, the most accurate music detection in the world, and they are still continuing to improve it.The company makes money by charging users based on a subscription model. There is a 3-month, 6-month, and an annual subscription option, with prices varying based on location.The company operates in a very conservative lean manner in terms of hiring but has not stopped growing. In fact, when it comes to the economics, JoyTunes is close to a break-even situation with total control over their ability to achieve profitability.The company has recently begun to focus on a family subscription that allows every member of the family to learn an instrument.JoyTunes CEO Yuval Kaminka said after the company’s latest funding round, “Since our last financing round, we have reached very significant achievements in technology, product and marketing. We are on the fast track to fulfill our vision – to become the music education center of every household worldwide. Over the past year, we have doubled our growth rate and proved that a small and super talented team based in Israel can develop a product that reflects a real market need and deliver it to hundreds of thousands of paying subscribers. We will continue to progress and grow out of Israel, where we are recruiting the best talent in technology, product, music and creative whereby formulating the next generation of global musicians.”In the name of transparency, Yuval, the CEO of JoyTunes is an old friend and a phenomenal entrepreneur. Why is he so amazing? During COVID-19, he and the team made an executive decision that people can now use the company’s apps for three months, paying what they feel is fair, from one dollar to the retail price of $59.99 for the whole period, with all proceeds going to charity. Most people pay the full price, which speaks volumes about how much value JoyTunes’ apps provide to their users.I have been following JoyTunes from the very beginning and all else aside, to see an Israeli start-up bring more music into the world, and achieve such success especially during such challenging times, well, it is a classic case of “doing well by doing good.”