At some point in your life, you may have wanted to learn how to play an instrument. But you never got around to it, were never good at it, or just didn’t have the time. Popuband, is a smart-instrument startup that can turn that dream into a reality. It has built a smart ukulele, called Populele that features a number of LEDS that guide you while also listening to you play for a truly immersive learning experience. The smart instruments are accompanied with a user friendly mobile app that connects to the instrument via Bluetooth, gamifying your music lessons. The company was nice enough to send us one of the Populeles complete with a carrying case in the event you want to bring out a ukulele on the go. Within minutes, we were connected and learning as well as playing the nifty little instrument guided by the fun and interactive app. The company has already seen some interesting outcomes with children with autism and it will be interesting see what develops as they grow beyond their existing user base and expand into other instruments.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and founder Bohan Zhang about the company, its origin, and future plans.
Tell us about the product or service.
We all know that music has the power to make life more meaningful, but learning an instrument can be tough. Tech has come a long way, but instruments just haven’t kept up with the pace. We help music beginners who have always yearned to learn an instrument, but never had the courage to start. Born from the conviction that learning music should be just as fun as playing it, Populele is our first attempt to unify handcrafted instruments with technology that empowers people to achieve musical excellence on their own terms. We believe ukulele, a member of the lute family of instruments from Hawaii, is the best choice to start.
Other than making a new electronic musical device, we are holding the insistence of applying technology to a real, traditional musical instrument. By showing everyone the magic of music and this revolutionary way of learning music, we encourage them to start to begin their own music journey.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Basically everyone who has always yearned to learn an instrument, but never had the courage or time to begin.
What is the business model?
Network Effect: We create Populele, in which the value to each user becomes higher as more people try it.
What inspired the business?
We wanted to see more and more people start to enjoy the magic of music by using Populele. Just pick it up and start to play!
Are there any interesting outcomes that you have seen from people using your instrument that you can share?
We have heard from the parents of children that are on the autism spectrum and they have told us that their kids really love interacting with Populele. That really touches our hearts.
You had an extremely successful crowdfunding campaign. What are some suggestions you have for founders thinking about the crowdfunding route?
Our founders are really excited and encouraged by the crowdfunding result, we feel that we should have started the campaign earlier and had the product development accelerated, so I would suggest getting into it early.
We hope we will have at least 50 schools start using the Populele in their music programs as a smart, assistive musical tool.
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
We always enjoy the time we spend with New York street musicians. They always have admirable passion and provide touching music.
Why did you launch in New York?
It’s the best city with outstanding people and great opportunities.
What’s your favorite restaurant in the city?
ViVi Bubble Tea – Best sausage ever!