The app for great music moments
Three young Popakademie students are developing the app Groovecat, with their music start-up elceedee UG. The app allows you to capture personal music moments: If music and situation match perfectly, the users can record a Groovecat video, which will source the music being played and underlay the video with it. The start-up has already won many awards, including the Music WorX Pitch and the CyberOne special prize by bigFM. At the end of April the group also concluded their first financing round successfully. We sat down for an interview with one of the founders, as well as CTO Joshua Weikert and developer Laurin Quast.
How does Groovecat work?
Groovecat allows you to capture music moments and share them with your friends – meaning moments when the music you are listening to, perfectly lines up with what you are feeling at that moment in time. We offer an alternative social network, so to say, for music enthusiasts and discoverers, as well as musicians. It’s a mix of Snapchat, Spotify and Shazam, which gives users the possibility of capturing the soundtrack of their lives. Aside from this, Groovecat is not really about the person per say, as one is used to in social media, but more about what you experience, what you are listening to at the time and how this makes you feel.
How does this work exactly?
OK, so let’s say you’re listening to a song on your phone, using Spotify or Apple-Music for example. You’re riding the train and looking out the window, and the song you’re listening to just perfectly fits the mood: outside it might be raining, or the sun might be shining …
… and the train is on time …
… exactly, and you feel great. In this moment you can take out your phone, start our app and capture the moment. The app will recognize the music playing via the streaming service (or your surroundings) and automatically sync it with your video. This feeling and the resulting audio-visual package is what we call a music moment.
Can you explain how you make this happen?
We don’t store or reproduce anything. We identify the music being played and save this info together with the video, so that it can be shared as a music moment. The user also has the option of tagging the moment with a mood: such as euphoric, sad, happy, and so forth.
How is this model profitable?
Every music moment is a data set, which we can provide to our B2B clients. We don’t make money from the users themselves, but rather from the anonymized data. It does not allow us to deduce information concerning the individual user. What we can say are things like: people listening to this song are usually feeling happy. These conclusions we can offer to agencies for example, that are in the field of audio branding, and might be sourcing music for a certain marketing situation. This kind of use case can also be applied to areas such as filmmaking or games.
What would an agency do with the data?
They can enter keywords regarding emotions into our B2B search engine. This will result in a selection of suitable songs. For example someone might be looking for music, that people connect with feelings of freedom and happiness. We can supply very reliable information for such requests, which can be used for audio branding, for example. These processes have been handled analogously up till now, which is a tedious and cost-intensive procedure. we can offer a genuine benefit within this process, and can support people by offering an explorative, digital and data-based search engine.
So you’re creating an AI?
You could put it that way, but what we are focused on at the moment, is using algorithms to provide valuable information, without implementing AI. In the end though, AI is going to be where things are headed. We want to use machine learning to be able to achieve projections regarding things that we have no data for at that time. This could mean that a certain song might generate euphoric feelings. In coming years we want to analyze music regarding certain parameters, such as chords. We aren’t quite there yet though.
How many users do you require to generate relevant results?
Tricky question! I can’t answer that ad hoc, to be honest. It’s more a question of how many music moments we require. Right now our intermediate goal is to reach 10.000 music moments. We feel this will allow us to make valid statements.
Not just you are convinced of the potential of your idea: By the end of April the equity fund Wirtschaftsförderung Mannheim GmbH and business angel Dr. Andrea Kranzer have invested a six-figure amount. So now things can really get rolling?
It was our first substantial investment – and we are so very thankful for it! We were never sure that an idea as complex as ours would convince the right people. In the end it’s a great fit for a city like Mannheim, with the Popakademie, the Maifeld Derby, the Feuerwache, the Jetztmusik Festival and so much more. There’s just a lot going on here on many levels! With our business angel Dr. Andrea Kranzer and Eligiusz Skwaraof „Concept 2 Capital“, we were also blessed with some great support. Without the two, it would not have worked out.
How did things play out?
Whenever a spot in the fund opens up, a contest is organized and you can pitch your idea. We made the cut and were offered the first slot for negotiations. After a successful negotiation process we had a deal and got our investors on board.
How is the funding used?
Primarily for personell and development costs till 2019, as well as getting the app marketed. We are currently looking for subsequent funding, to allow us to even further push things from 2019 onward. Right now we are focused on advancing the development for Android.
Is the app available yet?
Indeed! Since last week the App Store is offering our ‚Closed Beta’.
So only Apple users can get the app as of now?
Yes. At the moment we offer the app only for iOS, but google will follow in one or two months. We are using a fairly new tech for development, which allows you to release for both systems. Unfortunately though we are relatively limited in the development for Android and are currently on the look-out for Android developers.
So you are aiming for a release with 500 users?
We want to get fit for market with a relatively small base of users. Our aim is to perfect our product before it reaches a large user-base. The app is not supposed to be a flash in the pan, but to really offer something people can use. It’s also really exciting to see the community connect via music. Recently a friend of mine told she was recognized by another Groovecat user, who told her that she really enjoys her music. She truely enjoyed that.
Is Spotify a partner?
Not as of now. We are using their standard developer interface. Apple music will follow shortly.
Who are the founders of Groovecat?
Jakob Höflich, Markus Schwarzer and I. We all completed a maters degree in „Music and Creative Industries“ over at the Popakademie. This is where we met and developed the concept for Groovecat, in the project workshop.
Not at the pub?!
Initially yes. But once things got more concrete, we moved over to the project workshop. Here students can submit project concepts. At that time our focus was a bit different, more about who is listening to what, at which time, and where. After completing the workshop we won 10.000 euros at the “BW goes Mobile” awards. After that we felt we had to make something of it! At that time of our studies an internship was required. Our fellow students went to Sony, Universal and so on. We founded our own thing and interned at our own firm.
As of now there is one more man in your team, Laurin Quast.
Yes. We were always missing a developer in the team. We needed someone who understands the project and really digs what we are all about. At the time we were already quite successful, were part of the Hamburg Music Worx-Accelerator, and had won several awards. We achieved all this using very basic prototypes, as that was all we were capable of producing. Our problem was that we needed a developer to make a better product, but we needed a better product to generate enough money to pay a developer. It was a real dilemma. Then we met Laurin, through a series of coincidences, and realized he was just the great kind guy we needed. So now we won’t let him go anymore! (laughs) …
Meanwhile Markus and Jakob are in Berlin, while the two of you are here in Mannheim. Why?
Berlin is where the big labels are at, as well as Soundcloud and many other key players in the music industry. The scene there is larger and we can use the networks there to make a name for our brand. Furthermore we had the opportunity to work alongside other music start-ups at “The Venue Berlin” by Axel Springer. This is a new music-tech space for innovations at the interface of music, technology and journalism. Our way of working in a decentralized fashion is going well, though communication is a key factor. Mannheim will always be the base and home of Groovecat. The city offers great conditions, it’s where I come from … and I love it here! Berlin is often quite vague and things are unsure there. Aside from that you will always be a one of many in Berlin. Here in Mannheim we know everyone in the scene personally and can always get in touch. Sonja Wilkens in particular, who works for the cities business development department, was a great help from the beginning … and still is today! Mannheim is both small and large enough.
So now things are in the beta phase?
Yes. We are putting the finishing touches on the current version. We have to implement the analytical tools and so forth, and also polish the UX. At the moment you require an invitation code to become a user. The codes can be requested via email. The main launch will be in August.
Have you been in contact with potential clients? Is there interest in the app?
We have, and there is! Integrating potential B2B clients into the development process is an essential part of our job. The feedback regarding our new approach towards categorizing music has been very positive. When a brand like Mercedes needs a piece of music for an ad, they commission an agency. This process is expensive, requires a lot of time and is finally full of uncertainty regarding the efficiency of the chosen music. This is where our search engine comes into play …
Do you see yourselves as a software of music enterprise?
Both! The music industry was disrupted by the digital age early on, through MP3 and file sharing. This gave the whole industry a head start. By now music and software go hand in hand!
Interview: Paul Heesch / LA MAG
Potos: Ricardo Wiesinger
Markus Schwarzer CEO Business Administration & Marketing
Jakob Höflich CCO Business Communication & Consulting
Joshua Weikert CTO Product Manager, Digital Media & Webdesign
Laurin Quast Full Stack Developer iOS & Android, React Native & Node.js