Australian George Charkviani moved to Scandinavia to pursue a career in innovation and technology back in 2008 and has worked for large technology companies in the region, such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson. Last year, he joined Freedrum as CEO.
— We’re a design-driven music company that first and foremost works towards achieving one goal which is to bring as many musicians into the world as possible, he explains. Having experienced this ourselves, we realise drums really are an instrument of privilege, as regardless of price point, drum kits are almost always large, loud, and relatively expensive as compared to other instruments. As a result, we set out to build the products we wish existed when we started out drumming, and we have brought to market a portfolio of physical and digital products that make learning the drums and sharing music and achievements as easy as possible.
— What’s unique about us is that we are very design-driven as compared to other companies in this space and apply our experience from designing mobile phones to our current products. We strive to preserve the heritage of traditional instruments in our products. Secondly, the way we approach digital learning is different as creating compelling content is only part of the solution. We have worked very hard on creating amazing content for our users, but in addition, we use technology to provide feedback to our musicians at the moment as they play which is essential if a user is to progress.
According to Charkviani, Freedrum’s challenge is rather unique.
— We’re trying to build very technical and complex products for aspiring artists, who often have little to no interest in the core technology, but are concerned with having the right tools to express themselves creatively. For operations, instead of what seems to be a recent trend of outsourcing, minimising and optimising many aspects of design and innovation, we have a full stack of engineers and designers under our roof. It’s possible to develop products without really owning the process of exploring innovation or even having an in-house development team. However, we’ve never succeeded in delivering quality by taking this approach. We are engineers, designers, and musicians at heart and that’s how we enjoy working.
Freedrum’s technology includes two main parts — the hardware and the software.
— The hardware we are currently working on is the second iteration of our virtual drum kit that allows someone to drum without needing a kit or disturbing anyone. There are many upgrades over the first version but I would say the two major aspects are that we have integrated our electronics into a real 2B gauge drumstick (the thickest one, Ed’s note), which hasn’t been done at scale — as far as we know. Secondly, we’ve managed to achieve true 3D positioning using extremely simple IC components that have minimum power consumption, Charkviani tells. He continues:
— The software is also totally new, as previously our app was very simple. We’ve focused on developing a complete system that mimics the experience of having the world’s most focused tutor sitting by your side, anytime you want to practise. To achieve this, we have a full-time drummer on our team with more than 15 years of experience teaching and touring, and our development team has digitised his knowledge and experience by capturing it within the software. As we have such a tight integration between software and our hardware, this means that in practice we can notify a user of how well or poorly they are playing at the moment, which is key for skills development. This is really different from other services which mostly only present content to the user without knowing what’s happening on the other side of the screen and at best present any performance metrics after the fact. There is nothing wrong with this approach but it’s not very actionable and as such limited in its effectiveness.
And, your technology can also be used in other areas?
— Yes, as the world becomes more connected, our approach to 3D tracking is broadly applicable. A simple example would be the real-time 3D tracking of objects outside, where most current solutions — similar to the IR systems found in VR headsets — wouldn’t work.
You’ve just secured a new investment, from Almi Invest and others, and you’ve mentioned how committed you are ”to occupying a larger space within the drumming vertical”. What else do you have coming?
— Over the coming 18 months, we’re staying true to the drumming vertical as we feel the industry has looked pretty much the same over the last few decades. We’re really lucky that we have so many of our customers creating great content of themselves exploring different genres of music and it’s really motivating — we would really like to encourage any musicians or aspiring musicians that resonate with what we’re doing to please reach out. We’re very excited about our coming road map — but we’ll have to save that for a follow-up! Charkviani concludes.