The friends quickly went into business together, launching Plutonium Apps, a mobile technology startup that takes ideas and churns out cutting edge apps, on Pi Day, 2014. Within a short period of time, Plutonium Apps grew to meet the needs of an expanding client base and went from the two co-founders to over thirty contract iOS and Android developers. With the goal of creating an AI algorithm to scale their app-building service, Radman and Schwahn entered Georgia Tech’s student accelerator CREATE-X in early 2017.
Conditions of the accelerator meant that by the start of summer, each team was required to have a workable prototype. Having pivoted six times in a few months and with a deadline rapidly approaching, Radman and Schwahn sat down with advisors to discuss their next steps. Radman says their conversation kept coming back to “what we’re passionate about and what’s going to motivate us.”
“We realized that Stephen and I met in Georgia Tech’s Marching Band, and each of us started playing musical instruments early in life,” he says.
Converging on this new music focus, the Plutonium team took a step back to consider the larger picture. Radman and Schwahn thought about their experiences in musical training — they noted that in a band class there might be hundreds of students, but only one band director, so students don’t get the individual attention they need. Even with private lessons most musicians don’t feel assured playing on their own. They knew that much of what distinguishes good musicians among the rest is confidence.
They set out on a customer discovery mission, meeting with over a hundred music directors — many of whom would later join their board of advisors. Radman explains that this research process enabled the team to identify their exact market and hone in on the product that was needed.
At the same time, one of their Plutonium iOS developers, Daniel Kuntz, graduated high school and followed Radman and Schwahn’s steps into the Georgia Tech Marching Band. The three synced up at CREATE-X and launched Crescendo, an interactive musical training app.
How does Crescendo work? When students upload their sheet music, Crescendo extracts each instrument’s part from the score and syncs with the mobile app. Crescendo’s proprietary music analysis algorithm then uses the smartphone’s microphone to listen while students play.
Crescendo incorporates new technologies developed out of Plutonium Apps projects such as Pulse, a metronome app originally created for the Apple Watch, that emits vibrations for musicians to stay on tempo. Immediately following practice, students see specific measures where they need to improve and their overall progress for that piece.
Crescendo not only guides musicians in showing specific changes that need to be made on a micro-level, but it also generates visual graphs based on personal data to highlight how much students have honed their talents on a macro-level. This measurable understanding translates into stronger self-discipline and confidence, both on and off the stage.
While still rapidly growing, Crescendo has over a thousand daily active users from ten school bands between the U.S. and Canada. The app is currently available for students in registered schools through their band director’s access key. Band directors can log in to a Crescendo web portal where they upload assignments and track students’ progress. The data Crescendo generates facilitates objective assessments and helps each director keep track of hundreds of students.
A consumer version of the product will shortly be available. The team is also looking to apply deeper analytics into their technology through machine learning. With a vision of international expansion, the Crescendo team is planning a trip to Asia in 2018 to learn more about a potential market across the ocean.
“What we have here is inherently international; music is universal across all languages and cultures,” says Radman.
Although their technology may reach beyond borders, the team plans to stick to their roots. Schwahn emphasizes Crescendo’s commitment to “keep technology talent in Atlanta.” From building a network of invaluable mentors at ATDC, Georgia Tech and TechSquare Labs, to giving back by hosting a hackathon at Georgia Sate, the Crescendo team is connected to Atlanta’s community (they even go back to Georgia Tech’s Marching Band rehearsal twice a week!) and plans to keep marching to the southern beat.