After six years, CREATE-X at Georgia Tech, an entrepreneurship incubator designed to nurture the confidence and expertise that graduates need to run their own businesses, has announced its first exit.
Crescendo, an AI-powered interactive music trainer that facilitates focused practice and immediate feedback for musicians, has been acquired by Ultimate Guitar, the world’s largest guitar community that provides chords and tabs for more than 1.1 million songs to 240 million users. The company, a member of CREATE-X’s 2017 cohort, was founded by Georgia Tech graduate and serial entrepreneur Seth Radman.
Radman describes Crescendo as “like Guitar Hero, but for real instruments.” As he explains, Crescendo’s music assessment engine uses both monophonic and polyphonic pitch detection to analyze harmonic frequencies from the notes musicians play. In other words, a musician plays a piece and Crescendo uses its AI-powered musical expertise to provide feedback and point out mistakes.
Ultimate Guitar will leverage the artificial intelligence within Crescendo’s app to enhance user experience within a suite of apps for aspiring musicians. Specifically, Radman says, Ultimate Guitar hopes to leverage the accuracy and demonstrated scalability of Crescendo’s algorithm.
“It’s quite difficult to perform accurate monophonic and polyphonic pitch detection with an iPhone microphone, especially with fast tempos and unpredictable background noise, Radman tells Hypepotamus. “We hit performance levels that no other commercial product had ever hit before.”
Radman, himself a veteran musician and Tech marching band alum who’s played the saxophone since the fourth grade, created Crescendo to build the product he wished he could’ve used as he learned his instrument.
“I remember how anxious I felt standing up and playing in front of the entire class,” says Radman. “I also played a lot of Guitar Hero in middle school and thought it would be super cool if I could use my real saxophone instead of the plastic guitar. So I built the product I wish I had as a kid, turning a music game into a music education tool that’s both fun and helps you improve skills on a real instrument, all from the comfort of your own room without feeling judged by anyone.”
Crescendo actually evolved from another app that Radman built, Pulse Metronome, when the Apple Watch first debuted in 2015. That app, a haptic metronome that tapped out the necessary tempo on users’ wrists, received lots of positive feedback from musicians, which helped Radman realize that he’d tapped into a previously underserved market.
“I realized musicians wanted more digital tools and met with over 100 band directors to learn what would help their students, says Radman. “Those band directors became our first customers.”
They also helped spread the word about Crescendo, which quickly spread across North America and was eventually featured as the App Store’s App of the Day. Before Ultimate Guitar’s acquisition, Crescendo had been downloaded by 1 million musicians across the world.
“We are incredibly proud of Seth and what he has accomplished as the founder of Crescendo,” Raghupathy “Siva” Sivakumar, director and co-founder of CREATE-X, said in a statement. “This is the program’s first exit, and exits are one of the success metrics we track as we look to become the No. 1 startup campus in the U.S.”
Radman is now working with Ultimate Guitar to help integrate Crescendo’s AI-powered music analysis engine into a suite of products that help users learn to play better. He will continue working with Ultimate Guitar until Crescendo’s AI is fully integrated. And he’s already working on his first post-acquisition project: He recently joined Atlanta-based transportation tech startup CharterUP as the company’s head of product.
As he explains, staying in Atlanta to help another company grow was no accident.
“Atlanta was the ideal location to build Crescendo because of our existing network of music educators in Georgia and incredible access to talent, says Radman. “We spent a lot of time at Georgia Tech and collaborated with their music technology program. I still wander back to listen to the GT Marching Band to relive some of my favorite memories playing music.”
Radman’s passion for integrating music and technology clearly piqued Ultimate Guitar’s interest. In fact, “it was immediately clear during our first meeting that Crescendo had created something special,” Jonathan Kehl, Ultimate Guitar’s Vice President of Global Business Development, said in a statement.
“The unique combination of Seth’s technical capabilities with his musical experience resulted in an innovative approach to helping musicians practice music. It was a perfect storm of passion, knowledge and technology. We look forward to finding more ways to work with Georgia Tech and finding the next Crescendo.”