Yousician — love at first note

by Jobbatical February 28, 2017

There’s a company in Finland where half the developers are heavy metal guitarists, where everyone’s ideas count as much as the CEO’s, and where the whole team is taken to work somewhere exotic for a month each year. Oh, and they’re planning to make musicality as common as literacy.

Founded six years ago by a Swiss and a Finn who met at the Tampere University of Technology, Yousician is a service that listens to you play — be it a guitar, piano, ukulele or bass. Your device will pick up what you play, and the service understands when you’re having difficulties and when you’re improving. Just like in a game, you can unlock harder and harder levels.

Yousician’s founders were both facing the same problems while learning to play an instrument: Not enough challenging assignments or their kind of music to practice their craft.

Mikko (the Finn on guitar) and Chris (the Swiss on piano) kept practicing but they didn’t love the homework their music teacher gave them, so they figured there had to be a better way. Inspired by the enormous success of Guitar Hero, the guys came up with an idea for a technological solution that would teach people different kinds of musical instruments. As the product was forming, their company mission started to take shape, too — making musicality as common as literacy.

“Fast forward six years and we’re still at it — helping people make their musical dreams come true by keeping them motivated and giving them guidance in their practice,” says co-founder Chris Thür. “Yousician is growing fast. The team size has doubled every year for the past four years to around 60 people, while the revenue has grown fivefold every year. Since 2012, when we raised a $1.4 million in seed financing in Silicon Valley from True Ventures, we’ve become profitable.”

As far as their philosophy goes, Yousician truly believes it’s possible that in the future there will be musical instruments in every house, every office, every bar, every park. The question will not be “Do you play an instrument?” but rather “Which instrument do you play?”

Cool service with HQ in a cool country

Yousician’s HQ is in Finland — a country known for Santa Claus, sauna, Formula1, Angry Birds, air-guitar championships, and the world’s best education system.

Helsinki, Yousician’s beautiful Northern home. Image by S-F via Shutterstock.

Like the founders, the company is 50% international and 50% Finnish. Half of the developers are also heavy metal guitarists, which is a big thing in Finland–heavy metal is one of the country’s most popular music genres.

Yousician has also picked up the habit of taking the whole team away from Finland for one month out of the year (yes, during the darkest-coldest period!). “Two years ago we rented a big villa somewhere in the south of Greece and just spent the whole month there. Many people took their spouses and some of their family members as well,” Chris mentions, adding “And last year we rented a beach resort for everyone in Thailand. We always bring our instruments and computers. Working away from the cold and in the sun is great for the company culture and company spirit. This year we decided not to do it in November and go in February instead — we’re going to spend a month in Tenerife where we also rented a co-working space for everyone.”

Inspirational meetups and idea sharing

Yousician hosts one or two monthly events — be it data science, Unity, or iOS developer meetups. And when people are interested in bettering their skills in something, a proactive approach is best. “If somebody says they’d really like to take a course in public speaking or get better at something else, we encourage that,” Chris says.

“We also follow closely what happens in Silicon Valley,” mentions Chris. “People there openly share new approaches to structuring a company — which we are currently doing according to growth levers, rather than traditional business areas. It’s a new thing we’re taking on, too. Everyone in the company can voice their ideas, and those that are implemented are not based on how loud you speak or what’s your rank in the company.”

“My ideas are as important as those of our office manager or HR team. What matters is the impact of it.”

Yousician also has a strict policy of transparency. Everyone at the company knows what’s going on—or is always free to ask what’s going on—when it comes to finances, for example. Any significant changes are communicated beforehand so everyone can offer their input. “We expect the same kind of transparency from our team members — so it is easy to understand what you’re working on and what you’re thinking,” Chris states.

Chris says the company has a strict English-language only policy at the office, and with more than 50% international team members, that works out really well. On birthdays, people tend to bring something good to eat from their home countries. “The market in Finland for Yousician is very small, and we have users from all around the world. Having team members from different parts of the world is great, considering our international audience comes more naturally for us with a team that is diverse. And of course we are always excited to add another country to our world map of “Where Yousicians come from,” Chris laughs.

Want to give Yousician another pin for their map? They’re looking to add some serious talent to their team in Helsinki. Check out these opportunities to make beautiful music with a fantastic team:

By Dea Martinjonis

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