Posted on September 3, 2018
Image Credit: Alexis Baydoun
With Roadie Tuner, Lebanese hardware startup Band Industries wants to make music accessible to everyone.
“Fine tune your guitar in seconds. Simply connect Roadie to the tuning peg, strum the string, and watch Roadie get it into perfect tuning in a few seconds.” That’s the promise that Bassam Jalgha and Hassane Slaibi have made and kept to musicians around the world, with their innovation: Roadie Tuner.
We sat with the two co-founders and spoke to them about their entrepreneurship journey. Read more about this very Lebanese success story below.
Bassam and Hassane believe in the power of music. Within their Beirut-based startup, Band Industries, they created a device called Roadie Tuner which allows musicians to tune any “string musical instrument” easily. They are now selling their guitar tuners in more than 80 countries. They employ 20 people across Beirut and Seattle and they are the living proof that Lebanon can play a leading role in hardware innovation around the world.
It may be a struggle, but it can happen, and successfully!
“I’ve always had two opposite sides to my personality,” says Bassam Jalgha, 32, co-founder of Band Industries. “One side is very creative and artistic, the other is very rational. All my life I have been trying to find a good balance between both.
I started playing oud when I was 12 years old. Music is very important to me because it allows me to express the artistic part of my personality. I even wanted to become a musician, but my parents encouraged me to get a ‘real’ job such as a lawyer, engineer or doctor. So, I studied engineering at the American University of Beirut (AUB); it ended up being a good thing because I discovered my other passion: robotics. And this is what allowed me to merge my creative and rational mindsets.
See, what happened is that back in 2008, I took the control system design course at AUB, where we learned how to automate things. This is when I got the idea to create a device that would automatically tune my oud.
I always struggled to tune my instrument; I had to wait for the weekly visit of my teacher to do it properly, which meant that the sound was off in between his visits. I can totally relate to someone who wants to quit music because of this struggle.
The idea stayed in my mind, so one year later I applied to and got selected by the Stars of Science TV show, where I worked on my project for four months. I won first place and received $300,000 to build a prototype.”
Two years later, Bassam reached out to his college friend and former band member, Hassan Slaibi, 31, an engineer and flute player whom he had met at AUB music club.
“I happen to be blessed with absolute pitch, it’s easy for me to tune any instrument, and I’d love to make this accessible to all musicians,” says Hassane Slaibi. “Bassam came to me in 2011, and he was like ‘Dude, I need your help, let’s work together on this tuning problem.’ So, we came up with a system that analyzes the sound and automatically adjusts the tension to get the strings tuned properly.”
The young team went on to get accelerated in Hax Hardware Accelerator program in 2013: “They taught us how to launch our product on the fundraising platform Kickstarter,” explains Hassane. “We tripled our goal and raised $180,000! This was proof enough that there was a demand for what we wanted to do. That’s how we got enough funds to start manufacturing, which we did in China – Hax operates in China and the US.”
After that, Bassam and Hassane bootstrapped the company for two years. “We grew our sales, logistics, customer support, we dealt with everything ourselves,” says Hassane. It paid off as their product, Roadie Tuner, won the Techcrunch Disrupt NY Audience Choice as well as the London Design Awards for Product Design in Entertainment, both in 2014.
Mid-2016, things accelerated, as Berytech came on board as their first investor, with a seed investment of $1.5 million.
“Berytech Fund II’s investment allowed us to grow our team, to work on the second generation of our products, to increase our marketing operations and expand internationally,” says Hassane.
“We invested in the team: we believe in their potential to execute things and we liked that they integrated software with hardware,” explains Paul Chucrallah, Managing Director at Berytech Fund II.
The team also orchestrated a crowdfunding campaign to launch Roadie 2. “We raised more than half a million dollars in 39 days”, explains Hassane. “It hit the market in 2017 and is now available in 80 countries all over the world. Roadie Bass was launched in April 2018. Our products are available online and in retailers based mostly in Europe and in the United States.”
The young duo is set on their way to “continue building solutions for musicians,” explains Hassane. “We want to make the world a more musical place because music is pure, it is a universal language, it is good for the world; I have not seen any music that makes war. That’s why we are expanding to work on music education. People are learning music online and we want to solve problems related to that… It’s our new product, coming soon :)”.
Find out more about Roadie Tuner by visiting their website and checking out their newest guitar tuning products.