Introduce yourself and Vochlea Music.
I’m George; an engineer and entrepreneur from Leeds, UK, and I’m the founding CEO of creative music technology company Vochlea Music. Vochlea Music was incorporated shortly after I completed my Masters at The Royal College of Art, where my graduation project was focused on translating voice to instrumentation. Since then the company has grown to a team of 4 people focused on building the world’s first vocal recognition AI for music making. We’ll be launching our first product, the Dubler Studio Kit, in March 2019.
What gave you the idea?
I started with a pretty blank canvas. I wanted to do a project relating to music and follow an experimental user-centred design process. I started by asking people (musicians and non-musicians) to show how they would communicate different ideas for rhythm, melody and tonality. Instinctively people would use their voice, which is, I guess, not a surprise given it is our built-in tool for audio expression. With a bit more research I found it was common for many artists, right up to some of the worlds most acclaimed musicians, to use their voice when creating and writing music. I found that people often record snippets of humming and beatboxing in order to try and capture their musical ideas. It was at this point I thought “what if you could use your voice directly to create and control instrumentation, to translate an idea into a composition, live?”
Who is it for?
The Dubler Studio Kit (our launch product) is a tool for any music maker – aspiring or established. Certainly, the use case for each is different – just as a novice and professional can use the same instrument and produce different results. As a novice, it’s great because it gives you a means for musical expression when you might not have one. Can’t read music, don’t play an instrument? No problem just hum, tap or beatbox the rhythm or melody you want to capture.
But that is only the surface level of our software, Dubler actually goes a lot deeper. For a professional musician, you can do things with Dubler that would otherwise be impossible. You can lay down an intricate beat vocally whilst simultaneously playing another instrument, or you can intuitively manipulate and modulate a sound based on the timbre of the voice. All in real-time. To be honest we’re a long way from understanding the full creative possibilities of Dubler. Every time we hand over a BETA kit to an artist they produce something new, unexpected and awesome.
What impact did the Enterprise Fellowship have on your business? What are the most important lessons you learnt?
It’s hard to overstate the contribution the Enterprise Fellowship had on our business. The mentorship combined with the wider support network means you always have someone in your corner and there is always someone that, at some point, has overcome the same challenges. From the struggles of fundraising to the more mundane aspects of finding the right accountant, the mentors at the Royal Academy have provided invaluable assistance on my journey so far. That coupled with the financial support and access to such great resources as the Taylor Centre, really set the Enterprise Fellowship far and beyond other enterprise support programs.
What stage are you at now? What’s next for you and Vochlea?
We’re about to launch the Dubler Studio Kit on Kickstarter in March. This is a really exciting time for us as all the work over the past three years is coming together. We’re really proud of the product and can’t wait to see what artists make of it. We’ll also be out in SXSW, returning as 2018 pitch competition winners, and showcasing the BETA kit in the trade show.
What tips would you give for any other engineers considering entrepreneurship?
Focus first on ‘what’ you’re trying to achieve, only later on ‘how’. The big risk facing an engineer when they decide to move into entrepreneurship is burying their head in technology, locking themselves away to focus on development and never speaking to their customers. On the plus side, when you do work out what your customers want, you’re then in the best position to build the ‘how’. Also, do something you enjoy. My first company was in an industry that didn’t motivate me and I didn’t last long. One of the reasons I started Vochlea was because even on the more difficult days – at least I enjoy working in music.
George Wright was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship in 2017. Applications for the next cohort will open in spring 2019 - find out more.
To find out more and pre-order your Dubler Studio Kit, visit Vochlea.co.uk