ROLI’s Radical Musical Keyboard Attracts A $12.8m Series A Round

The Seaboard GRAND, is a completely new type of keyboard musical instrument. It has soft rubber keys which can bend and shape a tune, the way you can bend the strings on a guitar. It’s a genuinely radical departure from normal keyboards. Check out the video below to see what I mean.

That’s all great, but these are not usually considered investable technology products. All that changes today as the Seaboard’s maker, ROLI, has secured a $12.8m (£7.6m) Series A financing, led by Balderton Capital (investors in LoveFilm and Kobalt Music Group), alongside FirstMark Capital (investors in Pinterest and Shopify), Index Ventures (investors in Sonos and SoundCloud), as well as strategic investor Universal Music. Getting this musical theme here?

It’s one of the largest ever investments in a music hardware company, and ROLI founder and CEO, Roland Lamb, says the capital will be used to scale production capacity to meet demand for the keyboard, and accelerate the product roadmap.

For the Seaboard is but the first in a line of music hardware and software products that ROLI now plans to make.

In particular it plans to leverage its sound engine Equator, which could be applied to any number of 3D devices and instruments. And it’s this that has gotten the investors hot under the collar.

Lamb, who studied Classical Chinese and Sanskrit Philosophy at Harvard, has lived in a Zen monastery in Japan, and worked as a jazz pianist. He invented the Seaboard in 2009 while studying design under Ron Arad at the Royal College of Art, developing the prototype in his spare room before receiving angel funding for ROLI in 2012. ROLI’s team has now gone from three people to 33 today.

“This is a Multi touch and 3 dimensional product. This is just the beginning,” he says, hinting that ROLI will be coming up with a bunch of new devices built around their technology.

Daniel Waterhouse of Balderton says ROLI is “further evidence of the unique fusion of skills that can be found building a new generation of technology companies in London.” He thinks this kind of technology just would not have been built anywhere else – and he may well be right.