Featured Startup Pitch: With its Groove app, Zikera wants to help music fans re-discover their own music libraries

By Editor August 2, 2013
Groove logo

Groove TeamBy Eduard Lucic, co-founder and CTO

Elevator Pitch:Zikera is a digital entertainment company revolutionizing the way fans experience their music by engaging them with their favorite artists.”

Our brains can only process so much information at once, so when we’re scrolling through the enormous list of music on our iPods trying to figure out what to play, we are more than likely going to be overwhelmed. The end result is that we play the same familiar songs, without getting the most out of our music. We figured that everyday listening habits weren’t random, so it was possible to design a music player that could intuit the music you’d most likely want to hear at any moment, and based off your context and taste, suggest a great mix. Some would call that musical premonition, but now they can just call it Groove.

Groove is a smart playlist generating app for iOS and Windows 8 that allows users to rediscover their music. It combines taste-learning algorithms with information from social listening services like last.fm to understand the chemistry between bands in your library. Using tags and similar artists, Groove understands that Arcade Fire and Interpol pair together much better than Arcade Fire and One Direction. It is also cognizant of old favorites, and our users often mention how Groove took them on a nostalgia trip by playing back music they had in their library, but hadn’t heard in years.

We began making it a few years ago as a hobby, but as Groove started getting popular, we were excited at the chance to make it our primary focus. After hitting a million downloads, we joined the FounderFuel accelerator program based out of downtown Montreal, which has provided us with invaluable mentorship and Seed funding.

Since joining FounderFuel, we have revamped our product development and amped-up our marketing strategy. Realizing that the niche of music rediscovery services is currently unexploited, Groove is perfectly positioned to become the go-to app for individuals looking to get more out of their library. Our first focus is in niche markets where there is a dearth of music services available, such as Japan. It’s on the precipice of becoming the largest music market in the world, and with only three FM radio stations servicing 13 million people in Tokyo—who, importantly, are taking radio-unfriendly subway trains to commute instead of cars—and since streaming services are generally unpopular there, Japan is the perfect ecosystem for experimentation when making a killer music app. Not only does it allow us to get more in-depth feedback so we can perfect the Groove playlist generator, the Japanese are early adopters of music software and are great at spreading the word. So far the campaign has been successful, having catapulting us to the number one spot in the Japanese App Store for music, and afterwards, into the top spot in over 30 countries.

Our second focus is on broadening engagement with fans through social media, expanding our reach and getting quality feedback. It’s allowed us to get the word out about our app, but also has given us ideas for new features such as Groove with Friends, which allows to users to create a playlist filled with mutually compatible music. It was a hit, and combined with coming out as free, landed us 85,000 downloads in 24 hours and got us onto the front page of TechCrunch. Since the release of Groove with Friends, we’ve had hundreds of thousands of downloads—which goes to show you the importance of social features in modern music applications.

As far as competition goes, the most obvious candidates would be the default music apps for iOS and Windows 8, however we like to think of Groove as complementing what they do. Groove works in synchrony with the default apps—you can actually switch between programs and the music will continue, seamlessly. But Groove does a lot more. While the iTunes’ Genius feature attempts to make ‘smart’ playlists, it neglects the wealth of data available to find out which bands people prefer to play together, which is why iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users have been flocking to our app. Moreover, last.fm scrobbling (how people on the last.fm social network track their listening history) has been a headache for iOS users, but with us it’s no problem.

We’ve also been compared to fledgling streaming services like Rdio, Spotify, and Deezer, but since our app focuses on getting the most of individuals’ existing libraries rather than discovery, we have a different target market—specifically, individuals with established music collections who are interested in getting the best possible listening experience from it. This older demographic gets ignored, even though they are the ones driving music sales due to higher disposable income and lower piracy rates. Due to the historical difficulty in marketing to these consumers, we think Groove can shake things up by becoming the platform to re-engage with these fans, inciting them to get out to live shows to support the band. That’s the business model we’d like to pursue: using our app as an interface to facilitate greater artist-fan engagement.

We are currently raising a $600,000 round to get Groove to the next level, and we are also looking for an intermediate mobile developer. You can find out more about the company by visiting Groove’s AngelList page.

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Groove logoCompany: Zikera/Groove

Website: www.groovemusicapp.com

Headquarters: Montreal

Year Founded: 2009

Founders: Eduard Lucic (CTO), Tri Nguyen (CEO), Bruno Sylvain (CPO)

Investors: FounderFuel, BDC VC Strategic Investments & Initiatives

Twitter: twitter.com/groovemusicapp

Facebook: facebook.com/groovemusicapp

AngelList: angel.co/groove-1