Nordic Innovation House Nurtures Challenger To Apple’s Garage Band

One of the great things about reporting on tech in the Bay Area is that the world comes to you. People of all nationalities have shaped the history of Silicon Valley, and they’re still coming. Today I’m catching up with some news from our Scandinavian contingent.

Soundtrap, a startup from Stockholm, Sweden, announced the launch of a collaborative online music recording studio this week from its outpost in Palo Alto, CA. With $1 million in seed funding, Soundtrap emerged from beta to invite the public to try creating their own hits on their laptops or mobile devices—and maybe roping in other band members to lay down some tracks, or tweak the mix, from wherever they are in the world.

“This is the only online music recording studio where you can start making a song on your Chromebook or Windows machine, invite a guitarist friend who is using a Mac, find a new keyboard player to work with who is using an iPad from the other side of the globe, and finish the song with a great vocalist on the street using an Android smartphone,” said Soundtrap CEO Per Emanuelsson as the company announced its public launch Monday.

The upstart sound studio is challenging Apple’s Garage Band by making the process of recording a tune or a podcast as simple as possible. Creating a song can be as uncomplicated as building with Legos, I found on a little tour of the online studio. Soundtrap’s mixing board offers an array of pre-recorded, royalty-free loops, including percussion beats, bass rhythms, and melody lines. Users can drag and drop the loops into the tracks of their works-in-progress. The more ambitious can plug in a guitar and record their own original compositions.

Soundtrap is emphasizing the simplicity of the tool to market it to K-12 schools, and it gives educational institutions a discount on the $3.99 a month subscription fee it charges for those who want to store more than five songs. The startup says 150 U.S. schools are now using the Soundtrap studio. The total user base has grown from 20,000 to 120,000 people from 175 countries over a five-month period, the company says.

The Stockholm startup got its toehold in Silicon Valley by setting up an office in Nordic Innovation House, a new incubator and co-working space funded by a consortium that includes the governments of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, along with the trade and development organization Nordic Innovation. (Shown above is Soundtrap’s CEO Emanuelsson with guitar; Gro Eirin Dyrnes, director of Innovation Norway in the Silicon Valley on the left; and Anne Lidgard, Silicon Valley director of Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, on the right.)

Nordic Innovation House opened up in downtown Palo Alto in September as a resource (and Silicon Valley networking gateway) for tech companies from the five Nordic countries. Startups can rent office space and participate in incubator programs, boot camps, and other events. The idea is to bring promising Nordic startups into the Bay Area tech cluster, where they can work with mentors, find financing, and learn how to scale up.

Soundtrap’s $1 million seed round was led by angel investor Lars Bergstrom. As an entrepreneurial music venture, it’s joining a list of other notable innovators from Swedentockholm, including Spotify, SoundCloud, and high-fidelity streaming music service Tidal, which rapper and entrepreneur JayZ acquired early this year with the purchase of Swedish company Apiro for $56 million.

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