ROLI Swerve Bankruptcy And Launch New Venture

LUMA is dead, hail Luminary      06/09/21

ROLI Swerve Bankruptcy And Launch New Venture


Probably the industry's most least surprising news: 
ROLI, the new technology company behind the Seaboard, Blocks, and LUMI Keys go into administration  with a pre-tax losses of £34 million on revenues of £11 million - which essentially means a 3rd party management company steps in and restructures the company. This may include the selling off of assets to try and repay the creditors - starting with the largest first.

September 3rd ROLI announced this and added to its Wikipedia page that:

"Administration is not the same as bankruptcy" 

whilst informing us the that it is also launching another company: Luminary - a "a subscription-based keyboard teaching system for novice keyboard players. Luminary uses a light-up keyboard that shows you which notes to play"

ROLI cite COVID and its "niche market" were major factors in the demise of the company's fortunes. Although many companies in the creative music and tech sector have reported increases in revenue and profits.
Many outsiders saw the writing on the wall several years ago as round after round of investment were used to fund the company that indeed does make niche products, and didn't seem to be selling in high enough numbers to support the model.
However, the ROLI Seaboard and Seaboard Block were instrumental in the rise and uptake of the MPE technology - they made for very  compelling and expressive playing experience. Indeed, if one is prepared to put extra time into modifying your playing technique, it can be extremely rewarding.


But as well as the excellent Equator, the softsynth engine that paired with the Seaboards which came as a result of the early buying of FXpansion, possibly the strongest acquisition of ROLI was the Juice platform - a highly specialized and optimized audio focussed software platform instruments and processing adopted by many 3rd party developers.

ROLI sold this last year to PACE as part of a strategy to consolidate. (thanks @jimsimonz)

So what happened? It certainly seems clear that the skills of  the ROLI executive management allowed them to sell attractive investment opportunities to millionaires who would find the allure of a more creative and rock 'n roll sector more alluring.
But the sales pitch outstretched the likelihood of the market to support a return.  By 2019 they had already raised an astonishing £101 Million and people were asking questions.

But  with ROLI's aggressive hiring and spend on offices meant there was an obvious high burn rate of that capital, raising eyebrows amongst the more cautious and thrifty, until they had to begin to tighten their belts in 2019.

The problem is with a failure of this magnitude is that it affects confidence in investments in  music technology in general, the financial world is certainly fickle and is likely to be skittish when considering where to put the $$.

Which given that art and culture is largely what got many of us though the pandemic so far is a worrying fact - we were hoping that society would again begin to value creative arts and see it with value rather than just a digital commodity that the streaming platforms have turned it into .

However, as the administrators step in to handle whats left of ROLI, the new company Luminary appears to have already raised £5 milllion (through Hoxton Ventures) for its beginners tuition subscription based offering, presumably based on ROLI's last hardware release: the LUMA keyboard which at $299 for 2 octaves, was a challenging sell, but the term subscription will always raise a glint in the eye of a canny venture captial manager...

According to other articles, the 70 existing ROLI employees will move over to the new company. We wish them well but its likely that there must be redundancies - supporting a payroll of 70 is a significant financial commitment.

70x £29.6k  (current quoted average UK wage) = £2,072,000 per annum  + premises and other costs

Whatever the final outcome, its a sad day for music creation companies seeking investment.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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