Today Menlo Park, CA-based Pluto Media, a tablet-based gaming and education startup, announced that it has closed a $500,000 seed funding round from Learn Capital, NewSchool Venture Fund, and individual investors. The company will use the funding to add more resources and to scale and improve its first app, Pluto Learns Piano, into a complete suite of creative subjects, beginning with music. Over the past year, the game has been played over 13 million times.
Co-founder and CEO Luis Sampedro was reading sheet music before he started reading and grew up in a musically-inclined family. The idea for the company came about after he was accepted in the YouWeb Incubator in 2010, where he wanted to take advantage of tablet usage among children and create something that would allow them to learn using the latest interactive technology. “The aim of the platform is to not only help kids learn but is to help ignite an interest in learning and being creative itself,” commented Sampedro in a statement to BetaKit. “The game helps kids get excited about learning, making it fun, and then sparking their desire to go out and learn more and create content on their own.”
The app gamifies music learning by letting kids play along with Pluto the penguin as he swims along, getting points for playing notes correctly and unlocking new songs as they go. As kids get better at playing along, they can learn to play the songs on an on-screen piano. It also goes one step further than only helping them learn music, allowing users to produce, create, and share their own works as well. With the app available for free, the company monetizes through in-app purchases for additional content.
There has also been a lot of activity when it comes to startups looking to help people learn music through their mobile and tablet devices. A few of the more recent ones include Chromatik, an app aimed at both younger and older music students in addition to instructors, as well as apps aimed directly at children like Juno’s Piano and DoReMi 1-2-3. In terms of the competition in the space, Sampedro commented that “almost every other company in the space is building a series of apps…in Pluto’s case, we are building a one app platform that, like others, allow kids to learn through play but also allows for content creation and sharing for a user-generated content network effect.”
Pluto Media will also be introducing another platform this year which will support multiple new instruments and feature more than 40 classical and folk songs, as well as multi-player technology for collaborative performances. Although Sampedro did not disclose exactly what subjects the company will look to branch out to next, he did mention that the company’s focus will continue to be around creative subjects as opposed to core subjects like math. With tablets topping children’s wish lists in 2012, using them for learning music seems like it will only become a bigger trend in 2013.