Ask the Expert – Q&A with Dr Ben Schögler at Skoog
Many of our alumni tell us that one of the most valuable parts of their Converge experience is our money-can’t-buy business training programme. With our 2019 cohort about to start this three day intensive course, we caught up with Dr Ben Schögler, CEO and Co-Founder of Edinburgh-based music technology business Skoogmusic who will be involved in delivering this year’s training programme.
Q: Tell us about your business, how you got started and your plans for the future.
At Skoogmusic we create technology that lets anyone make music. The company was born out of an interdisciplinary research group at the University of Edinburgh. The goal was to create a new instrument to address the barriers children with disabilities face in making music. My Co-Founder Dr David Skulina and I began the research in 2006 and, with the help of schools, teachers and children across Scotland, two years later we had a prototype. In 2010 we raised investment and began shipping Skoog 1.0.
Since then Skoog has evolved to become a musical instrument that anyone can play. In 2018, with the support of our investors and customers, we launched our second product – Skwitch – a device that clips onto iPhone and, delivers a simple, fun, music-making experience with the help of an app . We retail our products with Apple and this gives us an amazing platform to reach customers all over the world.
Q: You were a researcher at the University of Edinburgh prior to launching Skoog. How did you find the jump from academia to business?
It was quite a move. One of the things that can be daunting is the language around things. But don’t be shy – just ask, read books and network, network, network!
Q: Spinning out a company from a university can be a challenging business. Do you have any advice for someone thinking of following your path?
Ask for help. There is a lot of support available both on the university side and in the start-up community, including government bodies. The opportunity to take an idea and see that realised on a shelf, in a store, is amazing but it is a journey, so it is important to have a plan.
Q: What specific challenges do creative entrepreneurs face in comparison with entrepreneurs from other sectors?
I think as an entrepreneur you have to be creative. Use your creative mindset and apply that to the many challenges there are in building a business. Sometimes it can seem like people are talking a different language and that can be challenging but, all you have to do is ask. And, do make the effort to learn the lingo so you can communicate.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give a creative person thinking of starting their own business?
No matter how good your idea or product is, you are going to need a team! Think about what skills, experience and knowledge you are going to need to help bring your idea to life and spend time thinking about who is going to help you make this journey, ideally before you start, but you can always stop to pick people up along the way.
Find out more about Skoogmusic here