Mussila is something I wished I had access to when I was learning music throughout my school years. Their simple, creative interface teaches music through game-based learning to young children. It was fantastic to hear more from their co-founder, Margrét Júlíana about how the product works, next steps and the EdTech Ecosystem in Iceland.
What was the inspiration behind Mussila?
I am a musician myself; I have played instruments since I can remember. I first learned to play by ear — but I also took the academic route and finished my post-graduate studies from the Royal Academy of Music in London later in life. As it often goes with kids who play by ear, I loved to play, but paving my way through learning the songs was challenging — and the music theory was a boring burden. It wasn’t until many years later that I firmly tackled this problem, and after that, my progress went into a different level. This experience was an eye-opener — and a little shocking too. I felt that I had wasted so many years struggling to learn the songs when I should have spent that time playing them — and these years of music studies do not come cheap either. So this is what I wanted to do with Mussila. I want to give children a tool to learn notes and music theory — and use modern devices that the kids know and actually like using to do that. At the same time, I find that music education should be available to everyone. For us to get there, we must offer music education at a lower cost than is currently available.
Tell us a little bit about the tech behind the product.
Mussila is a form of game-based learning. I founded the company with our CTO Hilmar Thor Birgisso, who is also an enthusiastic game player from an early age. When I first started, I honestly didn’t have a clue how challenging it would be to make a game that works. In this competitive market, there is no room for bad or average. We now have a team of seven who work on Mussila, amazing programmers, artists and technical designers — plus the creative team, marketing team and of course musicians who all have a say in the development of the product.
Who should be using Mussila?
Our target audience is 6–10-year-old children — beginners and advanced alike — but we see both younger children — and older, even grown-ups enjoy learning music with our application.
What are you looking to achieve next?
We are now preparing our next big update that will include many important features, some of which are disruptive in the industry of digital music learning. However, I can’t share too much at this stage, unfortunately, but stay tuned! ;)
What has been the hardest thing about getting Mussila off the ground?
We are in a market that is still in early development, which is both very exciting and very challenging. The educational system has neither established itself with mobile devices nor made up its mind on how to use them. Creating a mobile app is a very expensive venture. As there is not a clear path nor an existing or reliable market place for these products, we will see many good apps and developers divert their skills elsewhere. Therefore, I find it extremely important that politicians or educational leaders help to define that market. The mobile phone is a fantastic learning tool if used wisely and also one that can dramatically lower the cost of education for the benefits of everyone.
What piece of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Hang in there!! Talent is great, good ideas are necessary, but both of these can be trained and modelled along the way. Endurance is what defines those who succeed more than anything else.
How has starting your company in Iceland helped you? What separates this ecosystem from others?
We are a very small nation, which means that everything and everyone is within reach. We can, therefore, have a great idea today, and tomorrow, it will become a reality. The distance from the big markets — from big money and experience is often challenging, but times are changing — and geographical distance is getting less and less of a problem. In Mussila we have an extended team of marketing and development in Croatia. We talk to them every day as if they were sitting next to us in our office. The customers are also only one click away, and almost any service can be purchased and executed online. Here in Iceland, we have been fortunate enough to get big grants from the Icelandic Technology Development Fund. Through the EEA we also have access to European grants — one of which we have received our first-stage funding for the development of a school edition of Mussila. So all in all, I would say that Iceland is a great hub for a start-up with a good support system. We only have to make sure to keep our minds in a global setting — and always remember that the world is bigger than our little island.
What do you think it is the next big thing that is going to happen in EdTech?
The educational systems are always going to be slow in picking up the latest tech. Whereas we in the industry see the development of AR and VR as yesterday news, I truly doubt that we will see these being used in the general classroom in the next few years. It may be decades before that becomes a reality. If I should make a wild guess, I believe that the tools that facilitate real-life togetherness, creativity and group work, are going to play a bigger role than the latest and most advanced tech in the nearest future.
Finally, Is there anything else you would like to share?
I think that we really have to take a close look at how we are using mobile devices — and take charge of our time and how our children spend their time with these devices. These are the most amazing tools if we use them wisely, but if we don’t, then they can easily take years of our lifetime — spent on candy crush or other brainless activities. Sensible screen time used on sensible content is the way forward.
I cannot wait to see what is next for Mussila and how their company will grow. You can follow their story on twitter, @MussilaMussila, to see what’s next.