ROLI Files For Bankruptcy; CEO Roland Lamb launches Luminary, new music tech company


ROLI, the UK music tech startup, developer of the Seaboard expressive keyboard, Blocks controllers and LUMI illuminated keyboard, has announced that it has gone into administration and is reforming as ‘Luminary‘, citing a smaller than expected market for its products. The news comes despite the company receiving money from the UK government to help it survive the pandemic.


Company founder and CEO Roland Lamb now plans to start the new company, Luminary, which will focus on LUMI, ROLI’s piano learning platform.


“Ultimately what happened was the pro-focused products we initially developed, although successful within their marketplace, the marketplace wasn’t big enough given our venture trajectory,” Lamb told Business Insider. “We had our eyes set on hypergrowth and that proved to be difficult.”


In 2013, we first heard of ROLI when it launched the Seaboard, an MPE controller that replaced standard piano keys with squishy ones. Although it received considerable attention, and was even featured in Hollywood blockbuster La La Land, this was a niche product that came in at a high price.


In 2017, the company aimed for a wider market with its BLOCKS series of controllers. These launched with a limited software application, and they struggled to make an impact.


in 2019, came LUMI, a piano learning platform that combined a light-up keyboard and a piano learning app. Launched on Kickstarter, this smashed through its funding target, but backers complained of delays in shipping, and there were reports of build quality issues, as well.


ROLI later released an updated version that was said to be more durable and offer a better key action. The LUMI was also relaunched as a production device.


Throughout this time, ROLI has received significant investment, acquiring other companies – including music software developer FXpansion – along the way.


“Our lead investor Hoxton Ventures was not prepared to fund ROLI and wanted, rather, to invest in Luminary to drive forward the consumer opportunity,” says Lamb.


It’s believed that ROLI’s 70 staff will move across to Luminary, which wants to become the ‘Peloton for piano’.


It remains to be seen if this will be a more effective business model than the one that ROLI pursued.


A Q&A page on the ROLI website says that all ROLI and LUMI products will continue to be supported as before, and that the respective brands, websites and social media pages will still exist. Existing product orders will also be honored, though may arrive “a little later than expected.”


Luminary has also confirmed that it plans to relaunch the Seaboard in 2022.



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