EXCLUSIVE: Baidu makes second investment in Israeli startup as Tonara raises $5M in Series B
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Chinese boy playing piano. Photo Credit: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock

The smart sheet music app could be a huge hit with China’s estimated 40 million piano students

In places like Europe and the United States, classical music is on the decline. In 1937, the median age at classical music concerts was 28. By 2008 it was 49. Similarly, the number of American adults who said they had practiced or performed classical music in the last year dropped from 4.2 percent in 1992 to 2 percent in 2012.

But the story is completely different in China, where performing classical music is seen as a status symbol for the rising middle class. An estimated 40 million children there are learning to play piano.

Perhaps this explains why Chinese Internet giant Baidu has co-invested $5 million in Tonara, a music education software company, alongside Israel’s Carmel Ventures and Lool Ventures.

Appifying classical music

The company currently has two apps available for iOS devices. The eponymously named Tonara is a digital sheet music platform for musicians that follows along with live music. The other app, Wolfie (named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) is an app for music teachers and students.

Tonara not only lets you store all your sheet music digitally in one place, but it “listens” to the music being played, either individually or in an ensemble, and tracks your position in the score regardless of tempo changes, mistakes and background noise.

Tonara can be used with pianos and other classical music instruments as well. So, if you play a wrong note, misinterpret the rhythm or change the tempo – as music students tend to do – Tonara continues to follow and display your location accurately in the score with a “smart” cursor.

Tonara was founded in 2008 by Yair Lavi and Evgeni Begelfor. Prior to this funding round, it had raised $750,000 in seed funding from Lool Ventures and another $4 million in a Series A round led by Carmel Ventures.

This is Baidu’s second investment in an Israeli startup. It previously invested in video capture firm Pixellot in December 2014.

“Tonara’s mission is to redefine the way music is taught, learned and practiced around the world by bringing music education into the digital age. We are excited by Baidu’s endorsement of Tonara’s vision and potential,” said Guy Bauman, CEO of Tonara, in a statement. “We’re thrilled to cooperate with Baidu in reaching out to the Chinese audience.”

“Tonara has consistently pushed the envelope when it comes to developing innovative and revolutionary technology,” said Peter Fang of Baidu. “Not only is there a huge global market for Tonara’s music education platform, a large piece of which is China, but we see many other possible applications for Tonara’s technology.  We are certain that Tonara’s future will be extraordinary, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Featured Image Credit: Hung Chung Chih / Shutterstock

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Simona Weinglass

About Simona Weinglass


I’m an old-school journalist who recently decided to pivot into high-tech. I work in high-tech marketing as well as print and broadcast media covering politics, business culture and everything in between.

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