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The only fully immersive music learning experience on the market - Interview with Florian Lettner, CEO & Co-Founder Fretello

Roxana Cicea

The app combines the insights of educational experts & professional musicians with advanced AI technology.

Florian is a passionate guitar player and drummer, playing for more than 25 years. After getting his Master’s degree in Computer Science, he received global recognition as a researcher in the field of Human-Computer Interaction. Before starting his first successful venture in 2014, Florian lectured at University on Artificial Intelligence, Computer Graphics, and Software Development. As an excellent guitar player with a profound technical background, Florian is responsible for driving the vision and mission of Fretello. He operates as the vital link between the business ,music education, and technical product.

What’s the story behind Fretello?

Made by guitarists, for guitarists, Fretello started as a simple app that we created as a companion to help myself improve my guitar skills. Driven by the belief that anyone can learn guitar but not everyone is taught well, we cut through the noise and give guitarists a comprehensive instruction that sticks.

We know that proper learning takes time. We’re not here to simply teach you a few riffs and some odd songs. We’re here to teach you how to really play your instrument.

For us, the goal is mastery but through continual improvement. So, we’ve combined the insights of educational experts & professional musicians with advanced AI technology, to create a truly innovative learning tool. That’s why we can offer a structured Learning Path alongside tailored practice plans, daily guitar exercises, a large song library, and interactive jam sessions.

We tackle guitar playing from every angle because that’s how confident and versatile guitarists are made.

What problem does Fretello solve and how would you say it relieves “pain” from your customers?

Learning to play guitar is hard; it’s overwhelming and intimidating. But, if you take a systematic approach, choose a program and stick with it, you will learn how to play the guitar - there is no question about it! We help beginners to get started and get the guitar player feeling by taking them from their first chord to their first song.

Our mission is to provide guitar players with a digital learning experience they will stick with. It’s crucial not to jump around – especially as a beginner. Lots of beginner guitar players switch to an easier route when things get a bit more difficult; lacking guidance, they drop a course hoping to find an easier one. The biggest problem when browsing YouTube for lessons is that that they are not structured. As a beginner, finding a guitar course you will stick with is vital.

Who benefits the most from your platform? Who are your customers?

Fretello offers a guitar learning experience for beginners and people who want to start over after they had lessons (for example, as kids). We tackle playing the guitar from every angle, provide our users with a structured approach and a curriculum created in collaboration with certified music teachers. But we are not offering yet another video course for learning guitar: we are using artificial intelligence to listen to our students and provide guidance & feedback which, until now, only a great teacher offering private tutoring was able to offer.

What's happening in the industry you are activating? What are the key trends?

The online music education market is on the rise. As the pandemic locked us in our houses, the global growth of e-learning in 2020 was 36.6%. Moreover, pandemic or no pandemic, people love making music so it’s no wonder that several innovative music teachers and schools started remote online music classes too.

The online music education market is big for solo learners. There are more than a million unstructured music lessons on YouTube. In addition, VC money started to flow more aggressively into the music education markets, bringing the first unicorns to the surface even in this space.

While 40% of all music lessons in Europe and the US are already consumed online, there’s only a 4% share of online lessons in China and Asia, making this eastern market the one with the biggest growth opportunity, with the rise of western musical instruments (piano, guitar, drums).

How has your experience impacted the traction of Fretello?

Wolfgang and I founded our first venture in the app space back in 2014, when we successfully created mobile apps for a renowned action camera manufacturer in the US. This helped us bootstrap Fretello with our own capital and made it easier to release a mobile app and get traction from the beginning, as we already knew a lot of the key players in this arena. Building a network in the mobile space, especially with companies such as Apple and Google, takes time, and our experience helped us with that.

We were also following closely other B2C startups around us. Runtastic – sold to Adidas for +200M in 2015, was a role model for us.

Startups grow from failures. Have you had to pivot your business product or service yet, to better meet customer needs?

When we originally started, my intention was to create a tool for more experienced guitar players, a tool to help intermediate and advanced players (like myself) to structure their daily guitar exercises. My intention was to build a tool that helps guitar players work on their technique, improve speed and accuracy.

After releasing the first version of the app, we figured out that most users are beginners. They were overwhelmed with the complexity of the app and didn’t find our value proposition too useful. We saw incredible traction for people who used to tool for daily training (me included), but still 80% of our users were looking for a tool to get started.

This is when we pivoted and started to work on a service for beginners to help guitar players to get started & make their first steps and show them how to reach their goals.

Where do you see Fretello and your business in 3-5 years?

While there is an increasing demand for musical instruments, there’s still a big challenge in terms of retention. 9 out of 10 beginning guitar players quit within the first 90 days after purchasing their guitar, because they don’t know from where to start and how to efficiently make progress.

Learning experiences offerings – such as Fretello, are a huge opportunity here. First, we can help people get past the first 90 days, so they eventually become dedicated and purchase a more expensive, brand name guitar, later on. We get to know a lot about the learning behavior of our users, which kind of guitar they play and which music they are interested in, and so we can derive important trends for the industry.

Also, we see ourselves as a big opportunity for music schools and teachers. Learning will become more and more an online thing. As we are offering a digital learning experience, we see ourselves much more of a complement for music teachers. Our goal is to make music education more accessible & affordable and to have a positive impact on the society. Therefore, we partner with big organizations and brands such as the Boys & Girls Club in the US.

What makes Fretello so special? Why should investors choose you?

As of today, Fretello is the only fully immersive music learning experience on the market. The combination of high-quality & comprehensive music education and artificial intelligence allows us to provide musicians with the invaluable feedback they need to progress, and which they usually only receive in private lessons, once a week.

In comparison to other players on the market, we focus on a pedagogical approach that sticks. We are market leaders with our technology which is proven to work with any available musical instrument.

Besides, we have a great team of investors already on board, including the co-founders of Runtastic – one of the most active ed-tech VCs in Europe, as well as great advisors – who worked previously with B2C companies such as Headspace and Blinkist.

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