Financial News

  • 23 May 2014, 7:42

London-Made Tech Hardware 'Eating The World'

The maker of a new type of music keyboard has raised 7.6m in funding, in a series A round that could value the company at 40m.

Dalston-based tech start up Roli raised the money from Balderton, Firstmark, Index and Universal Music.

Between them, previous investments have included Lovefilm, Betfair, King.com - the makers of Candy Crush - and Pinterest.

It is a signal that tech start-ups specialising in hardware are on the rise.

Roli's first product is the Seaboard Grand, a silicone-covered keyboard that lets musicians slide between and bend notes, which won the Design Museum's 2014 product design of the year award.

The investment will be used to launch a host of new products, from modular drum machines to guitars - and, perhaps, eventually in computer peripherals and human prosthetics.

CEO Roland Lamb told Sky News: "While in the immediate term we are completely focussed on building great music products, more broadly the Seaboard is a great example of expanding this bandwidth of interaction.

"It builds off of a high-capacity activity - playing the piano - and adds extra dimensions of input capacity and rich tactile feedback."

The investment is fillip for East London's growing hardware scene.

Silicon Roundabout came to prominence as a hub for web businesses.

Increasingly, though, start-ups are not building websites or networks - they are making real things.

Blaze sells smarter bike lights, Makie Labs creates 3D printed toys, Technology Will Save Us sells DIY gadget sets, Kovert is working on designer wearable tech such as smart rings, and Kano is selling computer kits based on the most successful UK hardware start-up of recent times, the Raspberry Pi.

Sugru is a new type of self-setting rubber - a sort of Blu-Tack you can use to repair or modify your belongings.

Newspaper Club lets people design, print and distribute their own physical newspaper, made from dead trees.

Berg is the maker of the Little Printer, the first in a range of products and services built around the "internet of things" - the network of internet-connected objects, whether a fridge or a set of keys.

Venues like London Hackspace, Here East and Digits2Widgets offer free or cheap 3D printers and other maker tools.

It was recently announced that the Maker Faire - a great exhibition of DIY and professionally made physical products - will be coming to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

In 2011, internet entrepreneur and investor Marc Andressen declared that "software is eating the world."

Now hardware is.

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