Smule’s Acquisition of Khush Creates 30M Download Music App Empire

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By Todd Ogasawara

Smule and Khush — two of the best-known developers behind popular music-making apps like I Am T-Pain and Songify — have joined forces.

Smule, which is backed by more than $25 million in venture funding and was co-founded by a Stanford Ph.D student and professor, said it acquired Khush for an undisclosed amount of cash and stock.

Smule is best-known for its unique music apps like Ocarina, I Am T-Pain and the Glee karaoke app. Khush’s apps are LaDiDa, Songify and Talkapella. LaDiDa is like a reverse karaoke app, that listens to a person’s singing and then automatically adjusts the key of the music being played back. Songify creates music from a person’s spoken words and has been downloaded 5 million times.

Both companies have academic professors behind them, with Khush bringing talent from Georgia Tech and Smule representing Stanford. Several of Khush’s founding employees have also spent time at Stanford. So these seems like more of a smart merger that consolidates the music category a bit instead an outright win or exit.

Together, the companies say they have 30 million downloads between them. Both companies use a mix of free and paid apps with in-app purchases for consumers to get extra songs. While apps from the two companies regularly pop up on the top free or top paid app charts, they’re less visible on the grossing lists where they tend to get crowded out by games. Smule’s Glee app tends to be ranked around #300 or so on the grossing list.

We would bet that a big portion of the company’s revenue comes from brand partnerships. Smule, in particular, has done several deals with artists and brands like Fox Entertainment to bring apps like I Am T-Pain and Glee to the store.

Smule’s investors include Bessemer Venture Partners, Granite Ventures, Shasta Ventures and Floodgate. Investments from Shotput Ventures, angel investors Pat Matthews and Yee Lee and research grants from the Georgia Research Alliance and the National Science Foundation are among Khush’s backers. Smule recently raised $12M in funding on top of $13.5 million from before.