Pharrell Williams takes stake in British startup Roli and becomes creative chief

Lynsey Barber
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Pharrell (R), known for hit song Happy, is joining Roland Lamb's (L) Roli (Source: Roli)

A British startup which wants to reinvent musical instruments has attracted US music heavyweight Pharrell Wiliams to join its venture.

Roli, the eight-year-old startup behind two new instruments - Seaboard and Roli Blocks - has named the producer and singer known for the song "Happy" as its creative chief and Williams will take a stake in the business too.

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The value of the investment has not been disclosed but the company described him as "co-owner" and said he will be involved in helping invent new devices. The startup has raised just over £30m from top venture capital investors, including Balderton and Index Ventures, and was named one of Tech City UK's Future Fifty this year.

"Music touches all of us, and for a long time I've been passionate about finding ways to share the power of music with more people," said Williams.

He has put his name to a Roli studio pack - that is, bringing voice, beats and basslines from hit song Happyy that can be downloaded through Roli's Noise app.

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"When I met Roland [Lamb, founder] and Roli, I immediately felt we were working towards exactly the same goals, and so I'm super excited that we’re kicking off this partnership.”

Pharrell is not the only US star to get involved with a startup from the UK, with The Voice judge and singer Will.I.Am becoming a board advisor to fintech Atom Bank earlier this year.

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