This tech CEO has all the right credentials to steer a digital-music start-up.
In addition to degrees in computer science and economics from Stanford University, Prerna Gupta is expert in all things Britney Spears.
Gupta is a former beauty pageant winner who aspired to follow in the hip-hop dancing footsteps of her childhood idol, Spears. Now, as the 28-year-old CEO of Khush, the company behind a new iPhone app called LaDiDa, Gupta's performance background may help her as much as anything she learned in college.
LaDiDa works this way: compose a song, sing it into an iPhone or iPod Touch, and the software will provide the musical accompaniment. Think of it as reverse karaoke. Sing your own tune or "Taxman" by the Beatles. LaDiDa, which sells for $2.99, will determine what key you're singing in, match it with favorable chord progressions, and toss in some effects, such as reverb. LaDiDa will spit out a recording of your enhanced voice and backing tracks.
Parag Chordia, Gupta's husband and Khush's chief technology officer, is a professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and director of the school's music intelligence lab. LaDiDa was developed there, Gupta said.
The software is "trained" to recognize notes and common chord progressions, Gupta said. To do this, a composer inputs "musical atoms," the term she uses to describe small chunks of music. The software makes a guess based on its training on what will sound best with the song it hears to quickly arrange the chunks.
Whiz-bang technology is one thing, but to make LaDiDa a hit, it needed someone with an innate understanding of people's desire to put on a show. And no, that desire is not just about lots of sake.
Gupta understands that. The craze over video games, such as Rock Band, Guitar Hero, and the newapp from Universal Music Group, show how amateurs and the untrained yearn to make music. But she also knows that everybody may not be confident in their music-making abilities.
LaDiDa is supposed to make the more tin-eared among us sound a little better and make sharing our creations less painful.
"I've been singing and performing on stage my whole life," said Gupta, who was once crowned Oklahoma's Ms. Asia. "I had that dream of being a pop star. When this technology came around, I knew it would tap into people's desire to share music with others...It's strange because most people are still very shy about sharing recordings of themselves."