What’s a mucker?
Our name is inspired by Thomas Edison’s vision of creating a place where brilliant entrepreneurs and hackers can work together to create new and better products that either disrupted existing industries or created entirely new markets. MuckerLab is named after the original hackers, the men who worked with Edison in his labs – Thomas Edison’s “muckers.”
The name for Edison’s muckers is said to have come from Edison’s experiments to invent a better formulation for bricks. Edison and his team spent more than a year testing different materials and binding agents, or “muck” as it was called at the time, before finally getting it right. That’s when Edison first began referring to his researchers as “muckers,” and the name stuck.
Historians have often called the R&D laboratory Edison’s greatest invention. Before Edison came along, inventors typically worked alone and relied more on inspiration than a repeatable process. Edison changed all that by effectively creating the modern innovation and commercialization accelerator by marrying a proprietary innovation process with a team of brilliant and ambitious young men from all over U.S. and Europe to work with him. Many muckers eventually moved on to become successful inventors themselves after spending time with Edison.
(Please note, we have no affiliation with Thomas Edison, his heirs, estate, or any foundations or other entities associated with his name and likeness.)
Why Los Angeles?
We believe Los Angeles (and more broadly, Southern California) is on the cusp of becoming a major technology hub, but is in need of additional funding and infrastructure at the very earliest stages of venture formation. Los Angeles has approximately the same size technical labor force as Silicon Valley — fueled in part by graduates from three of the top ten technical universities in the world (Caltech, UCLA, USC). LA has already produced dozens of venture-backed, tech success stories, such as Applied Semantics, Cornerstone On Demand, eHarmony, Green Dot, HauteLook, Legal Zoom, MySpace, Overture, Riot Games, JustFab/ShoeDazzle, United Online and many others. Yet, it only has about 1/10 of the venture capital investment as compared to Silicon Valley.
Like Silicon Valley entrepreneurs just a few years ago — before the advent of a large, vibrant angel community and accelerators like Y Combinator — many entrepreneurs in Los Angeles need help turning their products and ideas into thriving businesses, raising capital, and operational advice. The startup ecosystem in LA is not yet as efficient as Silicon Valley, but MuckerLab is accelerating that evolution by helping entrepreneurs crack the black box that is the venture creation process, access a built in network of mentors and advisors, and tap into diverse sources of funding.
How does the MuckerLab program work?
The MuckerLab program helps entrepreneurs build their products, find the right customer/user segments, implement the right business model, generate revenue and user growth, develop scalable/profitable distribution channels, augment their teams with complementary skills, and when appropriate, raise venture capital from investors who believe in their vision. MuckerLab helps entrepreneurs build great, category-leading companies.
MuckerLab is not a business plan competition – our portfolio companies are focused on building products and achieving market acceptance, not writing business plans or just slide presentations. Although the best entrepreneurs knock it out of the park in all facets of running their companies — including fund raising execution, we believe the most beautiful presentation and most bullet proof pitches comes from companies with thoughtfully executed products, loyal and delighted users, reference-able customers, scaling business metrics, and passionate founders.
MuckerLab is also not an investment bank – we do not broker financing for our companies. While we believe fundraising is one of the many hurdles that any new venture most overcome, we do not believe fundraising is the end goal of building great companies, much less one for an accelerator program. In fact, most MuckerLab companies do not kick off their fundraising process until they have met pre-determined product – market fit milestones for their respective businesses. However, MuckerLab companies have historically received funding from some of the best investors in the world, not simply because they are MuckerLab companies, but because they are run by exceptional entrepreneurs with successful scaling businesses in large and underserved markets.
MuckerLab is not for every entrepreneur. Our portfolio companies are our customers, and as in any service business, customer satisfaction is key to long-term success. As a result, our selection criteria are not solely based on whether we believe the company can generate a significant financial return in the long run. We need to be convinced that we can add value significantly above and beyond our equity ownership in the company.
We believe we add incremental value in a few unique ways:
The MuckerLab founders are able to add strategic AND operational value to our companies because we are successful technology entrepreneurs and executives with collectively over hundreds of years of operating experience. We have all held roles in the Internet industry as operating executives, entrepreneurs and investors. We have founded numerous companies, operated companies at all stages, and helped scale some of the most successful companies in the Internet industry, such as: eBay, Google, HauteLook, Live Nation, Microsoft, AT&T, StubHub, Green Dot, and TripAdvisor. We have spent our careers primarily as operators at companies of all stages — startup to Fortune 100. We earned our stripes as product managers, marketers, engineers, and general managers. We have built companies from scratch, recruited co-founders, raised hundreds of millions in capital, and sold our ventures. We’ve been there before and we are not afraid to get our hands dirty and leverage our past experiences and networks to help MuckerLab entrepreneurs succeed.
We have split our careers between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley; as a result, we have deep ties to the tech communities in both markets. We are able to bring business development, customer development, advisory, recruiting, and financing opportunities across both geographies to our portfolio companies. MuckerLab is one of the few accelerators outside of the Silicon Valley whose portfolio companies consistently draw investment from top tier Silicon Valley venture funds.
The MuckerLab mentor network includes some of the most successful executives, entrepreneurs, and investors in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Our mentors are experts in diverse industries from media, entertainment, payments, eCommerce, adtech, social, mobile, local and more. They provide a level of expertise and diversity of perspective that complements that of the founders of MuckerLab. We offer our portfolio companies access to expertise not constrained by geography or industry.
How long is the MuckerLab Program?
MuckerLab graduates a class of 6-10 companies every 9 to 12 month. The average MuckerLab company works with us for 6 months – but the duration of the program can be as short as 3 months to as long as 12 months depending on the needs and progress of the company. Companies only “graduate” from MuckerLab when they have achieved the predetermined business, customer, and financing milestones.
How do I work with MuckerLab?
We select companies and entrepreneurs from an open application process on both our own site as well as via an application process on AngelList. We strongly encourage entrepreneurs to find trusted referrals into one of our partners or mentors – it help them rise above the noise as well as demonstrate the type of initiative and resourcefulness that sets the most successful entrepreneurs apart.
What do Erik and Will do all day?
We work full-time investing in and working with startup companies via Mucker. As a result, we tell our entrepreneurs to treat us as part of their founding team. Our portfolio companies have complete access to our time, experience, network, and knowledge. But most importantly, we are not afraid of digging in on the tactics of building their companies – from drawing wireframes, drafting marketing materials, to managing Adwords campaign. Just like the entrepreneurs we work for, we will do whatever is necessary to help our portfolio companies win in the marketplace.
What does MuckerLab receive in exchange for program participation & funding?
MuckerLab invests $21,000 in exchange for a 6% – 8% equity stake, on average.
What do the MuckerLab mentors do?
MuckerLab has network of over 200 mentors who represent some of the best entrepreneurs, executives, and investors from both Silicon Valley and Southern California. All mentors have committed to spending time with MuckerLab founders to give them advice and offer help. Mentors also hold office hours, round table discussions, or instructional sessions at MuckerLab. In some cases, companies and mentors will mutually agree to meet on a regular basis and work even more closely together. And often, mentors will eventually take formal positions with the company as advisors to continue the relationship beyond the duration of the program.
What does it take to be a Mucker?
We look for passionate, 100% committed, full-time entrepreneurs of any age and experience level with disruptive ideas who are willing and able to take the risk of turning their ideas into reality. We have a strong preference for fully formed teams of “builders,” with the skills and capabilities to build a product and take it to market.
How far along do we need to be before we can apply?
We accept applications from companies at various stages — some will have just a new idea on a piece of napkin while others will have a company that is already generating millions in annual revenue and looking to accelerate its growth. Enterprise and B2B startups typically can be of earlier stage while consumer product companies would require more proof of product-market fit. Experienced teams with domain experience attacking underserved markets will need a lot less traction before being admitted. We’re happy to talk to you about your idea and let you know if it’s too early or too far along (and we’ll try to give you a couple pointers along the way so make it worth your time).
I already have funding. Can I still apply?
Yes. Our average portfolio company has typically raised at least $250K to $500K in funding before starting the program, some as much as $1.5MM. Since our value add is primarily operational and not merely financial, the more important question for entrepreneurs to answer is whether they believe MuckerLab can help accelerate the growth of their businesses, operating metrics, and fundraising –thus making the company significantly more valuable after the program.
My company has been around for a while. Can I still apply?
Yes. Many companies accepted into the program have done significant product development work or have launched an early version of their product. While you may be well past the prototype stage, we will help you scale your business, raise financing, and anything else we can to help your business succeed. In fact, at MuckerLab the significant majority of the program is spent on trying to figure out the linear algebra for achieving product-market fit via continuous experimentation around the right combination of customer segmentation, brand positioning, value proposition, product design, pricing, go-to-market channels, and customer acquisition strategies.
Do I have to be in Los Angeles to participate?
We accept applications from all over the world. But, to participate in the program, you need to come and be a part of our community. We ask all companies to spend the duration of the program here in our office in Los Angeles. Most of our founders use some portion of the investment funds to pay for living expenses.
Do I have to stay in Los Angeles after the program?
No, you are free to go wherever you think your company will thrive. We are big believers in the ecosystem that’s here in LA, but you are not obligated to stay.