Introducing Essential: The Latest Madrona Labs Spin-Out

We are thrilled to announce Essential (, which is the third spin-out from Madrona Labs. Essential provides intelligent messaging experiences for businesses and was born from our real-world experience building and working with companies that have figured out how to build large, transactional businesses on top of messaging platforms. The team is led by CEO, Mike McMurray, VP of Engineering, Daniel Pirone and VP Product, Zoe Schagrin. Essential’s early customers leverage the platform to drive millions of customer interactions every month and, as importantly, generate millions of dollars in revenue. With the spin-out complete, the Essential founding team is focused on closing their Seed round, making a few key hires, and building the sales pipeline.

Why are we excited about Essential?

Messaging is coming of age. We are reminded constantly of these facts, but it doesn’t make them any less true. There is broad scale consumer adoption of messaging platforms, four billion global SMS users and one billion Facebook Messenger users. The ability for brands to engage with customers via messaging platforms is powerful – the average individual takes 90 minutes to respond to email, and 90 seconds to respond to a text message.

Mobile Apps are not the solution; mobile app fatigue is real and growing. 95% of mobile apps are abandoned within a month. Over the past several months, many of the most prominent players in tech have jumped into the fray. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella stated recently that “chatbots are the new apps…People-to-people conversations, people-to-digital assistants, people-to-bots and even digital assistants-to-bots. That’s the world you’re going to get to see in the years to come.” These prognostications, while bold, are also resonant; and they are prompting executive discussions in every boardroom in the U.S., as companies grapple with how they can build stronger connections and deeper relationships with their customers through messaging platforms.

Messaging applications are becoming the new operating systems. As covered extensively by the media, following the model of WeChat in Asia, U.S.-based tech behemoths Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and others are expanding their messaging capabilities, including payments and enhanced user interactions, and recruiting businesses to their platforms. Over-hyped or not, we believe we are in the early innings of a massive shift and natural evolution from web to mobile to a new frontier of “messaging first” user experiences. The market is early and undeveloped, but has endless potential.

Why, even with all the hype and new entrants, do we believe Essential can win?

Essential’s aim is to deliver on the opportunity by making it easy for businesses to provide intelligent messaging experiences for their customers, where their customers live, across multiple messaging channels (SMS, Facebook, Slack, etc.). Unlike Twilio and other underlying providers, which provide the “ingredients for developers” to build bots, Essential is providing full solutions for businesses and delivering material results. This includes vertically optimized messaging bots out-of-the-box, multi-channel messaging capability, highly-reliable messaging delivery, and conversational machine intelligence for automated customer interactions. Essential is proud to be working with its innovative early customers like SeatGeek, Peach, and ReplyYes.

The Labs team is incredibly excited to be working with the Essential founding team. CEO Mike McMurray has a strong product and marketing background, previous roles include SVP at PointInside and GM at RealNetworks. He shares our conviction that not only is a major shift underway, but that a focused vertical solutions approach is what customers in this nascent market are asking for and need. VP Engineering Daniel Pirone previously held Senior Engineering roles at Madrona-backed Qumulo and was a former Senior Principle Engineer at Nuance Communications. VP Product Zoe Schagrin was previously a Senior Product Manager at Amazon and a founder and CEO of an early-stage startup.

We can’t wait for the journey ahead and hope you visit to learn more!