Who owns MSCHF? The company’s unconventional structure

By Chege Karomo — ON Feb 14, 2023

The latest product from MSCHF (read ‘mischief’) – big red boots seemingly inspired by Astro Boy’s footwear – has gone viral days before the official release. They’ll go for $350 and, like other MSCHF releases, will likely sell out in record time. 

The big red boots came shortly after MSCHF released WD-40 Cologne, a fragrance inspired by the popular degreaser. We cannot fathom why anyone would want to smell like WD-40, but the cologne sold out. MSCHF products are outrageous and sometimes designed to mock certain aspects of society. 

MSCHF’s founder, Gabriel Whaley, worked for BuzzFeed for a year before the company declared him redundant

Gabe Whaley, CEO of MSCHF
Gabe Whaley, Founder of MSCHF | Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Gabriel Whaley is the founder and CEO of MSCHF. According to Pitchbook, Stephen T is the Chief Operating Officer, and Jack Brown is the Chief Financial Officer. Pitchbook adds that Venture Capitalists Founder Fund, Mastry, Arrive Opportunities Management, and Canaan Partners own minority stakes in MSCHF. 

Whaley secured a job at BuzzFeed partly due to his ability to dream up viral projects. He spent a year at BuzzFeed before the company shut down his department. Whaley founded MSCHF in 2016. 

Whaley hired former developers and designers, incorporating them into a company that shunned corporate titles. In early 2020, the company had 10 employees; three years later, the employee count has quadrupled. 

Whaley told The New York Times that after an employee signs on, MSCHF becomes a part of their lives. He explained:

“It’s not just a full-time job. This is how we live. The distinction between your work and normal life doesn’t really exist here, and it’s just because this is what we were all doing whether we were getting paid or not in our former lives.”

MSCHF doesn’t function like a typical company

MSCHF isn’t a traditional company – it has no logo, flagship product, mission, or advertising and marketing department. Products sell because of the brand attached to them. 

“If we can make people a fan of the brand and not the product, we can do whatever the fuck we want,” MSCHF’s Chief Revenue Officer, Daniel Greenberg, told Business Insider. “We build what we want. We don’t care.”

Whaley told The New York Times that MSCHF’s goal is to create humor. “Everything is just, ‘How do we kind of make fun of what we’re observing?’” he said. 

Therefore, it’s somewhat surprising that venture capitalists have invested in MSCHF. Investors prefer startups with clear metrics and strategies, which MSCHF doesn’t have. Yet, the company has raised $24 million in three rounds of funding from investors. 

In an interview with The New York Times, investment analyst Nikita Singareddy speculated on the reasons why investors have bet on MSCHF. Nikita said:

“Sometimes investors are a little too serious about monetizing something immediately. With MSCHF, there’s faith that it’ll pay off. There’s an inherent virality and absurdness to all the projects that they’ve created, and it’s something people want to share and ask questions about.”

Nikita stated that though MSCHF lacks long-term targets and a clear structure, the team it has built is an asset worth investing in. “Some of the best investments, even early on it wasn’t clear what the result would be, but you’re making an investment in the team,” she stated. 

Frank Denbow, a technology consultant, suggested that MSCHF is worth the investment because it exists in an autogenous niche with no competition. Denbow stated:

“I don’t see anybody doing exactly what MSCHF is doing. Everybody is able to get a one-off campaign that works, but to consistently find ways to create content that really sticks with people is different. It reminds me of Banksy and his ability to get a rise out of people.”