RALEIGH – MuukLabs is on the rise.

Fresh from graduating from the recent cohort of TechStars Kansas City Accelerator this month, the Raleigh startup has landed a $256,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

Ivan Barajas Vargas, who co-founded MuukLabs, an automated testing and reporting platform for developers last year, said he couldn’t be happier.

“As a legal immigrant from Mexico, I’m experiencing first hand what makes the United States the land of opportunity,” he said.

Renan Ugalde and Ivan Barajas Vargas

Vargas, a software tester, received a master’s in business at UNC Kenan-Flagler. There, he said, he learned about entrepreneurship and began to realize all the problems that software quality assurance had.

Two NC startups – CourtRoom5, MuukLabs – land spots in Techstars Accelerator

“Renan Ugalde, my co-founder, and I started talking about what to do about these opportunities and we decided to launch MuukLabs,” Vargas has said, adding it is the “first and only” quality assurance acceleration platform that helps companies ship fast with full, automated test coverage.

WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam had the chance to find out more. Here’s what he had to say:

  • So tell me what TechStars was like? 

TechStars was excellent. During the three intensive months, after working with dozens of the best mentors in every part of the business we grew closer to the famous product-market-fit, we acquired new customers, and connected with possible investors. The TechStars network is unparalleled: size and diversity, and now we are part of it – It will be essential for us to keep leveraging it as we scale. The involvement of the TechStars founders (David Cohen, Brad Feld, David Brown, Jason Mendelson), which are legendary startup gurus, was inspiring for us and all the cohort.

  • What’s the status of your technology? And how are you innovating it?

We took an approach of producing value as soon as possible to our users and customers, and we are already producing it. Said so, we are enhancing and augmenting the value being given as we keep working on the AI and learning from different use cases. One of our key innovations is that we provide value from Day 1 – most participants in the market need months of training or implementation to provide any value.

  • What’s your reaction to getting grant? 

From the business point of view, it is exceptional for us, after adding this grant to the NC IDEA grant and TechStars investment we are not in need of a pre-seed round, and we will leap directly to a seed round next year. This grant will help us to continue researching and implementing AI models that drive us closer toward our vision of ‘software QA on a click’

From a personal point of view, as a legal immigrant from Mexico, I’m experiencing first hand what makes the United States the land of opportunity — I’m delighted that these programs exist to support and boost innovation. I would encourage more entrepreneurs to explore these opportunities.

  • How do you plan to use the funds?

In order to be awarded the grant, we submitted a plan for the research and implementation of AI models that will improve our current technology. The NSF SBIR funds are totally for R&D. The previous funds we received from NC IDEA and Techstars are going to be used on the business front so we can grow at full speed in both, the product and business fronts.

  • What’s next?

We will be expanding our team to achieve our product and business goals for the next months. Then, as we scale, we may look for funding to scale faster.