Noah Veneklasen

Founder of Muse & Co.

Noah is the Founder, CEO and Design Director of Muse & Co. Prior to founding Muse & Co., Noah worked extensively in many facets of the film industry, including production design, special effects, and scenic construction. His diverse skill set sets the tone for Muse & Co.’s mission to combine elements of art and construction.

After graduating high school, Noah worked as a scenery fabricator and stagehand for Warner Brothers, Disney, and the SF Opera. He then attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA, where he earned a BFA in Theatrical Design. Upon finishing school and returning to California, Noah worked as a set designer for trade shows, commercials, and corporate events.

With a growing passion for film and television, and a strong set of practical leadership skills, Noah founded Muse Media Center in 2006. Led by Noah, Muse Media Center produced 7 independent films, as well as numerous commercials for clients including Discovery Channel, Visa, and AMEX.

In 2012, Noah founded Muse & Co., with an intent to design and build immersive spaces. Noah’s deep dive (literally, he has underwater set-building experience) into set design and film has yielded a keen creative eye and a strong leadership instinct. Noah guides the creative process at Muse & Co. and touches everything that happens in a tangible way.

When he’s not leading the charge at Muse & Co., you can find Noah outside, where he enjoys hiking and biking long distances. Noah also loves to backcountry ski, and is currently learning to paraglide. He and his wife, Karyn, the Chief Operations Officer of Muse & Co., have two children, and a dog named Ziggy.

Where did the idea for Muse & Co. come from?

I come from the world of film and set design, and through word of mouth I was starting to get requests from a certain large tech company to do increasingly bizarre, “impossible” projects because no one else was willing to take those conceptual challenges on. It didn’t take long to recognize that all the asks basically boiled down to one specific question, “how can we better serve a workforce through designing spaces that address people’s actual, individual needs.” Since no one else was focused on answering this question the way we were, the company was born.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day at work will have internal meetings, client calls and meetings, and design brainstorms at our design office, and a visit to the fabrication shop to solve any physical problems that might be cropping up, and checking progress on our builds. I don’t think I could maintain productivity over the long term without maintaining a healthy work/life balance. Knowing there will be a clearly delineated end to my work day lets me plow through the day at speed without feeling burnt out at the end. For me, balance means means breakfast and, when possible, dinner at home with my family. We’ve built that same expectation of balance into our culture at Muse & Co.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When we’re bringing ideas to life, we like to imagine it, build it, break it, tweak it, and build it again. I like to be hands on with the process of iterating and prototyping whenever I can. We always want to approach a new idea or design without the constraints of physics or budget, then back our implementation into those parameters.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The decentralization of offices, and the idea of flexible work.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Allowing ideas to come from anywhere, and not focusing on a hierarchy of titles.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You’re only as strong as the people around you, so hire up! Ideally, your team should be smarter and better than you are in every way. Also, don’t try to do it all yourself. That was a hard one to internalize, but there’s magic in letting go.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The longer you let an idea percolate in development the less interesting it is when you actually bring it to life.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Therapy. And listening to your employees and really taking their suggestions to heart. If you’ve hired the right people, all the answers will be there.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

We’ve grown by not taking every single project that comes along. We’ve made strategic decisions around which projects will be the best fit for us culturally, creatively and intellectually, and will position us to be just where we want to be for the next phase of our ongoing evolution.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I waited way too long to hire a stellar management team.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

The world needs Pot Pie Trucks! Imagine steaming hot pies (savory and sweet) sold in every neighborhood from a fleet of recommissioned ice cream trucks. If you close your eyes, you can hear the music playing, and smell the delicious scent of pie, right?

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I’ve spent recently was on plants for the backyard. Our Covid chickens have devastated a surprising amount of the ground cover and things were looking a bit sparse back there. The yard is our family happy place, so keeping it welcoming for the people – and not just the chickens – is a priority.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Without a doubt, it’s Slack. With everyone needing a piece of my time every day, I’m able to multitask and use it when I have a spare moment to respond to questions. It keeps me out of endless meetings and reduces frustration levels for everyone.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia because it sheds light on the absolute necessity of living a balanced life. The message is around the importance of working to enjoy your life, not embracing work AS life.

What is your favorite quote?

“Not how long, but how well you have lived is the main thing”, Seneca

Key Learnings:

  • Work life balance is key to happiness…and productivity
  • Your team should be better than you in every way
  • Don’t accept every project that comes knocking
  • Don’t overthink, move fast, and iterate