Milkymist was founded in summer 2007 by Sébastien Bourdeauducq. The open source project tackled the development of a system-on-chip design capable of running MilkDrop. The name "Milkymist" was chosen to evoke a parallel MilkDrop. The development was no small task, as it required designing and/or integrating a powerful 32-bit microprocessor core, basic peripherals, many interfaces, a fast SDRAM controller, and graphics acceleration. The video synthesizer born out of those efforts, the Milkymist One, was launched in September 2011 with the help of open hardware company Sharism at Work.
Components of the Milkymist system-on-chip soon found many other uses, such as software-defined radio on board the International Space Station. The community grew and activities diversified, with the development of a TDC core for CERN (using a variant of the Milkymist SoC for integration), the Migen logic design system and its application to the Rhino software-defined radio platform, and the Mixxeo digital video mixer. In 2013, Milkymist was renamed to M-Labs to mark the more varied activities, and formally incorporated in Hong Kong as M-Labs Limited.
The company's current main project is ARTIQ, a leading-edge open source control system for quantum information experiments. In 2016, Robert Jördens joined the directorate of the company to further develop ARTIQ and other physics-related projects.