Networking at live events is often uncomfortable and awkward, especially if you’re riding solo. What if you could use your phone to find a like-minded group among that sea of strangers? Mother-daughter founder duo Ashlee Ammons and Kerry Schrader created Mixtroz (combining mixer and introduction) to connect people in real-time at conferences and business and university events without requiring that often-clumsy introduction.
“Let’s face it — live event networking is shallow, uncomfortable, clumsy, but ultimately necessary,” says Ammons. “Mixtroz is an app that helps event attendees easily connect with one another; while helping the host collect valuable data about attendees based on their responses to customized questions. We’re the “what’s next” at live events; we’re not connecting profiles, we connect real people.”
Ammons knows the issue too well. In 2014, she attended a conference where she was paired with fellow attendees not by similar interests, but by something as arbitrary as a same color dot on their name tag. The system led to awkward interactions during lunch. “That experience led us to reimagine the way connection happens at live events,” says Ammons.
Event attendees download the app (available on iOS and Android), complete the virtual name tag and event organizer’s short survey. During the event, the app matches you up to nine attendees with similar responses and directs them all to a curated networking real-time experience.
This Nashville-based power duo has serious experience in networking. Ammons was previously LeBron James’s first intern turned into Director of Events at one of NYC’s hottest luxury hospitality companies, TAO/Strategic Group. Schrader comes from a Fortune 500 executive background and she was recently appointed to the Nashville Technology Council’s Executive Board of Directors and named Chair of the Diversity Committee. Schrader has worked with Mixtroz since its inception with Ammons, moving to Nashville last year to jump on board full-time.
“All of the life lessons that she’s [Shrader] taught me over the course of my life; whether or not I could have seen it in the moment have made me a better, stronger colleague, friend, family member, and human,” says Ammons of partnering up with her mother. “In a startup you want a partner who will both champion and challenge you and she does both with grace and an iron fist.”
As for working with a family member, Ammons says that it’s key to identify each other’s strengths and weaknesses to lead a successful partnership. “Identify early where your strengths and weaknesses lie as business partners not family members. You have to take sensitivity off the table and really focus in; this can make or break the business.”
“For us, it was literally personality assessment and from that tool we learned that I am a micro thinker who lives for the details and Kerry is a macro thinker who loves interacting with customers and evangelizing the brand whenever and wherever and we are able to effectively divvy up our responsibilities accordingly,” says Ammons.
Mixtroz charges event organizers and sponsors per anticipated attendee before the event, similar to a catering model. The app continues to stand out among competitors thanks to their alternative approach to networking as adding to the event programming instead of leaving it up to the attendee.
“Our product leverages the more comfortable networking approach of group connections opposed to one to one, it’s gamified which is on trend with current and future event tech markets and provides instant gratification for a common pain point for a vast market of potential users. And the customized data collected is invaluable to hosts and/or sponsors.”
The startup has recently completed a stint at the Gigtank365 accelerator and is gearing up to raise a seed round from a leading investor to continue back-end development to move to a self-service platform, scale more efficiently, and expand their core team into marketing.
“An ideal investor would have not only the capital but will also have key contacts to potential clients specifically in the enterprise vertical,” says Ammons.