Networking is crucial for those interested in climbing the corporate ladder, engaging with others for new business development or even raising money to help fund business goals.
More than 84 percent of jobs are filled through networking, according to GreatBusinessSchools.org infographic. Nearly 100 percent of people said face-to-face meetings are essential for long term business relationships. Respondents of a Forbes Insights report in 2009 said the close rate for in-person meetings is 40 percent. With numbers like these, people still find it awkward trying to make valuable connections in person with others in their industry.
Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons are the founders of Mixtroz,
I want Mixtroz to be that verb where it is used for people connecting in real time.Ashlee Ammons, co-founder of Mixtroz, a tech solution for helping event producers to connect attendees and collect data.
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Based on their own bad experiences trying to network, the mother-daughter duo set out to find a better way to meet people at live events. Kerry’s longtime work experience is in human resources leadership. Ashlee’s background is in event management. Their combined experience allowed them to create a company that was supported by family and friends to the tune of more than $200,000. Joining former AOL chairman and CEO Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest portfolio garnered another $100,000.
As of today, Mixtroz has raised a total of $1 million, joining a growing circle of Black women who’ve raised large amounts in the last few years.
Moguldom spoke with Ashlee Ammons about how Mixtroz started and where the business is headed in the next five years as it leads the change in the way professionals network at events.
For someone to look you in the face and say you have a great idea, but because you’re a Black female in the Southeast, this probably isn’t going to work out for you – it is incredibly annoying because you gave me feedback on things I cannot change.
(hat) gave both my mom and I a firein our bellies.Ashlee Ammons, co-founder of Mixtroz, a tech solution for helping event producers to connect attendees and collect data.
Moguldom: Why did you start Mixtroz?
Ashlee Ammons: It was out of a need. My mom is my co-founder and we both had unusual networking experiences at separate events on the same weekend in November 2014. I went to a conference while I was in New York to make new connections. The event’s content was great, but when it came to the networking portion, it was not. They wanted people to network with the same color dots on their name tag. It was really awkward. The connections I made weren’t really valuable and the connections I could have made with people who were in the other groups didn’t happen. I shared that with my mom, and she shared her odd interactions with me at an event she attended. After a four-hour conversation, we came up with a primitive version of what would be Mixtroz.
Moguldom: LinkedIn has a feature on its mobile app called Find nearby. What makes Mixtroz different?
Ashlee Ammons: LinkedIn is a valuable software but it becomes more valuable once you have met someone in real time. For example, I have received hundreds of requests on LinkedIn but I am not accepting them because if I ever need to go to them for something or they need to come to me for something, I can’t really vouch for them or them me and I’m not comfortable with making that connection. For me, LinkedIn becomes more valuable when there is a human connection in it. LinkedIn is a great way for when you have met someone and want to stay in contact with them. That has always been my thoughts on LinkedIn and others as well. There is a lot of discussion on this topic, even a Harvard Business Review paper on this exact topic. There is something to “serial friending” where you have a huge network with no value. I’m more interested in quality over quantity when it comes to people in my network because I want to be able to be helpful. So as far as the differentiators, I don’t want to leave it up to the human to say if they do or don’t want to meet someone because of bias. Bias from a standpoint of a person at an event may or may not look a certain way or doesn’t have a certain title. You may not want to meet them, but that may have been the person you needed to meet. We’re big on taking the decision off of the attendees and put it back into the hands of the event’s host. This allows the host to make meaningful collisions based on the host’s intent of the event and not for people who already know each other or are looking for the “who’s who” of a room.
Moguldom: As a Black tech founder and a winner of the Rise of the Rest tour, what was the impact of being part of the competition and Steve Case’s portfolio?
Ashlee Ammons: It was definitely a confidence boost. I have always been confident, and it takes a lot to take away my confidence, but real talk — this journey is hard. For someone to look you in the face and say you have a great idea, but because you’re a Black female in the Southeast, this probably isn’t going to work out for you – it is incredibly annoying because you gave me feedback on things I cannot change. The fact that someone would point those out as something that would hold me back gave both my mom and
With my mom and I being partners, there is this unimaginable trust. We may disagree on something for like 10 minutes, but we always take a pause and allow the person with the most expertise in the area to go for it. It’s by God and grit with how we got here. I wouldn’t do this with anyone else.Ashlee Ammons, co-founder of Mixtroz, a tech solution for helping event producers to connect attendees and collect data.
Moguldom: With your mom being your co-founder, what is a benefit or a challenge in working with a family member?
Ashlee Ammons: I wouldn’t have done business with anyone else other than her. She and I have always been close. Even when I lived in New York, we would speak a couple of times a day. The benefit is having someone there you can trust. I always say I have the utmost respect for solo founders. I don’t know how they do it. There are so many highs and lows in being a startup and entrepreneur. It helps to have someone in the trenches with you. With my mom and I being partners, there is this unimaginable trust in my mom and what she is doing with Mixtroz. When I think about finances and legal, I never worry about the decisions she is making because I know she has our best interest at heart. Not having the stress of having to be competitive or outdo the other person like others may face is another benefit. We may disagree on something for like 10 minutes, but we always take a pause and allow the person with the most expertise in the area to go for it. It’s by God and grit with how we got here. I wouldn’t do this with anyone else. As far as the challenge of it, we have a hard time switching it off. There isn’t a time where it isn’t Mixtroz time.
Moguldom: What has been the biggest challenge in starting and scaling your business?
Ashlee Ammons: Fundraising. In 2015, 2016, we raised a family-and-friends round of around $200,000 which was extraordinary. This was also another benefit of having my mom as a co-founder. I had a strong network in New York, but most of my friends were in the early 30s and were in a stage of just establishing their families and purchasing their first home. Whereas my mom, because she was a corporate executive, had friends with disposable income in her network — people who were willing to invest and were already accredited investors. Being able to tap my mom’s work was crucial. Being a baby-boomer-and-millennial team, it was the baby boomer network which was able to get that first round of funding done. Mixtroz survived off of that $200,000 for three years which is unheard of and people are always surprised. There are startups who spend that amount in a month. The fact we made it last so long was crazy. It took us six months to raise $1 million. People think the checks just started flowing after
I see us branching off into other verticals for instance, people in the wedding industry have reached out to us where we can help instantly with seating charts. No one ever says ‘I enjoyed spending six hours on a seating chart’. With technology, we can do it instantly by looking at data.Ashlee Ammons, co-founder of Mixtroz, a tech solution for helping event producers to connect attendees and collect data.
Moguldom: You had the friends-and-family round plus the additional $1 million. What were those funding sources?
Ashlee Ammons: About 90 percent of the million came from local investors in Birmingham. That is one of the reasons we feel so strongly about the Birmingham scene. When we came to Birmingham to be a part of the Velocity Accelerator, they didn’t just pat us on the back and send us on their way. Birmingham really put their money where their mouth was and invested in us. So, the $1 million was from a combination of angels, corporations and family offices.
Ashlee Ammons: Yes, Birmingham. I never thought I would say, “I live in Birmingham, AL.” I was actually in New York a couple of weeks ago and I love New York. I even have New York tattooed on my left wrist, but on my recent trip back there, I was like, “I can’t wait to get home.”
Moguldom: Where do you see Mixtroz in five years?
Ashlee Ammons: I believe strongly in the principles of Steve Case’s book, “The Third Wave.” His thoughts are the first wave was the internet. The time where he was critical in getting people online and introducing the world to email and instant messenger. The second wave is the one with Facebook, LinkedIn
I see us forming key partnerships with LinkedIn. Working with them has always been on our big hairy audacious goals list. We have always said, “first your mix, then you connect on LinkedIn.”Ashlee Ammons, co-founder of Mixtroz, a tech solution for helping event producers to connect attendees and collect data.
I want Mixtroz to be that verb where it is used for people connecting in real time. I see us branching off into other verticals where we found other interest. For instance, people within the wedding industry have reached out to us where we can help instantly help with seating charts. No one ever says, I enjoyed spending six hours on a seating chart. With technology, we can do it instantly by looking at data. Weddings are supposed to bring people together and instead when people arrive, they segregate based off of being with the bride or groom. Being able to use data to help people make a connection and really bring family and friends together. I see us branching off to other verticals, but also forming key partnerships with LinkedIn. Working with them has always been on our big hairy audacious goals list. We have always said, “first your mix, then you connect on LinkedIn.”