Mixtroz, a technology that connects people at live events, came to Birmingham last year as a Nashville-based company. That might not be the case for long, though.
“Frankly, Birmingham is the best thing for our business,” said cofounder Ashlee Ammons. “It has turned out to be an amazing hidden gem.”
Ammons and her mother, Kerry Schrader, cofounded Mixtroz in November 2014 and were a part of Innovation Depot’s most recent Velocity Accelerator cohort. Since their relocation to Birmingham for the accelerator program, the duo has appeared on A&E’s Rooster and Butch and won a $100,000 investment from Rise of the Rest, beating seven other finalists for the win. The company has space at Innovation Depot through the end of the year, and the team plans to make Birmingham its permanent home, as well as hire between five to eight employees as the company grows.
“We are working with a product that we know works, so we’ll need more hands on it,” Ammons said.
If you’re going to an event that has booked Mixtroz, you can download the app and select the event you’re attending. The next step is creating a nametag that includes your name, email address and a selfie. Then you’ll answer 10 custom questions based on what you and the event organizer want to know about the event’s attendees. The questions are an in-app survey and the data is used in real-time to connect attendees at the event. Then you meet up with those the app thinks you could form a meaningful connection with.
The company measures its success by the number of events it is booked for. Anywhere there is networking, Mixtroz makes sense, Ammons said. Just this week she was emailed about Mixtroz being used at a wedding rehearsal dinner so that the two families could “intentionally network” before the next day’s wedding and reception.
“The whole point of a wedding is two families becoming one, and this is a tool that can facilitate that,” Ammons said. “The next day at the wedding, camaraderie will be built.”
The verticals the company serves with the most intention include higher education, large business enterprises and conferences and conventions, but anywhere 25 or more people are already gathered is fair game for the technology. The idea was generated when both Ammons and Schrader had gone to networking events within days of one another and both had awkward experiences. Ammons was working in event planning in New York City and Schrader was working in human resources in Nashville.
“Truly, this was a result of a normal mother-daughter conversation at the end of the weekend,” Schrader said. “We both had some clumsy networking opportunities. We are both extroverts, so we thought ‘there has to be a better way.’ Mixtroz was born on those terms in that one conversation, and it filled a real void.”
The company was not an overnight success, though.
“There is a reason our story started in 2014 and is just skyrocketing now,” Ammons said. “It took me a year and a half to phase out of my job [in event planning] and come onto Mixtroz full-time. You have to take it a little bit at a time until you realize you have something to go full-time into. You have to take little bites at a time until you’re ready.”
Ammons and Schrader have always been teachable, said the Birmingham Business Alliance’s Vice President of Business Development Victor Brown, who has coached the Mixtroz team since arriving in Birmingham. Their teachability is one reason why they are so successful, he said.
“[They] have an attitude of teachability,” Brown said. “They don’t come across as if they know it all. In my opinion, teams are stronger when they allow mentors and coaches to give them advice. The perspectives provided are diverse. No matter how smart and technically capable a team is, there will always be blindspots. It’s worth it to cover a variety of topics with multiple mentors and coaches. That’s what Mixtroz did.”
Ammons and Schrader lean into being two minority women without technology backgrounds and hope to inspire anyone with a good idea to get out there and make it happen.
“It’s a powerful narrative,” Ammons said. “You don’t have to have a completely unattainable pedigree. You don’t have to move to New York, California or Massachusetts to do this. There’s no age demographic. We hope to make the whole entrepreneur story more accessible for people. Up until very recently, people naturally thought of Mark Zuckerberg [as the entrepreneurial model]. We are so happy to be a part of the narrative changing for what it looks like to build a successful, scalable business.”
With the Rise of the Rest investment, the company is well on its way to becoming just that.
“It felt amazing to win,” Ammons said. “We have always known we had something with the product, and to have that kind of validation from an organization backed by Steve Case and the Revolution team, with that nationwide reach, as an entrepreneur, there is no better feeling.”
That’s a feeling Ammons encourages all Birmingham entrepreneurs to seek out.
“If you want to be successful in Birmingham, you can,” she said. “If you want to have a hand in moving the needle forward, you can. If you put the work in, it will come back times 10.”