As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on in-person events, a mother-daughter duo is facilitating more meaningful networking events online.
Their mobile app Mixtroz helps people make more intentional connections at various networking events — like conferences and college orientations — by supporting the way people actually communicate with one another. The platform matches attendees into smaller groups with their responses to questions created by the organizer to allow them to connect easily.
And unlike Zoom and Skype which is great for a single person speaking to a large group, Mixtroz facilitates private small group conversations both in-person and virtually.
Now in light of COVID-19, Mixtroz has accelerated its virtual offerings and rolled out Mixtroz Virtual to help make larger video conferences more bearable and meet the increased demand of those forced to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
In just 45 days, Ammons and her team of contract engineers built a robust video platform using open-source code. Within minutes, Mixtroz Virtual can access a large virtual event and split everyone up into smaller groups.
“At the top of 2020 we were tracking really well and then, of course, the pandemic happened so we quickly pivoted to virtual and I’m happy to say we have $1.3 million in my sales pipeline right now that I’m working to close,” daughter Ashlee Ammons said.
Ammons and her co-founder mom Kerry Schrader launched their Alabama-based startup 2014 after they both encountered painfully awkward encounters at different networking events. Ammons recalls attempting to find someone at a conference with the same dot color on their nametag as her and giving up after many attendees began chatting with the groups they traveled with. And after not finding a solution to this problem online, they decided to create one themselves – Mixtroz.
Six years later, Mixtroz has already blazed trails in tech.
In May 2018, the duo secured $100,000 from Cases’ Revolution Fund at the Rise of the Rest pitching competition. Six months later Schrader and Ammons became the 38th and 39th Black women to raise $1 million in seed funding in the US.
But it was not an easy road to launch after they came up with the idea. Especially since neither had any coding experience.
“The process was very slow and frankly the system wasn’t ready for founders who looked like us, or a product that was like ours.” Ammons, the co-founder and president of Mixtroz said.
But Ammons did not allow her lack of technology experience to deter her from seeing Mixtroz come to fruition.
“I took a stack of post-its and I drew out the app screens that I thought should be included in Mixtroz,” she said. “Sent it to our developers and that is what they developed off of in the beginning.”
And while the journey was hard, Ammons said she realized she was stronger because of it. “In my opinion, I’m not to be messed with,” she said. “Having a business has made me tough.”
And the sacrifices Ammons’ has made to get to this point have only reminded her of that strength.
Before Mixtroz, Ammons was a twenty-something event producer in NYC that worked with brands like Coke and Nike on events that ran “anywhere from $10,000 to upwards of a few million dollars.”
But she gave this up to join her mother to make Mixtroz a reality.
“I went to making no money, moving to my parent’s home, moving into my baby brother’s room, getting his old beat-up car, and making that work,” Ammons said. “There was no room for any extra.”
Yet instead of letting this get her down, Ammons said this situation taught her there is a season for everything.
Still, amidst a pandemic, Mixtroz has been quick on its feet. Ammons said various research and current trends show more events will become hybrid— offering virtual and in-person options in the future. With its flexibility, Mixtroz is well prepared for these changes.
And the founders of Mixtroz just began raising a round of seed funding to help Mixtroz continue to grow to scale.
Because even with these early successes, Ammons said she still has higher dreams for Mixtroz’s growth.
“My goal is I want Mixtroz to be the noun, the verb, the adjective for meaningful connection,” Ammons said.
But she did admit that working with family can come with inevitable challenges.
“We disagree all the time,” she said. “But disagreement is great because it helps you get to the better answer.”
And with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, Ammons said speaking to a therapist was “the most refreshing thing.”
“It helped me get my thoughts out to a neutral party,” she said. “Because some people go to their mom to talk about these things [but] my mom is my co-founder.”
Still, Ammons would not change this for anything.
“Having my mom not only empathize but also be in this fight with me day to day – it’s really special,” she said. “It’s almost like having a twin.”
And Ammons said she hopes that the story of Mixtroz will be an example to other black women looking for their break.
“We can build excellent companies and we have great ideas,” she said. “So we have to do what we can to carve these paths so that hopefully, the generation behind me won’t have to work so hard.”