3 minute read
Startup Story

Mixtroz transforms corporate events—and their business model—to meet the needs of a virtual world

The founders, Ashlee Ammons and Kerry Schrader, walk along a street at sunset. 00:00

This video was filmed in 2019.

In 2015, mother-daughter duo Kerry Schrader and Ashlee Ammons had high-powered corporate jobs in Tennessee and New York, respectively. Their jobs entailed attending events meant for networking and building connections, but they often found fellow attendees glued to their phones. Most meetings, they decided, were lost opportunities. So Kerry and Ashlee founded Mixtroz, an online platform using real-time surveying to group event attendees while collecting useful data for the organizer; simply put, Mixtroz takes the work out of networking. Kerry and Ashlee’s startup journey hasn’t been easy. They were dubbed “quad outsiders” summing up just how little they fit startup stereotypes. They’re Black, female, non-technical tech startup founders in a traditionally non-tech city. While building Mixtroz, they went three years without salaries, while constantly dealing with sexism, racism, ageism—and then Kerry’s breast cancer (now in remission). But in late 2017, their luck changed. Mixtroz was then accepted to the Velocity Accelerator at the Innovation Depot in Birmingham, Alabama and received $50,000 in seed funding. In 2018, following Velocity’s demo day, they won the $100,000 prize during Steve Case’s Birmingham Rise of the Rest competition, which was, in part, supported by Google for Startups. Through each of these steps, they developed critical relationships that led to closing on $1 million in funding in 2019.

Then came COVID-19. Employers were sending workers home. Events everywhere were canceled for the foreseeable future. “Overnight, the market for our product evaporated,” says Ashlee. What happened next was less a pivot than an acceleration. A version of Mixtroz for virtual meetings had already been slated for release six months down the line. Instead, they got it to market in 45 days. “We went through periods of despair and discovery,” says Kerry. But the founders remained hopeful: Virtual events are even less conducive for peer-to-peer interactions than physical ones, so they’re right in Mixtroz’s sweet spot. Kerry and Ashlee’s bet paid off. Today, they’re working on becoming an innovation leader in building community and engagement at virtual and hybrid events.

Throughout Kerry’s and Ashlee’s journey, Google has been an underlying support system. Their success in promoting the virtual feature of the app was due to Google Ads—both display and text ads—coupled with Google Analytics. This combination of tools helps them continually refine their message and stay agile with their potential and current customers. By seeing what resonates and what doesn’t, they can make immediate changes when necessary. They also are thrilled about gaining recognition from Google for Startups. “Earning the stamp of approval from Google for Startups is invaluable as we scale,” says Ashlee.

Ashlee and Kerry have come a long way since having to wear t-shirts to tech conferences printed with “Black, Female, Founder, Fund Me” to avoid being confused with event staff. After an initial dip in 2020 due to COVID-19, Mixtroz’s revenue grew nearly 300 percent in Q2 and Q3. And organic traffic increased 700 percent over 2019. “A profound shift in the market and user behavior created a watershed moment for us,” says Ashlee. “People everywhere are looking for solutions to make our digital-first world more connected. We’re delighted that we can help with that.”

Learn more about Mixtroz