HEAR THE ROAR: Mixhalo has partnered with NASCAR to provide custom audio feeds through the NASCAR Tracks app. (Getty Images)

Tech firm expanding reach, says CEO John Vars

Mixhalo’s recent deal with NASCAR is the newest example of the technology company’s growth in traditional venues.

For NASCAR, as with other partners, Mixhalo will allow race fans to hear customized in-ear audio using their mobile phones and headphones or pods. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The technology augments what NASCAR already does with live audio as fans for several years have been able to hear driver and crew communications during the race. Mixhalo will work with NASCAR, the first motorsports organization to partner with the company, to deliver audio channels to fans in the stands using their own cell phones for crystal clear sound.

In the past, those channels were only available through a dedicated scanner headset accessible to fans for a rental fee. Now, the technology is available within the NASCAR Tracks application starting with select races toward the end of the 2023 season.

Mixhalo was founded in 2016 by Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger and his wife, violinist Ann Marie Simpson-Einziger and Vik Singh, who serves as Mixhalo’s chief technology officer.

Over the past seven years, Mixhalo has reached the point where business opportunities are coming without solicitation as more operators become aware of the firm’s technology and the possibilities it offers, Mixhalo CEO John Vars said. Times Square’s TSX Entertainment, for example, has partnered with Mixhalo to provide audio for a giant screen in the historic location, site of the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop.

“It was kind of a proof-of-concept for the first few years, but it really got started as more than that in 2019, but then the pandemic set us back. I’d say we’re two years into going after things without the pandemic to deal with and a product and team that’s ready for prime time,” he said.

The technology has been adopted by multiple big league team, including the Major League Soccer’s LAFC, the NHL’s Seattle Kraken and Buffalo Sabres, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, and in a concert setting for Sting’s “My Songs” residency at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

Other clients are Aerosmith, Charlie Puth, Incubus, Metallica and the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

The company’s investors include Fortress, Foundry Group, Sapphire Sport, Founders Fund, Defy Partners, Cowboy Ventures and Red Light Management.

Vars spoke to VenuesNow’s James Zoltak about the company’s gathering momentum.

Mixhalo CEO John Vars

VN: It seems you are building things out, partnership-wise, at an accelerated pace with NASCAR being the latest.

John Vars: Things have really picked up this year and NASCAR is a shining star. It’s such an iconic sport in America and in motorsports in general we think we can be super useful and provide an elevated experience.

What will be some of the cool aspects of this partnership in terms of the capabilities Mixhalo will offer to the NASCAR experience? Those tracks are loud.

The first is convenience. We are going to be available on the NASCAR Tracks app, the same app they use for ticketing. This will be right in there so it’s just a couple taps away from getting a high-quality, real-time feed that is communication among drivers, crew chiefs, spotters, officials — all that good stuff that people love that you don’t have to get another separate device. You can use your own gear with that app. What people say often about Mixhalo when they are using it at an event is that it collapses the distance between the fan and whatever is happening the concert or the sporting event or whatever. I expect the same thing.

Being integrated with partners’ software and hardware adds a true sense of permanence and seems to bode well.

It opens up a ton of scale for us. We can provide multiple channel aspects, coverage in hard-to-reach areas, people with hearing impairment and sensitivities. We can help with that, using a Mixhalo app sometimes or, as with NASCAR, integrated into their app. We don’t have much of a preference. It depends on the situation, but it’s great to be embedded in the things that fans are already doing.

How do you typically structure deals with partners? What should a venue operator who wants to incorporate Mixhalo expect?

The client is usually the venue, team, league, whoever is bringing us in. There are a lot of things that go into the pricing: how many fans they expect, how many venues, how many channels, what are the idiosyncrasies of the venue and the event. All those things go into pricing. Some customers have also structured it as more of a hybrid where they say we’ll pay this amount and then let’s bring in a sponsor to cover the rest. There are things we can do for different sponsors and making sure they get credit for bringing this amazing experience to the fans. We’re still a startup and still nimble and we can work with our partners to figure out what works for everybody.

Are clients at this stage of your firm’s life cycle reaching out or is it still a matter of getting out there and educating people about what you have to offer and what it can do for them?

In the last three or four months there’s been a sea change. We have good investors and founders. We can get to everybody, but it was a lot of our reaching out to people up until this winter when it started to flip the other way around. The name’s getting out there. Venues, teams, leagues and artists all know that it’s important to elevate these experiences as much as you can and to be inclusive in terms of bringing in multi-language content and alternate feeds and allowing people to customize what they hear. We reached a tipping point where there’s probably more inbound now than outbound. A couple years ago we’d have to kind of give it away to get people to try it and now people are coming ready to pay and they can see the value for the fans, their venue and for their team or their concert. The momentum is palpable.