Boris is the co-founder of Mixonset, a personal DJ app that allows users to mix millions of songs from Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music.
Name: Boris But
Graduating Year: 2015
Years at CIS: 4
Current country of residence: Canada
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m Boris But from the class of 2015. I’m the co-founder and CMO of Mixonset. I went to McGill where I pursued my degrees in English Literature and International Development. After learning about microfinancing in a social innovations class, I realized the importance of sustainable business models in enacting societal changes. I jumped into the social startup world to get my entrepreneurial education: working in Hong Kong with Fair Employment Agency to eliminate debt bondage in the domestic worker system; doing an internship in Manila with Grameen Foundation to enable farmers to get weather predictions and rural communities to get low-interest microfinancing. I also worked on Swire’s sustainability team and a food-waste student startup called MealCare.
Once I graduated from McGill, I looked back at the things that brought me the most joy: creating meaningful projects and music (I’ve always loved singing – shoutout to CIS courtyard concerts and Enharmonics!). That’s what led me to cofound Mixonset alongside Zeyu Li, a music technologist and AI extraordinaire.
What inspired you to create Mixonset? What problem does the app solve?
At Mixonset, we are reimagining what music listening could sound like in 10 years. And that starts by elevating the music format from the playlist to the mix. That means embedding the curatorial aspects that DJs are experts at – into how we listen to music services like Spotify.
The Mixonset AI DJ app is like having a DJ in your pocket for Spotify and Apple Music. It literally turns any playlist into a DJ set: identifying the best parts of songs and playing just that 1-2 minute highlight, creating smooth transitions between tracks, beatmatching your song queue, even adding song recommendations into the right moments of your queue.
The problem is that people skip half of the songs they play. 500 billion songs were skipped in 2019 in the US alone. People skip songs because 1) songs are too long, 2) playlists get boring, 3) shuffle mode is too random.
Our AI DJ algorithm solves this song skipping problem by making instant music mixes that are comparable to a human DJ. As a result, people skip songs 70% less on our app compared to Spotify.
Mixonset in 20 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_D_YnBcNBc
What has the journey as an entrepreneur been like? What advice would you give to alums looking to start their own business?
At the best of times, starting a company is difficult. Mixonset also had the unfortunate timing of launching a product during a pandemic. I’ve had to learn the hard way that there’s no shortcut to building a successful product.
I used to think that creativity was the most important attribute for being an entrepreneur. But creating is easy, whereas optimizing for the long-term and getting every detail right is difficult. Company building is an arduous game. It’s essential to keep chugging along and put in the work consistently.
What has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
In the pre-COVID days, we had the opportunity to DJ for a big party when we were armed only with the buggy Mixonset beta. We were so worried that the app would glitch out or crash while playing a popular Avicii track. A miracle probably happened in this run-down college basement, when Mixonset mixed without skipping a beat for the whole 5 hours of the night and everyone had a great time. We managed to get dozens of signups, which was a big deal for us at the time.
What does the future look like for Mixonset? Any exciting developments or collaborations you can tell us about?
We want Mixonset to be everywhere. It will be integrated seamlessly into every space where we listen to music: your smart car player, your smartwatches, all your wearables.
We’re making headway into that future. We already have Spotify and Tidal connected to the Mixonset app, and we’ve recently added Apple Music to that roster of music services. We’re also excited to announce that we’ll also create a new partner integration with SoundCloud very soon.
If you had to pick one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
It’ll have to be September by Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s so universally happy and makes everyone move. It’d be the perfect song to bring upbeat vibes everywhere I go.
What do you miss most about Hong Kong?
I miss the dim sum experience and everything that it represents. Growing up I was ambivalent about having dim sum. It was just one of those things that dragged me out of bed at 10 am on a Sunday (oh the horror!). Now I miss those familiar conversations with my family, the gossip of uncles and aunties, casual chatter with friends. Perfectly made siuyuk also holds a special place in my heart.
Quickfire round: answer the first thing that comes to your mind!
- Glass half-full or half-empty? Half full!
- Favourite pizza topping: Mozzarella di bufala
- Crew-neck or v-neck t-shirts: Crew-neck.
- The last picture you took on your phone: It’s a photo of my friend’s watercolour painting. It’s of his favourite middle eastern pastry shop in Montreal called Al-Baghdadi pastry.
- Most-used emoji: The Italian pinched finger emoji 🤌
What is your favourite memory of CIS?
Hanging out with friends and eating chasiu rice at New Wan King Restaurant. Many of my formative memories were made just by talking to my friends and trying to make sense of the world around us. Not everything we said was coherent, but it was so special to have a free space where we could just exchange ideas and more often, gossip.
Best and worst subjects at CIS?
My best subject was English. My worst subject was probably Math.
You are hosting a party (playlist compiled by Mixonset, of course!). Which three CIS teachers are you inviting along, and why?
I’m going to do four invites instead of three, because each one of these teachers left a huge impression on me. CIS is full of wonderful, inspirational teachers who genuinely want the best out of their students.
Ms. Lau gets an invite here since she’s so empathetic and hilarious. The perfect example was when she showed us a YouTube clip of Conan O’Brien in class because everyone was so stressed about our IB finals.
Mrs. Parker gets an invite. I used to write poetry in highschool, and I’d stay after class to rework my writing with Mrs. Parker. Her gentle criticism and constant encouragement gave me the confidence to create things.
Ms. Yeung is a truly wonderful teacher. I was never her brightest student in Chinese class, but her maternal levels of patience really struck me, even years after highschool graduation.
I’d love to grab a drink with Mrs. Chadwick – she seems so stern at first, but she’s one of the most thoughtful and caring mentors during my time at CIS.
Learn more about Mixonset here: https://www.mixonset.com/
Download Mixonset here on the App Store: https://apps.apple.com/app/id1477282813