Editor’s note: New in KC is an ongoing profile series that highlights newly relocated members of the Kansas City startup community, their reasons for a change of scenery, and what they’ve found so far in KC. Click here to read more New in KC profiles.
While most 14-year-olds are worried about starting high school and getting a ride to the movies, Tristan Mace spent his early teen years focusing his attention on building websites.
“At the time, I was on a Mac Enthusiasts forum; I posted, ‘I’ve learned to make websites, and I’d love to make some if any of you would like one,’” recalled the Texan-turned-New Yorker and new transplant to Kansas City. “A photographer from Belgium asked me to do his portfolio website — which I did for $40, and it was some of the best money I ever earned.”
After a successful website and happy client, Mace said the photographer asked him if he could make a website for his fiancé’s boss, Pichet Ong, a well-known chef in New York City.
“Through this process, I started to learn the ins and outs of making a business — everything from generating revenue to employing people,” Mace explained.
So in 2004, young Mace built a web design firm known as 11Create.
The firm was acquired by Livney+Partners in 2005, and Mace worked as its creative director.
“It was exciting, but it was also a very atypical experience for the average teenager,” Mace said of his position at the firm.
“My high school and the school district were actually both clients of the company,” he added, laughing. “So that was unique.”
Click here to connect with Tristan Mace on LinkedIn.
Wanting to understand the advertising side of the entrepreneurial world, Mace moved away from his hometown, Houston, and enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin.
But after a year at the university, Mace had a new idea for a hotel-booking site.
“I knew it was either to focus on that company full-time or focus on school full-time,” Mace said. “So, I choose to focus on the business itself.”
Want Me Get Me was a boutique hotel booking site that partnered with a couple hundred hotels across the globe, Mace said. The site was later acquired by Surface Hotels.
With successful outcomes, Mace took his business and talents to New York City for the next decade. While there, Mace finished his degree in-absentia for the University of Texas at Austin. He has since been a guest lecturer at the university.
“I’m honored each time the university’s faculty asks me to share my professional experiences and learnings with the next generation,” Mace said. “Students continue to inspire and challenge my thinking.”
In terms of industry recognition, Mace said a career highlight was co-founding the luxury travel venture, Skylark.
“I co-founded [Skylark] with a billion-dollar travel corporation called Ovation Travel Group,” he said. “We co-founded in 2013, and the company still operates today. It is backed by leading venture capital groups including Bessemer, 25Madison and Certares.”
Click here to check out Skylark’s booking site.
Stepping into advising
Mace spent about 10 years starting and leading tech startups. Toward the end of that journey, he found helping others accomplish their visions became far more gratifying than building something for himself, he said.
“I also discovered that my skill set was much better suited toward being an investor or being an advisor of these companies,” Mace added.
As CEO of parkermace — an advisory firm that focuses on advising early stage startups, investment funds and Fortune 500 companies — Mace said he has enjoyed working with entrepreneurs and executives to create whatever’s next.
Click here to learn more about parkermace.
Aside from creating and advising, Mace has served with several notable organizations, including the Council of Judges for National Geographic World Legacy Awards; the Council of Experts on behalf of the U.S. State Department for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, hosted by former-President Obama; and the Host Committee of the United Nations Travel+Social Good Global Summit.
The move to KC
Knowing that New York City was not his forever home, Mace made plans to relocate to Kansas City with his wife Jordan, who is a KC-native, and their dog, Queso.
“I fell in love with [Kansas City], its energy, the people, its creativity,” Mace said. “It reminds me a lot of what I saw in Austin 10 or 15 years ago — a vibrant, young community with a rise in technology and capital accessibility. It’s right on the cusp of becoming this new major tech ecosystem.”
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the couple’s plans to move, and they made KC their new home this past summer.
Although being in the midst of the pandemic, Mace said the community has been welcoming and helpful in getting him connected to the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. He added that he looks forward to learning about Kansas City’s recent growth and the visions of local founders.
“At the moment, I really want to connect with and learn from the people here,” Mace noted. “I’m excited to get a lay of the land and better understand the tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Mace said his hope is to be able to also give back to the KC community through sharing his own experiences and by working with others to allocate funds and resources to the city.
“I hope that I will be able to contribute in a variety of ways — with the mindset of an entrepreneur, an investor and an advisor,” Mace said. “And the largest hope I have is that I can bring in my network — which is made up of entrepreneurs, seasoned executives, venture capitalists and other investors — here into Kansas City, and help shape the narrative that people think when they hear of Kansas City.
“I want them to think of Kansas City in the vibrant, creative way that I think [KC residents] see the city.”