‘Startup Mixology:’ A Handy, Quick Guide On How To Be A Winning Entrepreneur

Book cover of "Startup Mixology," written by Frank Gruber. Photo credit: Ken Yeung

It goes without saying that Silicon Valley is home to thousands, if not millions, of entrepreneurs, all chomping at the bit to create the next big thing, whether it be hardware or software-based. However, being an entrepreneur is certainly easier said than done. Yes, you can begin by simply moving forward with your idea, but what if you have questions about fundraising, scaling, hiring, firing, marketing, or even shutting down the business?

Instead of scouring the Internet or attending numerous startup-focused events, the best place would be to look at a new book entitled Startup Mixology: Tech Cocktail’s Guide To Building, Growing, & Celebrating Startups written by Tech Cocktail’s Frank Gruber. After reading through it in a solid sitting, in my opinion, it’s a really great book that any entrepreneur needs to have at their bedside.

In this 238-page book, Gruber blends a mixture of his experience as a developer, entrepreneur, and media publisher along with anecdotes from numerous tech companies he’s encountered over the years to create a helpful guide so entrepreneurs can maximize their experience.

Be forewarned that this isn’t a how-to book or something even remotely equivalent to a get-rich-quick (aka how to get acquired) manifesto. Instead, it’s meant as a resource to get the ball moving in the right direction so that you, a startup founder, understand what fun adventures, and pitfalls, may lie ahead.

How to live your dream

Startup Mixology is divided into six main sections, all aimed at helping map out the main things you might need to consider as an entrepreneur:

  1. Getting started (just doing it)
  2. Understanding what your product is
  3. Hiring the right people and establishing a culture
  4. Getting others to buy into your vision through sales and marketing
  5. Fundraising
  6. Scaling your dream to be the next billion-dollar idea

Everyone has ideas, not just those in the technology industry. Whether it’s finding a way to cure cancer, developing an Internet-connected device, exploring space, teleportation, or how to make a better burger, these ideas are out there — but until anything actually happens, it’s only just words. Startup Mixology wants to turn ideas into action but wants to make sure that it’s basing its advice on reality.

In reading the book, I found that it was overly optimistic about how to build a startup. But Gruber balances it out quite periodically with sections entitled “The Harsh Reality”. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns out there and this book wants to let you know that while you should follow your dream, don’t expect it to be a cakewalk.

Like any good textbook, this one is filled with short anecdotes and examples from quite a few startups that Gruber has met during his lifetime. Readers will gain insights into the trials and tribulations surrounding the start of LivingSocial, how Blip co-founder Dina Kaplan managed to conquer her fears, the problem 37signals set out to solve, the “failure” of inDinero started by Jessica Mah, and more. These aren’t meant to highlight that being an entrepreneur is impossible, just that prudent planning and being aware of all possible scenarios are necessary.

One of the key themes in Startup Mixology is that entrepreneurs need to celebrate their wins and show their team that it’s a group effort. It also extends into the company culture, something that Gruber references Zappos in. In pursuit of a dream, you need to establish what that vision is and eventually will need to hire employees to help carry that idea to fruition.

Much of the book (directly or indirectly) centers around the idea of having a culture — the values that define what a company is on its foundation. If all of your staff believes in that culture, then it’s possible to move forward and realize that vision and solve the world’s problems. Anything short of that is a distraction.

A decade of trying to come up with the right recipe

Gruber hasn’t written Startup Mixology from out of nowhere. As a matter of fact, he’s lived it himself. In the book, he states that he’s a developer who has worked for several companies, but quickly discovered one hard-hitting truth: there is no security in working for someone else. Ever the entrepreneur, he created his first product called Splog Reporter in 2005 and is also known for the creation of ThankfulFor, and the media publication Tech Cocktail.

Much of his experience is detailed in Startup Mixology, including some of his failures in dealing with vendors/partners, hiring successes, and more. It’s not just talk from him — he bravely abandoned a “six-figure salary” at AOL to pursue his vision with his partner Jen Consalvo for Tech Cocktail. He’s traveled around the country meeting with startups both in his capacity at AOL, writing on his Somewhat Frank blog, and as editor of Tech Cocktail.

Light on the details

Much of what’s in Startup Mixology is very elementary for entrepreneurs but worthwhile to anyone who hasn’t done a startup before. Take myself, for example…I haven’t been a founder, but in the event that I did want to get started, it’s great to have this book on hand. However, it’s only the fundamentals about what life is like — if you’re looking for specific details and insights, there are probably other books you might be interested in reading.

As stated earlier, this book paints a very optimistic view of entrepreneurship. And while Gruber offers a somewhat balanced view by explaining that there are some bumpy roads ahead that you need to be aware of, reading it seems like a quick glance-over. In my opinion, it would be fascinating to get a better understanding of pitfalls and more detailed anecdotes of startup failures and other case studies. However, for a 240+ page book, it’s understandable that things can be difficult to fit in. At the very least, Startup Mixology gives you the building blocks to begin and whets your appetite to know more.

Teachable moments

In the end, Startup Mixology will show you the ingredients needed to create a successful endeavor. However, like any bartender, chef, or creator, it’s up to you to decide how much effort goes into each part to create something amazing … or not.

While there are six different sections to the book, the main teachable themes that could be discerned would be centered around real-life examples, taking action, understanding the consequences (“The Harsh Reality”), and celebrating your adventure. There aren’t any hypothetical situations in this publication, nor are there any technical details, political views, or controversial topics. It’s applicable to any industry, no matter if you’re opening up a restaurant, tech startup, small business, or a new firm to help discover the universe.

This quote seems to sum it up for me:

“Too many entrepreneurs these days are burning out, stressing out, and pretending they have no choice. Startup Mixology reminds us all to pause and celebrate the small victories – because the game is really a marathon.”

— Gary Vaynerchuk

You can purchase Startup Mixology: Tech Cocktail’s Guide To Building, Growing, & Celebrating Startup Success on Amazon today.

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