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Why Booze is Good for Business: 12 Entrepreneurs Share Favorite Cocktail Stories

February 24, 2014

2:29 pm

It was at 2am on a drunken Saturday night at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that I decided to learn how weblogs worked by creating my own.  This blog would eventually be parlayed into free backpacking gear, job offers, and even a few dates (seriously).

It was after a few drinks at a Tech Cocktail San Diego that I mustered up the courage to approach Frank Gruber and ask for the opportunity to contribute a few articles to his up-and-coming tech website.  Less than two years later I would assume the role of Tech Cocktail’s director of marketing.

I was several Dos Equis deep when I verbally committed to hiking the entire Appalachian Trail (from Georgia to Maine) with a friend despite having never been on a single backpacking trip in my life.  I would later go onto write a book teaching others exactly how to accomplish this feat and creating a platform for future hikers to share their experiences.

I recognize that alcohol is not good for my health- but man has it been good for business.

“The beauty of alcohol is that it makes it easier for people to become friends. People like investing in, partnering with and writing about their friends. You clearly don’t need alcohol to make friends, but it helps set the tone.” – Ben Parr, co-founder & managing partner at DominateFund

Here at Tech Cocktail we do our best to keep you informed with all things tech, but part of what makes our events so glorious is the camaraderie built over cocktails.  So, today, let’s flip the script and bring cocktails center stage.

I reached out to handful of entrepreneurs to share their favorite stories of how alcohol has benefitted their business. Whether it was a new product idea over a glass of whiskey, a big deal closed over beers with a client, or drunkenly promising that your co-founder would get his ass tattooed with your company’s logo at a Tech Cocktail pitch event (this is an actual story, read below) – really anything where cocktails played a central role.

Their stories are below.  Cheers.

Why Booze is Good For Business: 12 Entrepreneurs Share Favorite Cocktail Stories

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Beer n’ Chat

“A giant bell dings in our co-working space at 4:30 and everyone stops working to indulge in our weekly ritual of Beer n’ Chat. Not a week goes by that I don’t meet a prospect or a helpful developer, designer or marketer over a nice hoppy pint!”

– Michael Noble, founder at Apruve

Drunken Promises, Arse Tats, and the WSJ

“At SXSW event last year I had a few drinks and ended up pitching at Tech Cocktail’s SXSW Pitch Jam. I only had a minute and knew that competition was fierce so I told the thousands in attendance that if I won my co-founder would get our logo tattoo’d on his ass the next day in downtown Austin. I won. He did. By the time we landed back in DC we were in the Wall Street Journal and ultimately got a ton of press and attention from it.”

– Danny Boice, co-founder and CTO at Speek

Cocktails to Clients

Last month while in Miami, we got our hands on some very nice Yamazaki 18yr. Japanese Scotch (I didn’t even know Japanese Scotch existed). We were able to entice the CEO of a company we are targeting to join us for a tasting. While enjoying some scotch and cigars, we turned the conversation to our budding startup and peaked enough interest to land us in front of his VP of Sales the very next day!

– Eric Rabinovitz, Co-Founder at LilyPad

Standing Ale-vation

“In 2010, when LockerDome was still amateur sports focused, we received an invitation to present to the heads of the top baseball programs in the country, at their winter meetings in Las Vegas. We were given the last slot of their multi-day meetings. Knowing that the last thing they wanted to do was listen to another vendor, we walked into the room and stated, “You gave us 30 minutes, we are going to do it in five. You already have too many handouts, so we’re not going to hand out anything. Most importantly, we know you’re all thirsty, so we brought you beer.” Over the next five minutes my colleague handed each person a beer, while I presented. We left the room to a standing ovation. Minutes later we were unanimously voted in as an official partner.”

– Gabe Lozano, co-founder and CEO at LockerDome

Drinking Your Boss Under the Table

“While searching for a COO for my latest start-up (It’S ON ME) Jon and I were at a cross roads of which of three to hire. They all had incredible resumes and pretty significant exits under their belt. But only one of them could drink both the CEO (me) and the CTO (my partner) under the table. They were all smart but if you can’t have a drink or 3 with someone at the end of the day how are you going to passionately work with them?”

– David Leibner, founder and CEO at It’s On Me

Impatience to Innovation

“The genesis of my first startup, TurboTap, came about while waiting in a long line to buy a pitcher of beer. Parlaying my first startup into Murfie, my current biz where we’re creating the future of music collecting, is another story. But, with beer and music both covered, I now have two important ingredients for a great party!”

– Matt Younkle, co-founder and CEO at Murfie

Expense All Cocktails

“The most pivotal ‘business drinking’ advice I ever received – and still think about often – was from a senior partner back in my early consulting days. As a new consultant I was not sure about the expense policy for after work cocktails. I was pleased to learn that I could charge them in when I was with a client, or even just with coworkers. Why?‘Someone you have a drink with after work is more likely to keep you in the loop at work during the day.’

Maybe that small point that he or she might not have brought up when you were just casual work acquaintances will be brought up after you have share the bond of a couple drinks together. For me personally, this has on many occasions led to intel that might have otherwise blindsided us, opportunities for new work, and subtle points that made the overall engagement better.”

– Gregory Jaros, founder & CEO at Spare To Share

It Always Starts with Girls

“You could say that our bar inventory company benefits from alcohol everyday. Of course, the irony is we’re a bunch of nerds that don’t even really drink. But this wasn’t always the case…

It all started with girls. We were at a hackathon and out of good ideas. So pursuing creativity, we decided to drink and chase bartenders. Unfortunately, they blew us off. The reason: they had to do bar inventory until 7am. Now, my friends and I aren’t exactly lady-killers, so at first we thought we were being played. How long could it really take? According to our research: hours, sometimes days. And that’s how the idea of Partender was born. We created the MVP that weekend at the hackathon.”

– Nikhil Kundra, CEO at Partender

Product Testing: Take Some Shots At It

“Cocktails always serve a core purpose at Deals Of Scale because they get your friends in the perfect state of mind for product testing. We have been known to get a handful of friends a bit boozy, and then set them free in our dev environment with a handful of tasks – create a group deal, redeem a deal, etc.

We do this because we’re all nerds. We spend so much time on the net, staring at screens, product testing each other’s startups and downloading the newest apps, that we don’t think like the average internet user. However, thinking like the average internet user is only 5 shots of Cabo Wabo away.”

Ben Illian, founder at DealsOfScale.com

Building a Business over Wine

“My co-founder and I were enjoying a bottle of wine one Friday night. After we were a few glasses in, we had decided to quit our jobs and build the company that we have today. If it weren’t for that bottle of wine…who knows where we’d be today?”

Jamie Walker, Founder at SweatGuru

Liquid Courage

“The first time I had to network professionally on behalf of my father I was 19 years old. Fortunately I have always looked older and was offered a beer. I was very nervous to do the work that I had to do, and was offered another beer. The next thing I realized I felt fairly confident. I went over and talked to the people I needed to and the next thing you know my family was building a world class automotive racing venue at our farm just South of Chicago.

Since then I have learned to summon that “courage” without drinking and have been teaching other entrepreneurs to do so!”

Jared Steffes, founder at Furywing

Skill Concocting Over Cocktails

“Whiskey is the 6th partner in Stock.  I had been working on the concept of a vertical clothing line with two partners when we were approached by two guys running a flash sale site.  They wanted to get more into the manufacturing side of the business, and we needed help on the sales and business dev side.  We had a cocktail meeting at Violet Hour in Wicker Park, hashed out the details at Big Star, and woke up the next morning hungover- but more importantly, business partners in Stock Mfg Co.”

Tim Tierney, COO at Stock Mfg. Co.

Startups Don’t Let Investors Drive Drunk

Why some angels feel comfortable listening to pitches over alcohol is beyond me, but there we were- me and my team set to follow several other applicant startups after a long afternoon networking and listening to pitches. From outside the showcase room, I heard a few snickers and it wasn’t the presenting founder making the jokes. Me and the team were preparing to pitch the world’s worst audience.

Fortunately, once we walked in we saw that there was only one angel who’d been clearly hitting the bottle a little too hard. So, towards the end of our presentation, rather than doing a mock demo of our beta iPhone/Android app, I input a real service request- for a taxi-cab. And, as luck would have it I received the call back right at the end of the presentation. So, I extended the phone to him and said, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. I’ve booked your cab”. That time the whole table burst into laughter at his expense. And, it looks like several of them will be a part of our next round of funding. It’s unclear whether or not he’ll be one of them.

– Manpreet Singh, President at Seva Call

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When Zach Davis isn't getting lost in the mountains, he is hustling from Boulder, CO as Tech Cocktail's Director of Marketing. He is the author of Appalachian Trials, a book chronicling the mindset necessary for thru-hiking all 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a feat he accomplished in 2011. Zach is a green tea enthusiast, die-hard Chicago sports fan, and avid concert-goer. Follow Zach on Twitter: @zrdavis.

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