When you meet Frank Gruber and Jen Consalvo of Tech Cocktail, there are a few things you can count on. Frank is liable to meet you with a hearty “ni hao,” a spirited “ahoj,” or another salutation from one of the many languages that he wryly claims to have “mastered.” And if you return Frank’s eager greetings from another world with a blank stare, Jen will slip into her role as Frank’s consigliere from this world and endearingly explain his quirky sense of humor.
Jen is warm and well-spoken, kindly looping in everyone eager to feel included in a conversation. Frank is witty and charming, misleading his audience with a deft aloofness. And they are both whole-heartedly committed to strengthening and expanding the community of tech entrepreneurs to whom they have dedicated their professional lives.
I like to also say of the duo: They are Jesse and Leslie on our best day. Big hearts, boundless energy and amazing community spirit — not to mention the follow through and fortitude needed to survive the ups and downs of starting a company… and running it with your significant other.
Their personalities and their commitment shone through at this year’s Startup Mixology conference, hosted by Tech Cocktail at Washington, D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre. Not only were speakers, including little ol’ me, well-equipped with practical advice, laughs and lessons, but the event was permeated by a sense of community among DC’s techy entrepreneurs.
Among those emphasizing the importance of relationships was Alexis Juneja, co-founder of Curbed, who tutored attendees on rainmaking. She explained business development with the metaphor of dating, urging entrepreneurs to go out and meet people, ask thoughtful questions, buy dinner, and — not to be forgotten — celebrate anniversaries and landmarks. I am so glad that Alexis moved to DC, having cut her teeth in the startup and finance world of NYC. We all have much to learn from her.
Alexis was not the only speaker following her advice to “be compelling” and building a strong rapport with those around her. Travis Kalanick, CEO and co-founder of Uber, cracked himself and the audience up with an image-montage comparing the ups and downs of his entrepreneurial life to piracy, sheparding, and jazz improvisation. Travis regaled the crowd with tales of remarkable successes and crushing failures, lending everyone a sense of unity in their experiences as tinkerers, gamblers and hustlers.
If the goal of this event was to provide local entrepreneurs an entertaining series of practical tips and tales against a back-drop of community, it was a remarkable success. In addition to assembling talented speakers like Travis, Alexis, moi and many others, Frank and Jen deserve kudos for lending their own vibrant personalities and sense that we’re all in this together to the hundreds of entrepreneurs who congregated for Startup Mixology.
At JESS3, we are pleased to have participated in the event and excited to share the infographic atop this post. Not only does it celebrate Startup Mixology’s remarkable success and speakers, but also provides a prescriptive recipe to all those setting out to blend the right mix of ingredients for their company, products, clients and team.
Huge thanks and shout out to our talented reporter-cum-strategist Chris Cassidy for helping me capture the energy and insights from the event.