The story of The Switch is not a new one to anyone who has been in the beverage industry for the past few years. The company started from relatively humble roots, raised money, and crashed to bankruptcy before a new team came in and snatched up the company’s assets. It’s hardly a rosy tale of entrepreneurial success.
But that’s what Mike Gilbert, the initial creator and a cofounder of The Switch, would have you believe about the company.
Frankly, I was rather surprised when I received an advance copy of a book called “The Switch Effect,” — especially since it carried the tag line “A Real-Life Example of How to Become an Entrepreneur.” While there are plenty of failed entrepreneurs, providing a guidebook to becoming a successful one is something that seems predicated on one having, say, a verifiable success story to back up the “real life example” one is using is probably a good idea.
Unfortunately, that isn’t The Switch story – at least not the part that involves Gilbert, the book’s author. Gilbert, who left the company in 2002, jumps all over the map, covering conceptual topics such as finding one’s inner “entrepreneurial spirit,” random technical notes, such as charts about pasteurization and the supply chain, and quick passes over topics that would be more appropriate in a B-school text book, such as raising money and angel investors. Gilbert paints the whole trip as successful, while jumping – quite inexplicably — from 2002 to the company’s sale in 2006. Given that The Switch LLC was in bankruptcy court at the time, it’s hard to imagine that too many of the seeds of success were blooming for The Switch.
Gilbert’s experience with The Switch could be an interesting story – but right now it’s more of a poorly constructed façade. The Switch is really a story of entrepreneurs who got in too deep with investors in an industry where the brand couldn’t grow at a pace that was satisfactory to those backing it. Networking, raising money, leveraging – the real question is, “What did you do wrong?” Aside from giving Gilbert credibility, these are the interesting parts that might actually help the prospective entrepreneur. However, barring a rewrite, “The Switch Effect” is left with too much filler and not enough substance, resulting in an unfortunate effort that will be interpreted as a story that doesn’t hold water or as a promotional vehicle for Gilbert. ?