It’s just past 8 in the morning, and about 40 founders and co-founders of $1 million-plus companies are patiently waiting on best-selling author Tucker Max to arrive at a historic mansion on Mount Bonnell that has a near-godly view of Town Lake.
The problem is that Tucker Max has no idea yet. He thinks this meeting of millionaires and founders in the Austin chapter of the worldwide Entrepreneurs’ Organization, is set for 9 p.m., when everyone might be a little tipsy after a few drinks. And while we sip coffee at the mansion, he’s at his office on Rainey Street trying to jazz up his presentation about his new venture, Book In A Box, to make it more fun for folks riding a healthy buzz — or otherwise mellowed by a long day.
So we wait. There’s no rush — we have plenty of coffee, breakfast tacos and time to chat about the epic views and hear a few stories about wild parties that happened in the double-decker pool hanging off the back of the house.
This comes as little surprise. The home is owned by Doug Guller, who owns Bikinis Sports Bar & Grill — the self-proclaimed breastaurant. Geller also bought and temporarily renamed a small Texas town Bikinis as a press stunt. But you’d never assume any such offensive antics, meeting Guller in his own kitchen at 8 a.m.
There’s all sorts of history here, Guller explains. The home was once offered to Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener for $1 a year so that he could write a definitive book on the Lone Star State — “Texas.” In fact, that’s why the gathering is at the home in the first place. What better place to have one of Austin’s most famous authors come talk about his new book-writing startup company.
And the Entrepreneurs’ Organization is a who’s who of Austin companies. It’s one of the fastest growing chapters in the world, and it helps founders (EOers) cut to the chase on major issues facing their companies that only other founders would understand, Guller said.
“There’s something in an entrepreneur’s DNA that is a little off, and I think everyone finds commonality here seeing each other,” Guller said. “So the deep dive happens almost after introductions. It gets right to the core of the real questions that others may never ask because EOers know the challenges we face.”
Among the crowd waiting around for Max is Derek Wright of New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, Brian Peters of Red Carpet Experiences, Jeff Carpenter of AcademicWorks, Chris Gober of Gober Hilgers and Chris Taylor of Square Root Inc.
Finally, Max arrives, and he’s embarrassed about the timing and pissed that he had the wrong time on his calendar. The blame lies with an assistant he recently fired. He explains how he was editing his presentation for a party setting.
“I almost got on the phone and re-fire my fucking assistant,” he said. “I was so angry. Seriously, I wanted to call him up and say ‘I know you’re fired, but you’re fucking fired again.'”
The room fills with laughter. This is the raw Tucker Max that sold millions of books about sexual encounters, booze-fueled nights and hilarious stunts. But he’s not really that guy anymore. Hasn’t been for years. He’s married and has a one-year-old boy (pictured) who he says keeps him so busy he can hardly take a shit. The parents in the room nod with parental wisdom.
‘We need not less books, but more books’
But Max isn’t here with the Austin chapter of the worldwide Entrepreneurs’ Organization to share stories about his 20s and early 30s. He’s pitching them on Book In A Box, Max’s startup that promises to help people write their book with 12 hours of interviews. The idea is relatively simple. Instead of you sitting down with your laptop and trying to be the next Hemingway, which just isn’t going to happen, Book In A Box will conduct hours of interviews that tease your story out of you and then have seasoned journalists and editors translate that into quality book prose.
But I’m a bit skeptical of Book In A Box. So I ask Max if the world really needs to facilitate more business books by CEOs.
“I would actually argue that we need not less books, but more books,” he said. “The publishing industry as a whole has been very good for about 100 years at publishing and promoting voices that appeal to rich, white, well-read people in New York City. And every other voice whether it’s black, white, rich, poor, dumb, smart has been marginalized and pushed to the side. So, saying don’t we have enough books is like saying there are no more voices that need to be heard.”
So, although Book In A Box has been growing with success stories from high-level surgeons and business leaders, Max doesn’t see the company as pigeonholed to the affluent.
In fact, he seems not to care if you use Book In A Box at all. He hands out free books that explain everything the company does down to the details. The bet here is that people will probably realize that is a lot of handwork and decide to have Book In A Box to take care of the gritty parts for them.
The company just signed its 100th client since launching about 13 months ago. They have eight full-time employees and about 40 freelancers in the rolodex, including writers with experience at the Washington Post, Penguin Books and HarperCollins Publishers. Max has bootstrapped the company, and with book plans starting at $16,000, the cash is flowing.
“There’s no reason to take venture money if you don’t need it, man,” said Max, who recently stopped his angel investing activities. “Those guys are hawks, man. Big checks don’t come for free.”
Max said being a well-known author with a bad boy reputation helps and hurts.
“It’s easy to get people to take us seriously because I have a lot of credentials. But on the other hand, it’s not like I don’t come without baggage, dude. There are a lot of people who don’t like me. We’ve had people who would have been clients and say ‘wait a minute, Tucker Max is involved in this? I’m not going to do it. I hate him.’ Or whatever.”
There’s not much to hate lately. Max’s latest book, “Mate: Become the Man Women Want,” is about how men can be better boyfriends, and he’s talked about a follow-up on how to build lasting relationships.
“I’m not a brand, I don’t see myself as a brand. But other people see me that way because we are just used to that in media. People who are famous are going to seem fake to some extent. There’s never really been two narratives for me.”
He said he has a “boring life now, boring in the best way.”
“It’s in the cool way when you have a great family,” he said. But it’s like a crazy night out for us now is like ‘oh we split a bottle of wine at Uchiko or something.’ It’s not a narrative for me, it’s just who I am.”