“You can say fuck it and see the world, or start a business, or save the world, whatever.” These are the immortal words of legendary investor/entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Last week, Elite Daily had a chance to catch up with Mark Cuban personally.
In this rare and exclusive interview, Mark Cuban lays out everything from what it takes for a startup to be successful in today’s market to his days in college as a “beast." Without further ado, here is Mark Cuban like you have never seen him before, answering questions you yourself would ask. Just remember, you read it at Elite.
Like any entrepreneur, you always seem to be involved with several different ventures and projects at once. How do you prioritize and balance this so that you maximize each one’s probability of success?
I do everything via email. Which in turn works as my tickler file and prioritization queue. I start at the top every morning and keep on going until I’m finished. I don’t do calls. I don’t do meetings. If you want to deal with me, this is the way you do it. Working via email means that everything I do is searchable . I can go back and check out discussion threads from more than 15 years ago.
Again, always having your hands in a little bit of everything, what are the more important businesses you are involved with right now? And what should we expect to see hitting the market this year from Mark Cuban? Any stealth projects?
My two biggest projects after the Mavs are the launch of AXS TV and Naked Pizza. AXS TV will be the ESPN of music and pop culture. When you want to know what is happening in the sports world, you turn to ESPN. There is no equivalent for pop culture and music.
We will rebrand HDNet to AXS TV this fall where the tag will be ‘Live it Live!’. We will be evolving to be a network where EVERYTHING is live. Concerts, events, shows, fashion, parties, we will be there live letting you see anything unique happening across the world.
You know about Naked Pizza, thanks! (check out Elite's review of Naked Pizza). 2 stores in Manhattan… and we have 20 stores from San Diego to Dubai and plan on growing many more. And for those who don’t have a Naked Pizza store there is http://www.frozennaked.com for locations that carry the amazing frozen naked pizza. Naked Pizza is a turnaround that I just took over, so it’s a great challenge that I’m looking forward to attacking.
After AXS TV and Naked Pizza, there are about another 30 companies I am active in. The stealth project you will see much more of, particularly in NYC is Motion Loft. Stay tuned!
What were you like in college? I mean, were you as hungry then as you are now? Was it more of the typical college experience that the Average Joe has, or were you hustling away, engaged in business endeavors?
I was a beast in college. I worked hard and I played hard. I was relentless learning about business. I actually snuck into MBA classes my freshman and sophomore years. I wanted to challenge myself to see how I compared to the smartest kids at Indiana University so I was 18 and pretended I was an MBA student and registered for MBA level Stats., K501. I got an A in the class and that gave me the confidence to push forward.
The funny thing about that class is that I later saw my professor, Wayne Winston, on Jeopardy and not a month later I saw him at a Mavs game. We started talking and I ended up hiring him to be the first “MoneyBall” analyst for a team in the NBA.
As far as businesses, I was always hustling. I had to pay for my own school. I got 20 bucks every week or 2 from my dad and that was it. So I had a “whatever it took” attitude. I started promoting parties my freshman year and by my senior year, my buddy Evan Williams and I took over a bar and turned it into the hot spot on campus. At least it was until we got busted because I let all my underage friends in!
What is your take on college in 2012? Many successful entrepreneurs are skeptical of how much college actually prepares students for the real world. Would you advise an entrepreneurial-minded youth to go to college today?
I think college is an absolute. In this world you have to learn how to learn and get in the habit of always wanting to learn. Some kids have that out of high school and may be able to do the college equivalent of home schooling. Most kids can’t. So I highly recommend going to college.
That said, the question becomes which college. I don’t think you have to go to the best school. I think you have to go to the best school you can afford. The beautiful thing about being a new college graduate is that you can take chances.
You can say Fuck it and see the world, or start a business, or save the world, whatever. That is of course unless you are saddled with a ton of student loans and debt.
Nothing can kill the future dreams and goals of a new graduate than 50k of debt like an anvil over your head. I got to IU not because I visited the campus and loved everything about it. I picked IU because I saw a list of the top 10 business schools and it was the cheapest.
Kids today should go to college, but they should go to the best school they can afford to get through with minimal or no debt. In today’s world, that might mean going to a community college or an inexpensive local state school. Whatever it takes.
After all your achievements, success, and – as a result - financial comfort, what motivates you to wake up in the morning and work harder than everybody else?
To me business is a sport. I love knowing that 24x7x365xforever I’m competing with people I don’t know. To build my businesses. To come up with new ideas. To come up with better ideas. That motivates me. Business is a sport and I want to win. I want to kick your ass. I may not win every game. But I certainly am going to try.
Right now, in the midst of the second tech boom, we often see Internet startups transform into billion dollar IPO’s over the course of just a few years. Is this just a bubble that will soon burst? What do you think the next great opportunity will be that is of equal caliber to this tech boom?
The bubble is exclusive to Silicon Valley and NYC startups. The tech startup business has become so incestuous it’s more like the chain letter I made money on in college. The first guy in gets his/her money back from the last guy on the list who in turn sells to the next guy. It works until, like we saw with the Facebook IPO, someone says no.
I think the Facebook IPO could be the “no” that pushes down those valuations. It will be interesting to see what happens.
What are the hottest market, tech, or social trends that you think have the best potential for an entrepreneur to capitalize on?
Personalized Medicine. It is still early but as processor speeds and shared processors create cheap unlimited processing power we will be able to turn our bodies into a math equation that can be crossed against the properties of medicine and nature to create medicine unique to each individual.
25 years from now kids are going to think its barbaric that in the past we all took the same over the counter medicines and they all had a warning that said “its not our fault if you are the unlucky 1 in a million that dies from taking this shit." Their medicine will be output from an equation and have their name on it and be exclusively for them.
But that’s long term… Short term, since anyone with a PC, phone, broadband connection, brains, and time can create a solution to a need we are seeing an explosion in tech companies being created.
They don’t have the 100 employees we saw during the tech bubble. Back then it was brains, brawn and money. Today brains are far more important than money or connections. Everyone and anyone can create a business out of their bedroom.
When you made your first million, what was the first thing you bought or did?
A lifetime pass on American Airlines. I just sold MicroSolutions, my first big company. My goal was to travel to as many countries as possible and party with as many new people as possible. I got really, really, really good at it.
Have you had any setbacks that almost discouraged you from the risk-filled world of entrepreneurship?
Sure. So what. You can read my book to get those details.
What does the average day in the life of Mark Cuban consist of?
I get up, kiss my wife and kids. Sit in front of my computer till I go work out. Then I come home, sit in front of my computer. Then I put a frozen Naked Pizza in the microwave. When I hear the bell ring, I grab it, bring it over and eat it in front of my computer. Then I play with my kids when they come home. Then I go work out. Then I come home eat dinner. Then I sit in front of my computer until I go to bed.
Substitute Mavs games when we have a game. Really exciting, diverse life!
What was that “it” moment in your life when you realized you had finally made it, reaching a level of success that others dream of?
When we sold to Yahoo and my collar of my stock worked.
What advice can you give a young entrepreneur who is in the midst of turning a concept into a business? What are those first critical steps that need to be taken?
The idea is easy. Everyone has ideas. The first step is to learn more about your industry than anyone in the world. Otherwise there is a good chance that the lady that knows it better than you is going to kick your ass. Then you just have to go for it. No excuses. Just work your ass off.
If you had to enter any other profession or career, what would it be?
Sales. Get me selling and I can figure out the industry. Once I can figure out the industry I can start a business in that industry.
What industry would you like to have your hands in at some point in the future?
No idea. I just keep on learning and try to figure it out from there.
What is most important aspect of a company that determines its success?
Sales, which in turn is about how well you treat your customer and stay ahead of your customer’s requirements.
You have lead so many different ventures to financial success, but what endeavor was your personal favorite, closest to your heart, or “pet project”?
MicroSolutions. My first company. I worked 20 hours a day. I didn’t take a vacation for 7 years. I didn’t even take the time to read a fiction book. It was all about work. When I sold it, I promised myself I would never wear a watch and only wear a suit to weddings, funerals and to meet the President.
What was going through your head when you purchased the majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks back in 2000?
“Damn, is this really happening.” and “Oh shit, how am I going to make this work”
Ryan Babikian | Elite.