Business, Interviews

Interview with a maverick: Meet Mark Cuban

BSN* Eyal Akler & Mark Cuban in NYC 2010Mark Cuban is a self-made billionaire and an assiduous, yet casual [dressed] businessman. He got his start like many American entrepreneurs, cultivating small businesses and growing his net worth through taking chances, working hard and by embracing technology. 

In-fact he is one of my role models because he represents the beginnings that I relate to and the success that many of us aspire for. He is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, a team that has done a 180-degree turn [for the better] since he bought them in January 2000. He is also chairman of HDNet, a cable TV channel that features only HD content, co-owner of 2929 Entertainment and he is involved in a number of other ventures. Mark maintains a blog called "blog maverick" in which he gives advice about life, business, technology and the internet. 

I caught up with Mark in New York City last week at an AlwaysOn event called OnMedia NYC where he gave a keynote speech and sat on a panel that discussed monetization strategies that will save news publishers on the internet. Mark has some valuable advice for us. Here?s the interview:

BSN*: Mark, in your keynote [and your blog] you spoke about companies like Google being like blood-sucking vampires [content aggregators] and the news/content providers as victims who get their blood sucked and turn into lifeless zombies [commodities]. Basically your advice to us [BSN* and other news publishers] is to demand that Google compensate us for the content we provide or we should turn off Google. Perhaps larger, more established companies like The New York Times or CNN might have some leverage over the likes of Google but certainly not the smaller or newer companies. You seemed pretty adamant and passionate about this advice. Are you prepared to lead a group of [news and content] companies to band together and ameliorate the way Google [and other aggregators] treats third-party news/content providers? Or can you advise us on how to take on such a giant vampire with multiple heads that grow back when you cut them off? [no offense Google, eaaaaasy boy!]

MC: If I wanted to be in that business I would already be there. While their relationship with Google is important, it is not the most important issue they need to address, which is their balance sheet and profitability.

BSN*: Mark, last year you came up with your own "Mark Cuban Stimulus Plan" and offered to potentially fund any ideas your feel might become "the next big thing" but this came with a caveat. The business plan or idea must be posted on your blog for the public to see. You refer to this as "open source funding environment." Your belief is that if the idea is worth funding you want it replicated elsewhere. I can certainly see that this might help the economy as opposed to just one idea-holder but I can also imagine that someone who comes up with a really great idea will not want to share it. In-fact people and companies go to great lengths to protect their ideas and methods with patents and copyrights of all sorts. I also noticed that quite a few ideas have been posted and linked to your blog. Have you actually found any of these worthy of your funding and attention?

MC: I invested in Naked Pizza, Wickler and continue to talk to some others. Both Naked Pizza and Wickler are doing well since the investments.

BSN*: You recently blogged about what you refer to as "The Sport of Business," an inspiring post that I personally loved. You talk about the difference being that in a sport you know your opponent and when the game will end but in the sport of business you can be blind to all of that. There can be countless opponents trying to beat you and they are basically at it 24x7x365xforever. As with basketball and life you cannot always win. You love the sport of business, the "fire of it" but what do you do to stay positive when a competitor deals you a loss and how do you stay ahead of the competition time after time?

MC: That?s part of the game, it happens to all of us. Fortunately no one remembers your failures, just your successes.

BSN*: HDNet is the first TV channel to bring us all HD programming 24/7. Now that there all this talk about 3D TV being the next wave in home entertainment are you considering another first, perhaps 3DNet?

MC: No. 3D will have a place and will be widely available. But people won?t ever watch 3D exclusively.

BSN*: As a billionaire you can pretty much afford whatever gadget or piece of gizmotech-geekery you want. What gadget or tech toy do you have [or are getting] that the rest of us can only dream we had?

MC: Nothing really. I play with and buy the same gadgets as everyone else. I?m looking forward to the iPad and all the new mobile tech that is coming out, like everyone else is.

BSN*: What are your 3 favorite gadgets and what is the one device you cannot live without?

MC: My big screen TV, my Slingbox and Slingbox software on my iTouch and my Sidekick phone.

Thank you Mark.