Monday, May 14, 2007

Messing with Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban bashing is tired. Not that he’s not an easy target, and nor does he need a defender (though the Mavs may): Cuban is successful, cavalier, tireless, nontraditional and outspoken. And, his team just chowdered a first-round series to an eighth seed. Ouch.

To all the stone chuckers, I have a different take: Cuban is all of the above, with a healthy dose of genuine character, charismatic wit, and insatiable curiosity. And, he’s a damn cool entrepreneur.

A few years ago I engaged Mark to speak to a group of likewise “cool” entrepreneurs, the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy. Parked at my favorite coffee shop at pre-dawn on a Sunday, I blindly blasted an email extolling the benevolence of the Academy and offering an invitation to speak at our annual Showcase event. I did not expect a reply. We had been dissed by the Kings owners (the Maloofs), and as president of the nonprofit, I was charged with finding a speaker. I was flailing.

I hit “send” at 6:56. Two minutes later, my in-box chirped with a reply from Mark (paraphrased): “I’m in, two conditions: First, no speech … I would like to do a Q&A with the students; second, I need to be at Arco (Arena) by game time.”

After rereading the email three or four times, I replied (it’s now 7:02 or so), confirmed his participation and ensured his desires would be met. And – stretching my luck and his good will – I invited him to a pre-event lunch with the students and our board. He accepted.

Over lunch, Mark could not have been more engaging. He persistently, but cordially, grilled the students about their business plans. He traded hoops small talk with the crowd. And, he delivered a 15-minute-or-so extemporaneous talk about entrepreneurship. Invaluable morsels for our emerging entrepreneurs.

(Two quick plugs: The Academy raised a few thousand dollars for Cuban’s Fallen Patriot Fund. Whether you’re pro-war or anti-war [I’m in the latter camp], it’s a terrific cause. And, we lunched at The Firehouse, hands down the best restaurant in Sacramento.)

In between breaths and bites, I asked: Why do you do this (continue to create companies)?

He paused, peeked at the ceiling, and replied: I like to “mess” with people.

So do I, I injected; how so?

I like to find situations where industries are staid or behind in their thinking, he explained. I can then immerse myself in the industry, learn as much as possible, create a company and seek to change the rules of the game.

The cynic may rebut: Yeah, it’s a helluva lot easier when you have a billion bucks in the bank. True, but not relevant: His fascination was the game of entrepreneurship, his advantage was his ability to identify opportunities and market inequities (a problem finder first, problem solver second), and his route-to-market was knowledge absorption and critical execution. Money helps, but it does not culture creativity or foster hard work.

Mark Cuban has plenty to do. He did not have to spend four mid-week hours with an unknown group of entrepreneurs. But he did, and he’ll continue to creatively “mess” with people and industries (check out HDNet and 2929 Entertainment for two examples) as the rock tossing continues.

++++++++
Post-script (29 Feb 08): Great post from Cuban, The Best Equity is Sweat Equity (read it; it's worthy). He wraps:

The reality is that for most businesses, they don't need more cash, they need more brains.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey,

Do you guys watch movies in theater or on internet? I use to rent DVD movies from [b]Netflix.com[/b]. Recently I discovered that we can watch all new movies on internet on day, they are released. So why should I spend money on renting movies??? So, can you guys please tell me where I can [url=http://www.watchhotmoviesfree.com]watch latest movie Fright Night 2010[/url] for free?? I have searched [url=http://www.watchhotmoviesfree.com]Youtube.com[/url], [url=http://www.watchhotmoviesfree.com]Dailymotion.com[/url], [url=http://www.watchhotmoviesfree.com]Megavideo.com[/url] but, Could not find a good working link. If you know any working link please share it with me.


Thanks