I’d like to tell you that he travels with an entourage, that he’s unapproachable, that you play by his rules. But I’ve never met a celebrity so honest, so unguarded, so willing to go on the record as Mark Cuban. He’s got no agenda, he’s just being him.
Maybe you know him as the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA champs. Maybe you saw him on "Dancing With The Stars". But to those paying attention, it was his huge financial victory selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo that put him on our radar…how did this happen?
I hate to tell you, but rich guys are smart. The self-made ones. Those who inherit tend to piss it away, they just don’t know about hard work. And that’s what it takes to make it and keep it.
So Mark graduates from college and moves to Indiana where he’s living in a veritable frat house, six guys, working as a bartender. So what does he do? He buys a Texas Instruments computer and learns how to program. Now let me be clear, he’s got no degree in computer science. He’s not being paid to learn. But he can see the future, and he wants to participate.
Can you see where we’re going as opposed to where we’ve been?
Are you willing to put in the hard work to get there?
Hell, I’ll be honest, I was stunned Mark Cuban knew who I was, never mind wanted a meeting with me. To shoot the shit no less, with no agenda, because he thought it would be fun… I’m just a guy sitting in front of a computer screen in my underwear, how did this happen?
Hard work and a paradigm shift. When I was printing my newsletter and sending it via snail mail, my audience was limited. But the Internet opened the world to me, and if I can just write something special enough, it’s astounding who I can reach.
There are no limits online. Everybody’s got an e-mail address. Yes, doors are closed, but you have the key in your pocket, you can open them. And it doesn’t happen by knocking. It happens by creating.
So Mark gets a gig selling software. And when he makes a $15,000 deal, with a $1500 commission, his boss fires him, for going out on a call instead of opening the store, a task he delegated to a coworker.
If you play by the rules, you’re screwed. Successful people think for themselves. They may not break the law, they may not be dishonest, but if something doesn’t make sense, they say so and take action. Because if it doesn’t make sense to them, it doesn’t make sense to a whole lot of other people…and with these other free thinkers lies your future.
So Mark went independent. Started his own firm, eventually sold out to CompuServe, owned by H&R Block, and took his two million and retired.
Oh yeah, there was one good story just after the deal went down. How he was drunk in a bar with his buddies and he called American Airlines and bought a lifetime pass for himself and a partner. He was slurring his words, but they took his $125,000.
And then he visited 11 countries and ended up in Manhattan Beach, taking acting lessons, meeting women.
But he moved after driving his Lexus down La Cienega during the riots. To Hollywood. Where the building shook so hard two years later, during the Northridge quake, that he departed back to Dallas.
And that’s where a buddy brought up the concept of listening to Indiana games, their mutual alma mater, in Texas. There came the birth of Broadcast.com, which was sold to Yahoo for in excess of five billion.
But Mark couldn’t sell his stock immediately.
So he took every dollar he had and hedged against the dot com crash. That’s twenty million in case you wanted to know. Yup, he’d grown his two into twenty, by trading technology stocks. You can’t have someone else manage your money, you’ve got to do it yourself.
And yes, the market crashed. But even though six months went by, he couldn’t cash out right away because of the tax implications. So he got into LEAPS with Goldman Sachs and…
I was stunned at the confidence. I was always taught there was someone else who knew, someone smarter, better trained. But Mark believes if he just concentrates and dedicates himself, he can play.
And speaking of playing, he bought the Mavericks. Everybody said he overpaid, but Jerry Jones called him and said no. You can’t listen to the naysayers, you’ve got to do what’s right in your heart.
And now Mark is a contrary. He doesn’t want to be where everybody else is. He’s investing all the time, in new ideas, where no one else is playing. Because big wins are about risk. Which might be why the music business is in trouble, everybody’s playing it safe.
And yes, he’s got the Gulfstream V. And yes he was on not only "Dancing With The Stars", but "Entourage". But Mark Cuban is just like you and me, a denizen of the Net, he’s hooked up, wired, he knows what’s going on.
He uses a Sidekick, on T-Mobile. Why? Because of the keyboard, he rarely surfs the Net, but he taps out responses all day long.
And he implored me to put all my e-mail in the cloud. He’s got all of his back to 1985, he uploaded it to Gmail, he demonstrated the instant access he had, the searchability.
And he’s got tens of thousands of unread e-mails.
But he spends hours combing over his incoming every day.
You get two sentences. Complain, ask for a favor and he hits delete. Deliver a straight up business proposition, he might not only respond, he might invest, Mark’s accessible.
And he went on and on about Twitter. How we all know what’s going on now. We see the highlights on the instant service. He talked about programming on HDNet, one of his companies. If they air something tweetworthy, viewership skyrockets! They had 125,000 viewers at one in the morning. Which is insane. Then again, air enough boobies and young men get titillated.
And he said although the press constantly claims young kids aren’t on Twitter, he said everybody in the African-American community was. It was where information on basketball was exchanged.
And he spoke about how every kid knows every lyric. They’ve got to know what Jay-Z and Kanye have to say about Weezy, and vice versa.
And he believes newspapers survive, in a physical format. And he reads the "New York Times" as well as the "Wall Street Journal". And he believes you can’t know everything, but you’ve got to be informed on what you sell, your brand.
And you’ve got a question and Mark’s got an answer.
Solving our nation’s economic problems? Tax the rich, but be smarter with government distributions. He’s also about tearing down vacant homes. It gives work to laborers and then when demand picks up, new homes have to be built!
As for jobs… If only people were educated. There are $100,000 gigs in Silicon Valley there for the taking, as long as you know how to code. That’s not impossible, but are you willing to put in the effort?
And we bonded over how we handle haters. Mark said he loves it, indicates he’s on the right path. And if you e-mail him three or four hundred times, he’s gonna send you a message that this e-mail address has been deleted. Just because you have access, that doesn’t mean you can abuse it.
This guy was so smart and so informed I wanted to hand him the keys to the country. Not because we agreed on everything, but because he’s got no filter. What I mean by that is he’s not concerned with what everybody else thinks, his image, but what he believes is right.
He knows the stock market cold. If you want to make money, that’s where it is.
But he laments that Wall Street is not a haven of investment, that it’s a casino, where too many smart people go to get rich. If only the tax laws were changed to incentivize investment. What if you started a company and profits were tax free for five years? Just maybe all those Ivy League grads would create companies of value instead of working for banks trying to figure out another way to beat the system.
And he would have talked all night. We went at it for two and a half hours and he proclaimed no agenda for the rest of the evening. Usually the rich and powerful are all about image, deigning to see you briefly, making you wait and ushering you out, signifying that you’re just not that important.
And I won’t say that Mark made me feel important, that’s not his personality. He’s got that always on, ADD kind of vibe. His eyes wander, his neurons are firing. But if you stimulate him, he’ll stimulate you back.
And this was the most stimulating conversation I’ve had all year.