It’s no surprise that entrepreneur/Dallas Mavericks owner/"Shark Tank" breakaway star Mark Cuban’s one-on-one conversation with Mac pioneer Guy Kawasaki at SXSW was engaging and entertaining: the 55-year-old is one of those rare businessmen whose energy for making money is both infectious and organic, and this interview proved that if Mark Cuban’s faking his enthusiasm, he’s a damn fine actor.
Though marketed as a conversation, it was really an interview, with Kawasaki throwing both hardballs (he asked about Cuban being accused of -- and finally acquitted of -- insider trading; Cuban went into great detail about how he was innocent) and a series of super-softballs (“boxers or briefs?” Cuban’s answer: “Commando.”) It was at its most interesting, though, when the interview went behind the scenes of the entrepreneurial reality show "Shark Tank," and when Cuban spent time giving life advice to those starting out in the same circumstances he’d begun his career in.
For the former, Cuban came clean about some details of the show that are surprising: each season shoots over just nine days, with business owners pitching for everywhere from 25 minutes to 2.5 hours. Cuban said, as he has in the past, that nothing on the show is staged, even the competition between he and his "Shark" colleagues, whom he compared to co-workers at any other company: “When you’re sitting with them for eight to 12 hours, nine days in a row,” he said, “you’re gonna get annoyed at those guys.” For fans wondering if there are deals that fall through after the cameras shut off, the short answer is yes. “After we have a deal, we have a chance to do due diligence,” Cuban confirmed, telling the story of one wanna-be who, it was revealed, did not believe in income tax -- and thus, had never filed a tax return. “That would have come back on me,” Cuban said.
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As far as advice, Cuban talked about moving to Miami after college and working as a bartender. “[I moved there for] Fun, sun, money, and women,” he said. “I didn’t even hear the first three.” Now, he says, paying for a four-year college may not be worth it -- in fact, he recommends finding a super-cheap school for your first two years. “$50,000 is a lot of debt,” he said. “I don’t want $50,000 in debt.”
Kawasaki asked a large number of rapid-fire questions about how Cuban would advise some struggling companies if he were given the chance. He said that Microsoft would do well to “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” by investing in smaller ideas that could grow; that Blackberry should take any offer they get and “call the WhatsApp guys and see if they’re busy,” and that Nokia should, “pray that Microsoft does something good.”
He spoke about his investment in a new company called CyberDust, which is aiming to be for texts what SnapChat is for photos. “Is there any value at all in giving people that you send a text to the opportunity to save that text,” he asked, sarcastically, before talking about the business implications that could result from a number of hypotheticals in that space.
His most quotable remark, however, came early in the panel. After a series of questions about his ownership of the Mavericks, Kawasaki asked what Cuban thought about gay athletes in sports. His answer? A quick “so what?”
Kawasaki’s follow up: “What about the Congressman who wants to ban gay football players?”
Cuban: “There are fucking morons everywhere.”