Tag: Longhorn Startup Demo Day

13 Longhorn Startups Pitch at Demo Day

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

The team behind Cerebri, a customer service app using IBM Watson technology

The team behind Cerebri, a customer service app using IBM Watson technology

Cerebri perfected its pitch, built its network and solidified its business plan during Longhorn Startup, said Bri Connelly, its CEO.

The original team behind Cerebri won the inaugural IBM Watson University Competition in January. They received $100,000 and are working with the United Way Texas to develop a 2-1-1 social services app. But the company sees broader applications for the Watson technology in the call service industry.

“We applied to the Longhorn Startup Lab the day after we won,” Connelly said.

Connelly didn’t plan to launch a company and become an entrepreneur when she graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. But that’s exactly what the senior majoring in computer science is going to do. She’s hoping to join the Capital Factory Accelerator this summer and a team of three full time employees will work on the project.

Bri Connelly pitching Cerebri at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Bri Connelly pitching Cerebri at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Cerebri was one of 13 startups that pitched their ventures at Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium Thursday night as part of the Longhorn Startup Demo Day. The Longhorn Startup Lab, which kicked off in 2011, has held eight Demo Days so far. Bob Metcalfe, professor of Innovation at UT, Ben Dyer, Entrepreneur in Residence and Joshua Bear, founder of Capital Factory, teach the class. Mentors also help the students market themselves, prepare business plans, perfect their pitches and seek partnerships and financing.

Cerebri has already signed a commercial partnership agreement with IBM and Connelly is speaking at the World of Watson in New York next week.

Pam Valdes, an engineering exchange student from Mexico, launched Beek, a social network for book lovers in Latin America.

Pam Valdes, an engineering exchange student from Mexico, launched Beek, a social network for book lovers in Latin America.

Pame Valdes, an engineering exchange student from Mexico, signed up for Longhorn Startup Lab to launch Beek.io, a social network for book lovers in Latin America. The bootstrapped company just launched its alpha version and has a Facebook fan page with more than 23,000 followers. Its goal is to have 100,000 active users by October and then to seek funding, Valdes said.

“The program has been amazing,” Valdes said. “Bob Metcalfe, Josh Baer and Ben Dyer have been great. And the mentors have been great too.”

Mentors like Damon Clinkscales helped Valdes to get her minimal viable product out.

“The best advice was to get the main features out,” Valdes said.

Another exchange student, Lukasz Pietrasik, a junior studying mechanical engineering from Poland, founded Sensus, a company that makes a variety of sensors that communicate with a mobile phone app for K-12 Science Technology Engineering and Math experiments.

“The students want to see what’s happening,” Pietrasik.

His sensors measure things such as acceleration and can provide data to the app in real time.

“We wanted to make something to help schools,” Pietrasik.

The app isn’t yet available. Pietrasik is testing it now and plans to have a product on market by next summer.

“The program helped me a lot,” Pietrasik said. “I had no idea how to write a business plan.”

Four of the startups focused on the restaurant industry. They included Tastebud, a restaurant deal app, Who’s Hungry, a social network app that gathers friends to find a place to eat, Entrée, a software system to streamline the restaurant sales process and FreeBee, a rewards system. FreeBee’s founder actually announced on stage that the startup would not continue with its idea because of all the competition.

Several of the startups had taken the class before and those companies included
Grey Matter Technologies, which is developing G-FORCE, a mouth guard with sensors that communicate with a smartphone to alerts the athlete when they have been hit hard enough to have a concussion. HapBack is a matchmaking service for events to find sponsors. Prepify makes apps that help students study for the SAT. And Lyte Labs is making a ring to monitor glucose levels for diabetics.

Other startups included Retell, a software platform for property managers and MyCoachLive, an online service that matches provides people with life coaching sessions online.

The Latest Crop of Startups from Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Vaibhav Gupta and Ray Xu, two of the founder of Lyte Labs at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Vaibhav Gupta and Ray Xu, two of the founder of Lyte Labs at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

From a ring that monitors glucose levels for diabetics to a mouth guard which tracks concussions in athletes, twelve student-run startups showcased their innovative ideas at the 7th Longhorn Startup Demo Day.

The event held at the Lady Bird Johnson auditorium at the University of Texas at Austin Thursday drew several hundred spectators including students, mentors, investors and entrepreneurs. The evening kicked off with five-minute presentations from the startups followed by Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT, interviewing Brian Sharples, co-founder and CEO of HomeAway, the world’s largest vacation rental home company.

“Our companies get better every year, but why are they getting better every year? They are different people every year, but they are getting better and better and it’s fun to watch,” said Metcalfe, one of the program’s instructors.

This semester’s trends included medical devices, mobile applications and several companies with products geared to meet the needs of students. Some already had revenue and customers.

“The entrepreneurs coming into our class and coming into Capital Factory are just so much more mature. They are just so much further along. They don’t make stupid mistakes,” said Joshua Baer, Longhorn Startup instructor and executive director of Capital Factory. “They know more coming into it.”

Ben Dyer, serial entrepreneur and Longhorn Startup instructor, agreed.

“They just continue to get more polished and have more interesting plans,” Dyer said. Some of the startups have been in the class the previous semester like Everywhere Energy, which makes a cell phone battery charger, and Noki, formerly known as Air Type, creator of a virtual keyboard, and they have that advantage, he said.

“Everybody who presented was incredibly polished,” Sharples said…”The ideas were fantastic.”

Sharples wanted to know more about several of the startups and he was interested in investing in a few. He said experience helps the startups execute the ideas more effectively and he encouraged them to think big and partner with people who do have more experience.

The biomedical device startups included Lyte Labs and Gray Matter Technologies.

Gray Matter Technologies at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Gray Matter Technologies at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

With all the news about the dangers of concussions for athletes, the team of engineers behind Gray Matter Technologies came up with a solution. They developed G-Force, a smart mouth guard to diagnose and track a concussion.

The team developed a microchip to fit into a mouth guard. It is currently working to solve the battery problem, said Tanner Avery, a senior studying mechanical engineering and the company’s CEO. The device would sell for $99 and allow users to collect data on any kind of head impact in any sport, he said. The device will be targeted to young athletes and their parents. It can track and store data in the cloud over an athletes’ lifetime to monitor injuries.

Mark Johnson, also a senior studying mechanical engineering, pitched Gray Matter’s technology on stage. The other founders include Frank Cerasoli, a senior majoring in computer science and physics and Steve Franklin, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering.

“Inside a G-Force mouth guard, you’ll find the same technology inside an Apple I-Watch,” Johnson said. The founders have bootstrapped the company for the past six months and invested their own money to create a prototype. Now it’s looking for its first round of seed funding to beta test the mouth guard, Johnson said. They also have a patent pending on the device.

“Head injuries are always going to be a part of sports and if we can’t prevent them we should do everything we can for the players who suffer them,” Johnson said. “Part of that is taking an injured player and removing them from the game so they don’t continue to get hurt.”

Lyte Labs at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Lyte Labs at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Lyte Labs makes a smart ring that monitors glucose levels in people with diabetes via a smart phone. The company eventually seeks to replace glucose test strips with its non-invasive technology.

Lyte Labs’ hardware uses near-infrared spectroscopy for detecting glucose levels in the blood, said Viabhav Gupta, a senior majoring in electrical engineering and computer science. Its software will collect data from the device on glucose levels, he said. The team is made up of six other students. They are hoping to have the device on the market by 2017.

Noki at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Noki at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Other engineering projects included Noki, previously known as Air Type, which has created an invisible keyboard for an iPad or other tablet. Its technology involves wearable hand devices that reads finger movements and hand gestures and allows users to type on any surface.

Everywhere Energy created a shoe sole insert called Eversole that generates energy that can charge a mobile phone. Its tag line is “be your own battery.”

Other startups tackled problems students and student organizations face on campus.

Hapback developed an event sponsorship marketplace to connect small to medium events with sponsors, said William Labanowski, a business honors and computer science double major and a senior. The site is focused on Austin for now with plans to expand nationwide.

Hapback has already found sponsorships, ranging from $1,000 to $7,500, for different events at the UT campus, Labanowski said.

In an interview following the presentations, he said the class helped Hapback immensely by connecting them seasoned mentors.

Damon Clinkscales volunteered to mentor Hapback and met with them once a week. He worked with them on the technology behind the website built with Ruby on Rails.

“I think it has great potential,” Clinkscales said. “On both sides of the equation, you have two parties that need help.”

The team behind Choreo.io at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

The team behind Choreo.io at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Choreo created a mobile app and website for dancers to manage their dance life. It seeks to foster a nationwide community where dancers can collaborate and share information.

“Existing technology does not work for dancers,” said Bri Connelly, a senior in computer science and a competitive dancer.

Choreo’s online centralized community allows dancers to search for videos and tutorials on various dance routines and genres and to plan and promote events in one place.

The other startups included:

Tastebud – a mobile app that partners with 30 Austin eateries to provide discounts to diners on meals served during off peak hours.

GamePlan– Jeremy Hintz pitched a mobile phone event planning app that let students and alumni at the University of Texas schedule events surrounding UT football games.

Texas Custom Apparel – T-shirts for students designed by students.

OnePay – an online bill payment and money management site targeted at university students.

Study Huddle – a collaborative peer-to-peer app that helps college students improve grades by connecting with one another on homework, projects and other assignments outside of class.

Greek Link – an app that connects students who belong to fraternities and sororities on college campuses nationwide.

Greek Link at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Greek Link at Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Tips on Pitching Billionaire Mark Cuban

Founder of Silicon Hills News

At Longhorn Startup Demo Day last week, Bob Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, co-founder of 3Com and professor of innovation at UT, interviewed Billionaire Mark Cuban, co-founder of Broadcast.com and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban also stars on the popular TV show Shark Tank on ABC. This is some of the advice he gave on pitching him.

1. Know Your History. “The biggest error I see in startups that pitch to me is no sense of history” – Not everything is in Google. Companies fail and their servers are no longer online, Cuban said. He gets pitched from entrepreneurs who do not know that their idea has been tried before and failed. He suggests entrepreneurs put their idea in search engines with the word “fail” after it and see what comes up. He also suggests they talk to people who have been around and find out what they know and dig deeper than Google to find out as much information as possible. Cuban said it’s OK if you pitch a deal that has failed before, but just make sure you don’t make the same mistakes and you know how to make it work.

2. Know Your Product and Market Better Than Anyone Else. Cuban looks for “someone who knows their industry cold. Knows their product cold.”

IMG_21323. What’s Special About Your Startup? “I always look to see what’s the special sauce,” Cuban said. They have to have something that differentiates them from everyone else. They need a “special sauce” that sets them apart from the competition. Superlatives don’t benefit the entrepreneur, Cuban said. Anything that ends in “er” or “est” like cheaper, fastest, better – are big red flags because the competition isn’t going to go away, Cuban said. They’ll just improve on their product. “I try to find entrepreneurs that aren’t lying to themselves and that’s very difficult.”

4. Don’t Ask for too Much. He doesn’t invest in deals that require $300 million in venture capital to succeed. His shares get diluted and the founders spend too much time just looking for capital.

5. Work Hard. He likes pitches from hard-working entrepreneurs. “You’ve got to grind, grind and grind” says Cuban. Entrepreneurs only fail because of lack of effort and brains.

IMG_21396. Don’t be a Copy Cat. Everyone thinks the Internet is new. But bits are bits, Cuban said. The servers that YouTube uses are no different than the servers that Comcast uses. If 10,000 people are distributing something on YouTube, why do you want to be 10,001, he said. I try to look where people aren’t looking. I try to look where people think it’s archaic or wrong, he said. That’s why he put his movies made for Magnolia, his production company, on video on demand. For example, he thinks video on demand is growing much faster than Internet viewing of video. It’s going to grow even faster as the satellite and cable companies get their user interface perfected, Cuban said.

7. What’s the best way to pitch him? Send him an email to mcuban@gmail.com. He will at least glance through the first paragraph of them all. He is very quick on the delete button. But he has invested $10 million in companies he discovered through email and at least $6 million of that are entrepreneurs he has never met.

8. Don’t pitch him directly, if you want to be on Shark Tank. If he knows anything about the financial elements of your company, he has to recuse himself from the deal on Shark Tank.

Fourteen Startups Pitch at UT Longhorn Startup Demo Day

Mark Cuban with the Longhorn Startup team of Pinecone

Mark Cuban with the Longhorn Startup team of Pinecone

Founder of Silicon Hills News

The fifth Longhorn Startup Demo Day at the University of Texas drew the largest crowd ever.
Close to 1,000 people registered to attend the event and most of them showed up despite the cold front and blustery weather that blew into Austin on Thursday.
The evening featured two accomplished entrepreneurs, Cotter Cunningham, founder of RetailMeNot and Mark Cuban, co-founder of Broadcast.com. The evening also spotlighted pitches from 14 student run startups.
Cunningham with RetailMeNot.com, the world’s largest online coupon site, kicked off the evening with a talk about his entrepreneurial hits and misses and lessons he has learned.
At 46, Cunningham left his job as COO of Bankrate in Palm Beach and founded Divorce360.com. He invested $1 million and raised another $1 million from Austin Ventures. The site failed but Cunningham learned from the experience. He founded a new company in Austin, which came to be known as RetailMeNot.
Following Cunningham’s talk, 14 undergraduate teams pitched their ventures.
This class had the most diversity of any Longhorn Startup class, said Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT and one of the instructors. It featured a hardware startup – a 3D Printing service: Sinigma, a medical device maker: Austin Thermal, a battery charger embedded in a shoe: Everywhere Energy, mobile apps and some websites, he said.
“What always amazes me is how much the presentations improve in the last two days,” Metcalfe said. “It has happened all five times.”
“We had lots of great companies,” said Joshua Baer, instructor with Longhorn Startup, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Capital Factory.
Baer and Metcalfe teach the class along with Ben Dyer, founder of Peachtree Software and now Entrepreneur in Residence at UT. Dozens of mentors in the Austin startup community also volunteer to help the students.
This time, the pitches featured four biomedical companies and a partnership with the Texas Medical Accelerator, Baer said.

Mark Cuban with the MicroMulsion team

Mark Cuban with the MicroMulsion team

The students gave great pitches, which impressed Cuban, who said he would consider investing in half of them.
Baer had a favorite too. He liked MSpaces, a hospitality startup that signs long term leases for apartments in Austin in desirable locations. Then MSpaces furnishes them with second-hand furniture and local artwork, and then posts them on AirBnB as short-term corporate and vacation rentals.
Hunter Monk, the company’s founder, said it’s seeking to be like “Uber for AirBnB.” He rents the apartments out at competitive rates from $60 to $139. His apartments generate $10,000 in revenue monthly and $3,600 in profits, Monk said. He’s essentially running a hotel business without having to own any brick and mortar buildings.
Another company, Suit of Clubs, a management platform for student organizations, has merged with InterviewStreet, a Y-Combinator company, said Siya Raj Purohit, its founder. She has taken the class twice. She graduates Friday with a double major in computer engineering and economics. She plans to work with InterviewStreet for a few months and then she’ll join Udacity, an education and technology startup based in Mountain View.
“I have always liked business,” Purohit said. “But this class solidified that. This class has had the greatest impact on my educational experience here. “
Siya Raj Purohit, founder of Suit of Clubs

Siya Raj Purohit, founder of Suit of Clubs

The best part was learning directly from successful entrepreneurs, she said.
“Every week we got to hear from a different entrepreneur,” she said. The professors, Metcalfe, Baer and Dyer, also shared their experiences and provided excellent advice, she said.
The team behind BluSense, an networking app that maps attendees at a convention, also took the class last semester. The startups can take the class again to further develop their ideas, which often results in a pivot or change of course. Last semester, Forrest Dukes with BluSense pitched a wristband with built-in sensors to allow people to network at conferences. Now the device is an app.
Following the event, Cuban visited with many of the startups. He stayed until after 11 p.m. to give them advice. He also took pictures with each team. And he even met the team behind The Zebra, a car insurance aggregation site, which Cuban has invested in but he had not met the team until Thursday night.
In a brief interview, he praised programs like Longhorn Startup and said that anytime startups can get advice from experienced entrepreneurs it’s a good program.
Asked about his failures, Cuban said he had a lot. He tried to market powdered milk. He ran a bar, which went out of business in college.
When asked if Dancing with the Stars was a failure, Cuban said absolutely not.
“That’s hard work,” he said.
Cuban and his professional dancing partner, Kym Johnson, got eliminated from Dancing with the Stars during its fifth season in 2007. Cuban, who is highly competitive, did not like to lose.
The Austin Thermal team of Zi-on Cheung, Ashvin Bashyam and Emmanuel Nunez (photo courtesy of Austin Thermal)

The Austin Thermal team of Zi-on Cheung, Ashvin Bashyam and Emmanuel Nunez (photo courtesy of Austin Thermal)

Following the pitches at Longhorn Startup Demo Day, one of the first startups Cuban spoke with was the three-person medical device team of Austin Thermal made up of Ashvin Bashyam, Emmanuel Nunez and Zi-on Cheung. They created Hot IV, a medical device that warms intravenous fluid before it is injected it into the body. Hot IV is targeted at hypothermia recovery and prevention, Bashyam said. Their initial market is trauma victims and the military, he said. They already have a working alpha prototype, intellectual property, and Food and Drug Administration clearance on a previous version of the device. Cuban liked the idea and told them to email him.
Cuban also met with MicroMulsion, which is creating micro gels for cell cultures. The product has lots of applications in biomedical research, said Anirudh Sharma, one of the four-team members. They all wore white lab coats.
“He wants to give us money,” Sharma said. “We weren’t expecting this. We don’t even have business cards.”
The company, like a few others, doesn’t even have a website yet.
Cuban spent a lot of time answering questions from the Pinecone team. They developed project management software for onboarding new employees.
“It’s a good idea,” Cuban said. “But you’ve got to find that sweet spot.”
One member of the team asked Cuban if he had heard of other startups with the same idea.
“I don’t know of any but I haven’t researched it,” he said.
Selling the product to small businesses to integrate their applications is a huge market but it’s a grind, Cuban said.

The other startups pitching included:

Everywhere Energy – a battery charger embedded in the sole of a shoe – sole charger that can provide up to two hours of charging energy for a cell phone or other device.

Sinigma – a 3-D printing service that can print in five different colors targeted at consumers.

UpNext – a mobile app to replace pagers in restaurants. The idea is to give the user more flexibility on long waits.

Basedrive – onsite data storage for businesses.

Recommenu – a mobile app that provides restaurants with feedback on their food.

SocialToast – a mobile app to help people find their friends at bars.

Aurality Studios – a software program for disabled people to interact with everyday technologies.

DayOf – a mobile app that curates daily events.

Billionaire Mark Cuban likes to “Party Like a Rock Star” and Invest in Startups

Josh Baer, Bob Metcalfe, instructors with Longhorn Startup and Mark Cuban

Josh Baer, Bob Metcalfe, instructors with Longhorn Startup and Mark Cuban

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Since selling Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999, Billionaire Mark Cuban has invested in 80 startups.
But his entrepreneurial ventures began as a kid growing up in Pittsburgh.
“As long as I can remember I was an entrepreneur,” Cuban said.
At the age of nine and ten, Cuban packaged baseball cards and sold them to his friends.
At 12, he wanted new basketball shoes. His dad told him that his tennis shoes were just fine and when he had a job he could buy any kind of shoes he wanted. A family friend had some garbage bags he wanted to get rid of and offered them to Cuban. So Cuban sold them door-to-door to earn enough money to buy the basketball shoes.
Cuban recounted the story Thursday night before a packed audience of more than 800 people at the University of Texas Longhorn Startup’s Demo Day. The semester-long course for undergraduates at UT aims to teach them entrepreneurial skills and how to found a startup. One of its instructors, Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at UT, Ethernet inventor and co-founder of 3Com, interviewed Cuban at the Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium following pitches by 14 student-run startups.
During the hour-long talk, Cuban provided insights into his entrepreneurial journey and lessons learned along the way.
Early on, if it wasn’t garbage bags, it would have been something else, Cuban said.
At 16, Cuban’s mom introduced him to stamp collecting. He consumed information about stamps. At stamp shows, Cuban would buy a stamp from one dealer for 50 cents and walk down to the other side of the show and sell it for $50. Selling stamps helped him pay for school.

Cuban’s College Years

He left Mt. Lebanon High School early because he couldn’t take business classes. He went to the University of Pittsburgh and took classes. He earned enough credits to finish high school. He ended up transferring to the Kelley School of Business. He researched and discovered it was one of the top ten business schools in the country and it had the lowest tuition. At Indiana University in Bloomington, Cuban earned his undergraduate degree in business. He also did a year and a half of his MBA.
“I wanted to take all the hardest classes that I could my freshman and sophomore years and I promised myself I wouldn’t drink and then my junior and senior years when I was 21 I would take all the easy classes and party like a maniac,” Cuban said. “And that’s what I did.”
He also ran a bar in college, which went out of business.
After he left college, Cuban worked for nine months for Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh. He learned how to program there in Fortran. But he didn’t like banking much so he moved to Dallas.

Moving to Dallas

When Metcalfe asked him why, Cuban said “For fun, sun, money and women.”
He had friends who moved to Dallas. He liked the tropical climate. He lived in the village with six guys in a three-bedroom apartment and he slept on the floor.
“I loved every minute of it,” Cuban said.
He worked as a bartender at night. He bought a Texas Instruments 99/4A computer and taught himself to program. He really liked it. Then he got a job at Your Business Software, a retail store, selling Peachtree software and different applications. He did that for nine months and then he got fired. That’s when he started his own PC and software consulting business called MicroSolutions. They set up PCs and software for businesses and set up local area networks.

The crowd clamoring to get a picture with Mark Cuban and Bob Metcalfe at the end of Longhorn Startup Demo Day

The crowd clamoring to get a picture with Mark Cuban and Bob Metcalfe at the end of Longhorn Startup Demo Day

At the same time Cuban ran MicroSolutions, a kid in Austin was launching a PC business, Metcalfe said. He asked Cuban if he ever ran into him.
That prompted Cuban to talk about the importance of history in understanding the world today.
“One of the things kids are missing today is a sense of history,” Cuban said. They Google something and if it doesn’t come up in Google, it didn’t happen. But there’s a ton of stuff that isn’t in Google, Cuban said. What kids don’t know is if the companies went out of business, their servers aren’t online anymore and they can’t find out about them. Entrepreneurs need to dig deeper to find information on people who have tried an idea and failed at it so they don’t repeat those same mistakes, he said.
Yet one of the most brilliant things Cuban learned from was this kid in Austin who would post the price of generic computer parts in PC Week Magazine. Cuban drove down to Austin and bought a bunch of computer parts directly from him. When he got back to Dallas, Cuban wrote him a letter.
“Michael, if you keep this up, things will go really well for you,” Cuban said. That kid, of course, was Billionaire Michael Dell. Today, they still crack up about it, Cuban said.
“How did you decide to sell your company to CompuServe?” Metcalfe asked.
“They offered, and I said yes,” Cuban said.
He wanted to retire by the time he was 35. MicroSolutions had $30 million a year in revenue and was very profitable, Cuban said. He sold the company to CompuServe for $6 million. After that he worked for them for a little bit. But then he got a lifetime pass on American Airlines, he retired and “partied like a rock star.”

The founding of AudioNet, later to be renamed Broadcast.com

Cuban and his friend Todd Wagner started AudioNet so they could listen to Indiana basketball games on the Internet. They started the company in the second bedroom of Cuban’s house.
Cuban had a $39 Video Cassette Recorder that recorded for eight hours. He would record radio stations and then import that programming into his computer and eventually post it to the Internet. They had 600 to 700 radio stations that they would post online. The company had tens of thousands of hours of audio content online and more than one million visitors daily coming to the site to listen to it.
Cuban and Wagner started AudioNet in 1995, the same year that Netscape went public. They sold it four years later to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock.
In 2000, Cuban spent $285 million of his fortune to buy the Dallas Mavericks National Basketball Association team from Ross Perot Jr.
Cuban always loved basketball. He didn’t play in high school though. He said he was five foot eight and weighed 240 pounds in high school. Today, he’s six foot three and weighs 205 pounds.
The Mavs are a different type of entity, Cuban said. The team is unlike any business he has ever run. Even though he writes the checks, the team belongs to the community, he said. In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks became NBA champions. To turn the team around, Cuban focused on putting players in a position to succeed.
In addition to owning the Dallas Mavericks, Cuban also stars on the popular television show Shark Tank on ABC which features entrepreneurs pitching venture capitalists with the hopes of landing an investment.
“It’s a lot of work,” Cuban said.
The so-called “Sharks,” successful businessmen and women who invest their own money, don’t know anything about the people who pitch to them, Cuban said. What takes just 10 minutes of TV time, though, can take two and half-hours of interrogation off camera, Cuban said.
The investors, or Sharks, are allowed to do due-diligence after they invest in the companies. In fact, one time Cuban made an investment in a woman’s company but her husband didn’t believe in paying taxes and hadn’t ever paid them, Cuban said. So he was able to get out of that deal.
Out of the 80 startups Cuban has invested in, 28 came from Shark Tank pitches.

Mark Cuban and the rest of the cast of Shark Tank, photo courtesy of Shark Tank

Mark Cuban and the rest of the cast of Shark Tank, photo courtesy of Shark Tank

“Shark Tank has really ignited the entrepreneurial fire in a lot people,” Cuban said. “It’s really inspired a lot of people to start their own businesses.”
Out of his 28 investments, Cuban has had one company fail and another that should shut down, he said. But the others are either dragging along or doing very well, he said.
“Shark Tank is the most successful one hour selling platform in the world,” Cuban said. Lani Lazzari, owner of Simple Sugars, sold nearly $1 million worth of her body scrub products after being featured on the show for 10 minutes, Cuban said. He invested $100,000 for a 33 percent stake in her company. She recently turned down a buyout offer. She wants to get to $30 million in annual revenue, he said.
Now is an amazing time to start a business, Cuban said. With a laptop, phone, Internet connection and Amazon account, people can create any kind of business, Cuban said.

Entrepreneurs only fail because of lack of effort and brains

“The one thing in our lives every entrepreneur can control is effort,” Cuban said. Companies don’t fail for lack of anything but lack of effort and brains, he said.
The biggest error companies pitching to Cuban make is that they don’t have any sense of history, he said. Some entrepreneurs also underestimate the amount of effort it takes to turn their ideas into reality.
“It takes time, it’s a grind,” Cuban said. “There are no shortcuts. You’ve got to grind and grind.”

Mark Cuban meets the team behind The Zebra, an Austin startup he invested in but has never met in person until Longhorn Startup Demo Day.

Mark Cuban meets the team behind The Zebra, an Austin startup he invested in but has never met in person until Longhorn Startup Demo Day.

Entrepreneurs need to learn from what’s been done before, Cuban said. He likes to retweet articles on business failures so people can learn from them. That information becomes more valuable because it’s harder to find, Cuban said.

The luckiest guy in the world

An audience member asked Cuban what he regrets not doing.
“It’s turned out pretty well – nothing,” Cuban said. “Someone’s got to be the luckiest guy in the world and luck has played a big part in the level of my success. And I’m just glad it’s me.”
To pitch Cuban, send him an email to MCuban@gmail.com. He reads the first paragraph and if he’s interested, he’ll read more and send the entrepreneur some follow up questions. If he likes the answers, then he might invest. He has invested $10 million in startups he discovered through email pitches and with $6 million worth of those investments he has never even met the entrepreneur, Cuban said.

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