Mark Cuban Startups
Just about everyone, involved in the tech or startup industry or not, knows who Mark Cuban is. The outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks is one of the most visible businessmen in the U.S. Whether arguing with the refs during Maverick’s games, making cameo appearances on shows like Entourage, or investing in companies on The Shark Tank, most people would at the very least recognize Cuban. What most don’t know, is that Cuban is one of the most prolific tech investors out there. The scope of his investment activity is pretty overwhelming.
There’s a reason that Cuban’s team is called the Dallas Mavericks, and that his blog is called BlogMaverick. He’s also been brilliant at finding the things he wants to invest in, typically ahead of the trend.
While everyone wants Cuban to invest in their startup, it may not be as hard as you think. What does Cuban look for in a startup: “I look for unique products and companies that can be game changers in some cases or strategic to a theme I like or to another portfolio company,” Cuban wrote in an email to Entrepreneur.
Cuban’s earliest entrepreneurial venture was selling trash bags door to door. At one point in his career he sold computers before he even owned one. One of his biggest wins was founding Broadcast.com which he sold to Yahoo right before the bottom fell out. Since then he’s been blazing a trail in investment, startup and of course basketball circles.
At 55 Cuban is way more up to date on tech trends then most his age. Last year he even crowdsourced ideas for Dallas Mavericks uniforms.
So while the world sees Cuban in action on Shark Tank, here are 8 startups he’s invested in outside of the show.
Just about every startup out there knows Slideshare. They’ve either shared their deck on Slideshare or gotten ideas from other people’s decks on Slideshare.
Businesses turn to Slideshare to share presentations, documents and videos. It’s also a social discovery platform of sorts that allows users to find similar content. Large enterprise customers, like IBM have turned to Slideshare to allow all of their employees a platform for sharing documents, videos and presentations on their own branded page.
Cuban was part of a $300,000 seed round for the company in 2008 which was acquired by linked in for $119 million in 2012.
CyberDust is sort-of similar to Snapchat in that its messages self-destruct. CyberDust departs from Snapchat, however, in that its messages actually self-destruct:
Unlike other apps where pictures disappear, we do not cache text or pictures. They are delivered to your chat room in real time when you open the chat room. That is when the timer begins. When the timer expires, the message/image is gone forever and not stored anywhere. Ever!1
The messages sent through CyberDust are fully encrypted. After 30 seconds, the image or text message is gone forever. Further, if the receiving party takes a screenshot of the message, CyberDust notifies the sender.
CyberDust is a bit of an outlier in terms of Cuban’s portfolio, in that he has taken a very hands-on approach to the company. In-fact, according to a Forbes post about the app, Cuban’s personal life prompted his involvement in such an app. According to Cuban:
For me, it was watching the SEC taking every digital message I gave them and apply whatever context it wanted to apply. No matter what the truth was. Then I saw the success of Snapchat and realized that I wasn’t the only one who had a need to reduce my digital footprint. Cyber Dust isn’t designed to fight off the NSA or some nefarious intruder. Cyber Dust is designed to replace texting for anyone who realizes that you lose control of every text you send. [It’s also realizing] That the phone companies and your text recipients own your texts and even the most innocent text can take on a whole new context. I wanted to have a means of communication that is analogous to face to face – where you can speak openly and honestly. That is why we created Cyber Dust.2
Also, should you decide to download the iOS app, you can send Cuban a message at: “Blogmaverick”
Upstart is an incredibly interesting company. Upstart is a peer-to-peer lending company. The whole idea behind the company is that “You are more than your credit score.” According to Upstart, the traditional loan and investment model is broken. By only taking credit scores and assets into account, banks and investors are missing out on huge opportunities with promising individuals who may not qualify using the traditional criteria.
Upstart is a platform that allows you to obtain unsecured funding through fixed rate traditional loans. Upstart believes that you are more than your credit score. Our statistical model considers the school you attended, your area of study, academic performance, and employment history to offer you the loan you’ve earned.3
Ranku is also a pretty interesting company. Ranku is sort-of discovery/search engine for online degrees. The company went through the Techstars Kaplan EdTech startup accelerator. Our friends over at TechFaster did a pretty good write-up on the company:
Ranku is a new kind of EdTech startup that takes a hard look at the rankings of schools across the country. Rather then judging schools by there ranking, whether it be the US News & World Report List or some other school rankings list, Ranku judges schools based on what really counts, the ones that give students great job outcomes.
Ranku was good enough to qualify for the first cohort of the Techstars Kaplan joint accelerator focusing solely on EdTech startups. This is where Cuban had the chance to meet [founder Kim] Taylor. Taylor told Business Insider that when the situation presented itself she couldn’t help but pitch the millionaire. Cuban liked the idea and immediately decided not only to invest but to lead Ranku’s $500,000 seed round.4
Validic, though really innovative and useful, suffers from a bit of wordiness. Here is how the company describes itself:
By connecting its growing base of customers — that includes providers, pharmaceutical companies, payers, wellness companies and health systems — to the continuously expanding list of digital health technologies, Validic enables healthcare companies to better coordinate care across their communities, improve their patient engagement strategies and more efficiently manage their patient populations. 5
What that means, essentially, is that Validic is sort-of a repository for medical APIs. While I was at TechFaster, I had a chance to hear Validic’s pitch in person at the CED Tech Venture Conference in 2013:
Little Bird is an influencer discovery platform. In a nutshell, Little Bird uses robust social analytics “to identify the most influential and connected people in any topical community, then provides tools to engage with them and leverage their content.”6 The whole idea behind the platform is to get companies engaging with the influencers in their space:
Get a ranked list of hundreds of peer-validated influencers on Twitter and then discover them on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ and elsewhere. Whether you’re an old pro or new to the social web, Little Bird will point you to the center of valuable conversations in your market.7
Condition One was a member of Techstars New York in 2012. They are an immersive, 180 degree video technology that allows users to create amazing video more realistic to the way humans see things with a special video camera lens and it also has a special viewing technology on devices which allows viewers to look outside the normal range of view. The editing and production processes are the same as traditional video.
At Techstars Demo Day in 2012 the company announced they were opening back up a $500,000 seed round, which they closed soon after at $2.35 million. Cuban had originally backed the company even before demo day.
IFTTT (If This Then That) is far and away my favorite Cuban company. Cuban’s involvement and investment in IFTTT is a bit ambiguous – I could only find one mention of it, but it was on Cuban’s Investment website and using an old logo – but I love the product so much that we will include it. IFTTT allows users to connect a ton of different applications and hardware products. Once these apps and products are connected, users can set up recipes that trigger actions:
There are hundreds of thousands of different uses for IFTTT. For example, here are a few of the top recipes all time:
IFTTT is an easy way to automate a ton of actions.
In conclusion, there does not really seem to be a trend in Mark Cuban’s investments, other than they are all good ideas. Yes, there are a lot of software products and apps, but that is hardly unique to Cuban. What’s more, Cuban’s portfolio has a lot of interesting companies that you would not expect, like Billy Blanks:
Check out MarkCubanCompanies.com for a look at Cuban’s entire portfolio.
Want to dress like Mark Cuban, Check out his “For That Reason I’m Out” t-shirts and more here.
- CyberDust FAQs, “Why does CyberDust slow down?” ▲
- Maseena Ziegler, Forbes, “Mark Cuban Wants To Take Over Texting,” 8 April 2014 ▲
- Upstart FAQs, “What is Upstart?” ▲
- Kevin Thomas, TechFaster, “After Reality TV Show, Mark Cuban Backs EdTech Startup Ranku,” 11 September 2013 ▲
- Validic Facebook Page ▲
- GetLittleBird.com ▲
- Ibid ▲