March 26, 2020

Mark Cuban on COVID Responses: Perfection Is the Enemy of Progress

Mark Cuban on COVID Responses: Perfection Is the Enemy of Progress

What would you do if you were in the room negotiating a stimulus deal with D.C.’s top brass? Do you know what you’d say? And what you’d lobby for? Mark Cuban does.

What would you do if you were in the room negotiating a stimulus deal with D.C.’s top brass? Do you know what you’d say? And what you’d lobby for? Mark Cuban does.

This week on Morning Brew’s Business Casual podcast, Cuban—owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Shark Tank investor, and media exec—does just that...and explains why perfection is the enemy of progress.

As Cuban sees it, the longer lawmakers hem, haw, and split hairs over the appropriate response to COVID-19, the more they hurt American taxpayers. Right now, aching businesses big and small need leadership, but the government can only do so much. Cuban explains…

  • Why we have no choice but to make decisions with imperfect information
  • How bailouts should be structured to benefit more than just the corporate elite
  • When perspective matters more than profit

And because he’s Mark Cuban...he gives plenty of entrepreneurial advice. Don’t miss this episode—listen now.

 

 


Transcript

Note: Business Casual transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human transcription. They may contain errors, although we do our best to avoid them. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting a transcript in print. Questions? Errors found in a transcript? Email businesscasual@morningbrew.com 

 

[00:00:01] [sound of coffee being poured]

 

Kinsey Grant, Morning Brew business editor and podcast host [00:00:06] Hey there and welcome to Business Casual, the podcast from Morning Brew answering the biggest questions in business. I'm your host and Brew business editor, Kinsey Grant. 

 

Kinsey [00:00:16] And now, let's get into it! Over the last couple of weeks, COVID-19 has flipped the script on businesses, large and small, as the economy and the stock market have tanked. Many of us have been wondering who's supposed to step in and when. Some say it's lawmakers in D.C. Some say it's [indistinct] the C-suite. But regardless of who does what, we all have the same goal. Prioritize health, protect the economy, and make sure we can come out on the other side. As of the date of recording this on Tuesday, March 24th, Congress was still negotiating the terms of the stimulus package. So we took the conversation to the corporate world to discuss the roles that both government and business should play right now as we all adjust to a new normal. I'm really excited to welcome Mark Cuban on Business Casual. Mark, you're the kind of person who needs no introduction. You've been mentioned on this podcast before, the Fat Jewish Josh Ostrovsky brought you up on his own. But for those who might not be following the news super closely, Mark, you are the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, an investor on “Shark Tank,” and a media executive. 

 

Mark Cuban [00:01:19] I'm excited to be here. Kinsey, thanks. 

 

Kinsey [00:01:21] So I want to start here talking about the action, or lack of action, that we've seen out of Washington, D.C. in the past couple of weeks. You tweeted out a very interesting take [laughs] that I'll read mostly word for word. Both of you need to do your f*cking job @SenatorSchumer. Stop kissing progressive ass. We can't solve every problem in this deal @JohnCornyn. Stop kissing big corporate ass. They don't need buybacks or exact bonuses. They have no choice but to take any deal they can get. Followed it up with: The economy is crashing and people are getting sick and dying because you two—[laughs] redacted—think that your agendas are bigger than the health and future of the American people. They are not. There is no perfect deal. Time is our enemy. Get this done today. This was in reference to a deal out of D.C. to try and kind of stop the bleeding when it comes to the economic issues we're facing in light of everything going on with the coronavirus. I want to hear some color on why you felt the need to get involved in this conversation. 

 

Mark [00:02:20] I mean, why wouldn't I? You know, this is the new abnormal and this is not where anybody wants to be, but this is where we find ourselves. And I'm fortunate in that I don't have to report to anybody. I don't care what they think. And I do care what's happening to people. I do care that people are suffering. And I do care that people who can't help need to help. And that includes the government. 

 

Mark [00:02:45] And as you mentioned, Kinsey, we haven't seen a lot of action. They jumped into action immediately on the medical side of it and in passing legislation. But then, all of a sudden, it went from we'll get this done quickly to here we are three days later, and it's still not done now. Hopefully, they will get it done. But what I was reading this morning from what was coming from the House were a lot of great ideas offered at the wrong time. There was nothing that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats proper that wasn't something that should be definitely considered, but it's something that should be definitely considered in a separate bill at a separate time. And then on the Republican side, what was coming from the Senate did include a lot of great things for small, medium-sized business. But I saw a tweet from Senator Cornyn, who's my senator, effectively laughing at Chuck Schumer. And when you do a ha-ha-ha tweet back to the Senate minority leader, that's not an indication that things are gonna get done. And so it just pissed me off to no end. And so I got as colorful as I could get. Got as direct to the point as I could get, and I think it resonated. 

 

Kinsey [00:03:54] So when you say time is our enemy and that a lot of these policies are good, just not right now. Can you explain a little more what you mean? 

 

Mark [00:04:00] People are dying. People need care. I mean, every single person in this country, if not the world, is freaking out about what comes next because nobody knows. This is a movie, right? We're writing the script and we don't know what comes next because it's 100% uncertainty. Nobody has valid information because nobody knows. And if there's anything that's going to be a reason to freak people out, that's it. And so there's certain steps that we can take to try to at least minimize the stress. And one of those is to get some money into people's hands. I’m typically an advocate of government doing as little as possible and not running a big deficit. But that's then. This is now. And people feel like they're losing control over their lives. They don't know if they're gonna pay their bills. They don't know what's next for their kids. And getting $1,200 to mom and dad and some money for the kids doesn't change a lot. But it sort of makes it a little bit better. And every day we lose, that stress level grows. And if we can't get a pass relatively quickly, not only are we going to see economic catastrophe, maybe, who knows, I don't want to overplay it. 

 

Mark [00:05:12] But something that could be even worse than what we're experiencing right now, but it could lead to unrest—lead to social unrest—where people feel like they've got nothing to lose. So why not go out into the streets? So time is our enemy. We need to do these things quickly. And it's not something that's impossible to do. We can do it. But, you know, our politicians have got to get their shit together and come together and get this done. 

 

Kinsey [00:05:38] Yeah. The idea of politicians getting their shit together to get something done is far-fetched these days [indistinct] [laughter] 

 

Kinsey [00:05:45] But you bring up an interesting point here about getting money into people's hands, that that is part of this idea for this stimulus package—this giant, between 2 trillion- and 2½ trillion-dollar, package that our lawmakers are considering right now. Part of that is getting money into people's hands. But there have been other parties who have come out and said that, yes, that will help in the short term. But at the same time, when you send a check for $1,200 to an individual, can you really expect that to have any meaningful economic impact? It might make them feel a little better. They might feel more secure, but you are assuming that they would go out and spend that directly. But in these times, that doesn't necessarily seem so likely. I'm wondering what the actual impact of something like a check to every American or to qualifying Americans, would that have any short-term impact on the economy beyond just making people feel a little better? 

 

Mark [00:06:36] I have no idea. And neither does anybody else. But if the two options are: I'm scared shitless without $1,000 or I'm scared shitless with $1,000, which you think is going to work better? 

 

Kinsey [00:06:47] You take the second one 10 out of 10 times. 

 

Mark [00:06:48] Yeah, exactly. 

 

Kinsey [00:06:49] OK. So what about these bailouts that we've been talking about for certain industries like, say, the airline industry that have been absolutely wrecked by the lack of travel and also the mandated, government-mandated shutdowns. Do you think that those bailouts are necessary at this point in this coronavirus conversation? 

 

Mark [00:07:10] It's hard to know with 100% certainty. So I'll put my investor hat on. So if an airline came to me and said, OK, we need money, we need capital badly to stay afloat. I'd negotiate. If it's too much money for me, I’d bring in a group of private equity people or others or banks, and we can negotiate and probably figure out a deal because we know there's always going to be demand for air travel. So the question becomes, can that happen faster than a government bailout? And the reality is, I think it could. But at the same time, we're risking a lot. You're adding a significant level of risk to the entire country. So I understand why there's a need for a bailout. And I'm not absolutely opposed to it. But, somebody needs to come in and negotiate for the taxpayers as well. You can't have somebody from the industry that's getting bailed out or the company that's being bailed out. Somebody, a politician or a cabinet official representing potentially the American people, but typically just getting a deal done and have nobody representing the American taxpayer. 

 

Mark [00:08:16] That's the problem. Because if it's me, just looking to sit in and negotiate with my money, there's a whole lot of things I gonna make sure I get. Because it's not like that company that's getting bailed out has any leverage. And the problem I've had is I don't think anybody is truly representing the American taxpayer. So what I've been tweeting and commenting, doing interviews, you know, that's the message I've been trying to send. If you put me at the negotiating table and you ask me, Mark Cuban, your “we the people” and you're negotiating, I'm going to take no prisoners because I know they have no leverage. And I think that's what needs to be done. Now, that said, a decent deal in this particular time is better than no deal for the same reasons I mentioned earlier. So trying to find that equilibrium is hard. 

 

Kinsey [00:09:00] Mark, you sound an awful lot like a politician right now. 

 

Mark [00:09:03] No. I mean, look, I'm a fucking guy, [Kinsey laughs] right? I'm just like, let's just get it done. You know? But real world, again, unique circumstances. I'm independent. I'm not Democrat. I'm not Republican. I'd rather just say, what's best for the people, because at the end of the day, this isn't just about the executives at those companies being bailed out. It's about every single person that works for those companies, their families and everybody that's impacted by those companies. And so you have to take that into consideration as well. 

 

Kinsey [00:09:30] So who should be the voice of the U.S. taxpayer in these conversations? If it's not going to be you, is there anyone in D.C. who we can rely on to be that voice? 

 

Mark [00:09:40] I don't know. I honestly don't. From what I've seen—I mean, have you seen anything, Kinsey, that stands out and says, wow, this person’s really got it together and understands?

 

Kinsey [00:09:49] Not particularly. [laughs] There’s been a real lack of that lately. 

 

Mark [00:09:53] Yeah, exactly. And so, again, I have the saying that perfection is the enemy of progress. And so you're not going to get a perfect deal. That's just impossible. And when people are dying and stress levels are going up and there's a real possibility of things getting worse, you're probably gonna do what in hindsight might look like a bad deal, but it's almost like self-quarantine. 

 

Mark [00:10:16] Overreacting is always the best move because you don't want to look back and realize you underreacted. And now, all of a sudden, things are a lot worse. And it's the same type of thing for doing this type of deal. I'm happy to throw out the bullet points. And I think you really could negotiate a better deal than what I've seen so far. But you got to cut them a little bit of slack because it is difficult circumstances. 

 

Kinsey [00:10:40] Right. Right. I want to touch back here for a second on these ideas of bailouts. A lot of the conversation has centered around this sort of universal basic income idea. And everybody is kind of excited about that. But people who are listening to this podcast have at least some interest in the business world. The bailouts have a lot of kind of strings attached to them or that, you know, you have said that they should have strings attached to them. Explain to me a little bit more some of those tenets that you think that they should be abiding by should these bailouts pass. 

 

Mark [00:11:13] So if I was negotiating the deal, here's what I'd ask for employees of those companies in [indistinct] One: No stock buybacks. There's just no value. And I've written this for years. I have a blog, Blog Maverick. I've been saying this is in a new position for me. I've been saying it for years. Stock buybacks reward the people who sell your stock, which is not a good thing. Two: Most public companies issue stock options and warrants and grants to mostly the people at the top, their executives. And so when you buy back stock, you're typically just buying back the stock you just issued to your executives. That does nothing for the market, the price, the value of the company or the employees. So I don't think there's a value to stock buybacks at all. 

 

Mark [00:11:54] Two: I think anything you do for an executive, you have to do proportionately for every single employee of the company. So something that happens all the time when there is a crash in the market, is companies will come back and reprice stock options. So if you, as the CEO or executive vice president or whoever, have an option for a million shares of stock at $25 a share and the stock price crashes to $8 a share, well, most companies will reprice those. You just picked up $17 million in value that—for not really doing anything. And so, whatever value you create like that for the executives, you need to proportionately do the same thing for employees. So I'll give you another example. 

 

Mark [00:12:39] If the executive is making a $1 million dollars a year and you provide to them $1 million worth of stock options because the price the stock went down. That's a 100% value proposition to the executive. If you are a doctor and she works in the healthcare center in corporate headquarters, and she makes $80,000 a year, then she deserves $80,000 worth of stock options as well. If I'm sweeping the floor and making $31,000 a year, then I deserve $31,000 worth of value a year as well because we're all participating in the comeback. 

 

Mark [00:13:17] And so we all need—should, by rights, because we're using taxpayer money—be able to participate in the upside. So if the company does come back, if the stock market does come back, we'll participate. And why that's important to me is a) fairness, obviously. And b), when no one—if we're gonna do anything for income inequality, you're never going to catch up if you're not able to invest in equities or something that any asset that appreciates. And by starting to give people assets that appreciate in this scenario stock, they get a chance to keep up; they get a chance to get ahead if this company does really well. And that's something that's important to me that I think needs to happen. 

 

Kinsey [00:14:01] So the gist is basically if taxpayer dollars are funding this comeback for a big company, that company should reimburse essentially that taxpayer if they are participating, like you said—your words—you're participating in the upside and the comeback. 

 

Mark [00:14:14] You're not so much a taxpayer because you and I might be contributing our taxes for X Y ABC company. But all their employees should certainly do it. 

 

Kinsey [00:14:24] Right. So my question here is if I am taxpayer A and part of the tax money I pay is going to help this airline company come back. But I don't work for that airline company. What should be in it for me? 

 

Mark [00:14:38] So that's more difficult. But I'm not opposed to the government getting equity in the company, and that's happened before. So when General Motors was bailed out, they got equity, other scenarios where they got equity. Look, when Warren Buffett comes in and bails out a bank, he's getting preferred equity. 

 

Mark [00:14:53] And so I think taxpayers should get their money's worth with a set of established requirements for the company. We haven't seen that yet. And but that's what I propose. 

 

Kinsey [00:15:05] So I'm interested to hear your perspective on this. I was actually talking today with my family about this conversation that's been going on lately of lives versus livelihoods. A lot of prominent people in D.C. have said that, at this point, we are putting more livelihoods at risk by shutting down essentially everything, economic livelihoods, you know, personal finance, livelihoods in favor of making sure more people don't get sick. This conversation seems to be going back and forth, quite frankly, more than I thought that it would. It would seem to me that lives should matter more, personally. Why do you think that this conversation has picked up steam in the past several days?

 

Mark [00:15:44] So here's the bottom line. And the best way that I know to answer this: there is no perfect information right now. All information is imperfect. The best we can do is defer to our epidemiologists and statistical people who can model all these things and assign probability to all the different potential outcomes that they're able to see. They may miss half of them, but as best as they're able to see. And then, once we have all that data in place so that we all can see it, then you can start making your imperfect decisions. Because no matter what you decide, it's going to be wrong at some level because, again, we have imperfect data. 

 

Kinsey [00:16:22] OK. I want to talk more about this idea of uninformed and informed decisions and something you recently said about that the government can only do so much. In just a second, but really quickly, let's take a short break to hear from our sponsor. — And now back to the conversation with Mark Cuban. Mark, right before we took that break, I mentioned you recently made a comment that the government can only do so much in this kind of a situation. And I think that our conversation up to this point has illustrated that relatively well—that a deal is good, no deal is bad, but there is no perfect deal. 

 

Kinsey [00:16:55] I'm interested to hear your perspective on where businesses should come in here—and not just the businesses that are getting bailed out, like we were talking about before, but business leaders like yourself. We had Downtown Josh Brown here on Business Casual recently. And he said that this is kind of an interesting point in the history of American business, and that we're seeing a lot of the leaders coming forward in this weird time are not people in D.C. and not government leaders. It's Fortune 500 CEOs. It's healthcare professionals, people who you might not expect to be the ones we look to for guidance as everyday American folks. I'm curious what you think the role should be for the American business leader right now when compared to someone like your state senate or your lieutenant governor? 

 

Mark [00:17:42] That's a great question. But I think smart people should try to do smart and compassionate things. And there is no monopoly based off of what your job happens to be or how much you get paid or how much you have in the bank. And so, one interesting thing about social media, in particular, it's really created a better marketplace of ideas, so that people who traditionally wouldn't have a platform now can go on social media and talk to podcasts, whatever it may be, and say what's on their mind. And I think it's great that corporate leaders are doing that because the smart ones have recognized all along that if your stakeholders, which include your customers and their communities they live in, aren't doing well, your business is not doing well. 

 

Mark [00:18:28] If there are people rioting because they can't eat or they feel mistreated, like we saw in Ferguson and other cities a few years back, then your businesses are not going to do well. So if you're not compassionate, if you're not able to put your business in perspective beyond just yourself and your profits, you're going to suffer. And on top of that, the world of selling and running a business has changed. If you don't have a social identity or a brand that people can connect to and respect, they're not going to do business with you. 

 

Kinsey [00:18:59] Right. And you make another interesting point here, and that is doing the right thing, but it's also building the brand of [indistinct]. Neither does the right thing that gets you the right kind of headlines in this horrific news cycle. 

 

Mark [00:18:11] Exactly. 

 

Kinsey [00:18:12] And the Mavericks were one of the organizations that kind of got that headline to me. You guys were, you know, I think the first NBA owner to announce the payment plan for hourly employees once the season was suspended. 

 

Kinsey [00:19:27] And this was also without the insistence of the government or the league in general. But you are paying hourly employees for home games they're supposed to work, reimbursing employees who purchased from small and local businesses. What inspired that decision and, I guess, more importantly, inspired you to make that decision so quickly? 

 

Mark [00:19:49] It wasn't a decision; it was just the right thing to do. It wasn't an option. I mean, look, I'm the luckiest guy in the world. And one more dollar largely is not going to change my life any way, shape, or form. It's not gonna change my family's life, but it does change the lives of everybody around me. And so it was just—it was easy to do and just the right thing to do. And, you know, we tried. I tried to find places where there's leverage, where I can help the greatest number of people beyond just taking care of those close to me, like our employees. But doing things, you know, working with our players—Luke Dončić, Steph Curry, Dwight Powell, whoever, to get daycare for some of the healthcare providers who are on the frontline or buy them lunches, buy them dinner so they can work, helping them with projects. And 95.com helping hospitals find masks and PPE equipment.

 

Mark [00:20:34] Those are high-leverage elements that you just have to do, and the other side of it is, you know, basketball stopped that night. And all these things are obviously much bigger than basketball. So it gave me time, effectively, really to put my entrepreneurial skills to work, to try to find ways that I can impact and help and use my platform. And I think, you know, it wasn't a hard decision for me. It was just the right thing to do. 

 

Kinsey [00:21:00] I wonder if that would be a more difficult decision, or a decision in any sense of the word, if you weren't in the position that you're in. Say you're a small business owner. How do you go about making that decision if you are running a chain of five coffee shops in rural Florida? 

 

Mark [00:21:19] I thought about it a lot. When I started my first company—it was a tech company called Micro Solutions. I was 24 years old, sleeping on the floor, six guys in a three-bedroom apartment, and had two employees. It would be much more difficult. 

 

Mark [00:21:32] But I had a scenario that kind of set the tone that I think, for me—I had $84,000 in the bank my second year and somebody stole $82,000 of it. And so all of a sudden, my bank was gone and I had to go through the process of talking to all my creditors, vendors, customers, my couple employees, and explain to them what went on and how we were going to get through this. And I think the biggest takeaway was I didn't get mad. I just realized this is the circumstance that I'm in. 

 

Mark [00:22:03] And hopefully I do the same thing today—that if everything was gone immediately, I'd go out. And this is what I've recommended to all the small businesses that I've talked to. You know, go out, talk to your employees, whether it's one, two, or 20 or 50 and let them know exactly the position you're in and be upfront and honest with them, because they're stressing as much as you are. And do the same thing with your creditors, whoever it may be that you work with, your stakeholders, because they're all in the same boat as well. And so hopefully, I'd be honest and communicate and I'd be able to keep everybody on payroll. 

 

Kinsey [00:22:38] What other resources would you recommend for small business owners and people who work in small businesses who maybe are concerned that, hey, my bootstrap startup is going to be a totally different workplace six months from now than it is today? Is there anything else they should be looking at or reading or listening to? 

 

Mark [00:22:53] in terms of running the business or in terms of help? 

 

Kinsey [00:22:55] I guess both—either.

 

Mark [00:22:56] All the above. Here's what I told my shark tank companies in particular. Number one, every single company, of any size, is going as fast as it can, up until the last couple of days. And when you're going as fast as you can, you always look at your company and think, you know what? If only I had the time I could do A, B, or C, I could change this process. I could redo this, rewrite the software, whatever it may be. Change my marketing materials, do a better video, create content that really sets us apart. I would do all those things. All the service industries—content producers—are just getting crushed. Videographers and technical writers, everybody, all those people are getting crushed and they have no money coming in. I would go to the people I know and or ones that I don't know that I think are good, and connect on LinkedIn and say, hey, I know you're starving. I'm starving, too. 

 

Mark [00:23:48] If you work with me now, remotely, since we can't go outside, unless you come up—whether it's just a script or do some videos or do some editing. Let's do something fun. Because I know we're going to get on the other side of this at some point. So let's do these things now so that the day everything's turned on, we're ready to go—right now and right then. And so I will try to get ahead. I do the same thing with continuing to talk to prospects and customers. Again, any customer, I’m in their ear, on the phone, via email, via Zoom, whatever it may be, Skyping them and saying, hey, how are you getting through your day, you being safe? You just want to chitchat. I know it's going to be crazy when you go back to work. But let's think through the things we're going to both need to do in this world that we visualize. If I'm a hardcore entrepreneur, I try to visualize what that world looks like and what kind of companies I can start. 

 

Mark [00:24:40] My starting a sanitation company that sanitizes everything. I had some guy come to me today and he had these little—I don't even know—cloth [indistinct], but like rubber things that fit over the handle of a shopping cart so that you always have a sanitized thing to put on the shopping cart when we go into the grocery store to do our shopping. Just whatever idea you may have, now is your chance to put together that thought process and business plan for the world you see that comes down on the other side and maybe start a business. There are all these things that this time is going to buy you. You've got to use it wisely. And if you do, you can be way ahead because you know a big portion of entrepreneurs and small businesses and management of those companies is just freaking out, smoking dope and just waiting, playing video games [laughs] and waiting to get to the other side. You know what? They're doing their thing. You get to do your thing.

 

Kinsey [00:25:35] OK. Beyond just starting a business, if you are the entrepreneurial type, I'm interested if you have any places that you think there are a lot of opportunities right now from an investing perspective. 

 

Mark [00:25:47] Oh, yeah. Everything right now. So if you have money, where you can just put it away and pretend that you've lost it already. That you don't have to touch it. Then it's worth, you know, buying SPY on Standard on Poor’s indexes, putting it in a Vanguard, low-cost [indistinct] mutual fund. There's a thousand ways that you can dip your toes in the stock market and look in hopefully in two, three, five years, whatever it is, you've made a lot of money. When everybody else is scared—because I'll tell you what, here's the way I always did it. One: I always wanted to try to live like a student. So when I was 24 living on—sleeping on the floor, eating mustard and ketchup sandwiches, my goal was to retire by the time I was 35. 

 

Mark [00:26:31] And I always thought, you know what? I'm going to live like a student. I had my two-for-$99 suits. I looked like an idiot, but at least I would living cheap. But I was able to eventually save some money and start investing it in myself and some other little things. If you can live cheap and live like a student, first thing you do is put six months away, you know, because this is the rainy day you always save for, but there'll be others, because we don't know how this whole virus thing is going to play out. If it’s going to go away, if it's going to come back. We don't know. So put at least six months of cash away to cover all your expenses, if you can do that. 

 

Kinsey [00:27:05] Are you eating mustard and ketchup sandwiches during this war? 

 

Mark [00:27:09] Only because I like them. [laughs]

 

Kinsey [00:27:11] You’ve probably graduated to a better snack at this point. [laughs] 

 

Mark [00:27:14] Yeah. [indistinct] But yeah. [laughs] Literally, we used to go out and take $20 and go to a bar and have one drink and just eat all the fried mushrooms that we could and whatever other bar food, peanuts. It was brutal. 

 

Kinsey [00:27:29] Yeah. 

 

Mark [00:27:30] But in any event, I don't quite face that problem right now. So where were we? 

 

Kinsey [00:27:38] I got distracted by the classic Kinsey. We were just talking about these investment opportunities. What sectors specifically to you beyond just saying put money in the market or do you work for me here? 

 

Mark [00:27:51] Here's where I bought stuff. I bought Live Nation, LYV. I bought some at 49, I bought some at 41, I bought some at 39, I bought some at 34. And I think it went up to 40-something today. I think it'll go back down. And the reason I like it is one: Artists still have to eat and they still have to tour in order to eat. And when we come out on the other side of this, however we come out, people are going to be so rash and ready to party, that concerts are just going to rock. Part two to that is I think Vegas will be the ultimate destination because people are going to just die to go wild. I mean, the debauchery in Vegas, the day after, is going to be out of control and people are just going to be like—I just need to get out. I just need to go have fun. I just need to get my mind off all this. 

 

Mark [00:28:43] I've been cooped up forever and that's where they're gonna go. So I haven't bought anything there yet, but I'm looking at some of the casinos there. I did buy Twitter. Twitter announced that their numbers are gonna be down this next couple quarters, but so are everybody’s. So that's not a bad thing. But they did say that their usage patterns are up 25%. So I [indistinct] before I buy at 30 and 31. And then I bought some at 28 and 26, and then I bought some SPYs, which is just the equity that represents the Standard Poor's 500, S&P 500. 

 

Kinsey [00:29:19] So when we think about people going to Vegas the first day after all this ends and absolutely partying and probably having a blast and going all these concerts, when do you think that is going to happen and knowing that you're not a health expert? 

 

Mark [00:29:32] I have no idea. But if I had to do an over/under, I'd say be fortunate first. 

 

Kinsey [00:29:35] OK, I know you said [Kinsey clears her throat] that you were hopeful the NBA season will be back on track by middle of May. 

 

Mark [00:29:42] That was, yeah, like I said, I took the over/under on June 1st, but the NBA [indistinct] me back. We don't need to have fans. We can play in an empty arena and just have the people that are required to be there plus the players. But I think sports is going to play a huge, huge, huge role in the comeback. I mean, look, people are watching too much news, freaking out about too much stuff. And, you know, just all the things we all know. But when that first game is played, whether it's NBA, NFL, NBA, whatever, everybody is going to watch because everybody just wants to watch something. And I will say this, because I'm a sales person, if you're bored on Friday nights, watch “Shark Tank” on ABC. [Kinsey laughs] We have original episodes coming for another couple of months, so it's a great show if you haven't watched it. 

 

Kinsey [00:30:28] We'll put [indistinct] just in case no one's heard of it. [laughs]

 

Mark [00:30:31] Just in case, I’m also MCuban on all social media. So if you want some more of this stuff. But that's my pitch. But in any event, when it's all said and done, if the NBA can be the first game out, people, everybody, you don’t even have to be an NBA fan. It'll be like the Super Bowl. 

 

Kinsey [00:30:47] You want something different to watch. 

 

Mark [00:30:50] Exactly. And so people watch it. And I think that's going to be a big deal. And that'll create a diversion or give people something to cheer for or something to get behind, you know, and have a team that everybody can glom around and have some fun with. 

 

Kinsey [00:31:03] Right. And I would imagine, with something like the NBA or many professional sports leagues, that the big ones, at least here in the U.S., they probably have enough in the coffers right now to make it through that dry spell without any games being played or any tickets being sold. 

 

Mark [00:31:17] I don't know about that. Yeah, that's hard to say. I mean, I think the NBA is in good shape and I can't say that or I can't speak for all the leagues. I would guess maybe not, because, I mean, the NFL, certainly, but who knows with some of the other leagues. And I'm not trying to cast aspersions on them. I'm just saying, yeah. I would make a bet that the all the teams, not so much the league, but some of the teams within the league, may be on shaky ground. 

 

Kinsey [00:31:43] Is it smaller teams or bigger teams? 

 

Mark [00:31:45] It really depends on the ownership group. 

 

Kinsey [00:31:48] Interesting. Is that I'm going to give me?

 

Mark [00:31:451] [indistinct answer] [laughs] 

 

Kinsey [00:31:53] All right, fine. So a lot of the conversation with business as it as it relates to how we are reacting to coronavirus and the changes to the economy have focused around the negatives and struggles that a lot of businesses have been experiencing. Who's doing things well? Who’s coming out on the other side of this in a better position? 

 

Mark [00:32:12] I mean, if you sell anything that somebody would hoard or needs, if you're quarantined or hibernating, those companies have done incredibly well. A bunch of my “Shark Tank” companies are just killing it. Dude Wipes is just crushing it because they’re alternative to toilet paper. Unreal Deli, who sells the vegetarian/vegan corned beef, which is incredible. People buying pounds and pounds of it and stocking up on it. Alyssa's Healthy Cookies—they can't keep them in stock in Amazon. Same with Snacklins, which are these like chips, but a whole bag is only 80 calories. [indistinct] And most of these are women-owned companies, by the way, and all but Dude Wipes says they're just crushing it because people are stocking up on MUSH oatmeal, stocking up Wanna Date, which is the date spread, because it's healthy. 

 

Mark [00:33:05] So Snacklins, which are these chips that all are healthy. And so you don't feel bad stocking up. And the bigger issue, as you know, there are companies that are doing what, grocery stores, pharmacies, Walgreens, Rite Aid—they're all just having traffic going through the roof. And so where that matters is, one, there's some optimism. So not everybody's gonna get laid off. Two, if you're looking for a job, grocery stores are hiring left and right. You know, it may not be the perfect job for you, but you know, it's a job. 

 

Kinsey [00:33:38] Yeah, I like that there is optimism to still be found. I think that's important and something we try to focus on a lot at Business Casual. It's not always bad. [laughs]

 

Mark [00:33:48] No. And you know what? Look, let me say this. This is going to be the day after, whenever that is, it's going to be an entrepreneurial business dream because there's going to be so much pent-up demand. And if you use the time wisely, and really get all your [indistinct] gear where you're prepared for that change over, whatever it is, or you've got—you're really good at anticipating and visualizing what you think will happen next. And got ahead of the curve and started offering something that really is of value in this new abnormal. 

 

Kinsey [00:34:22] What do you think is going to be the first thing that you buy when all this is over? Beyond just the essentials that you need during [indistinct]. 

 

Mark [00:34:27] My god.

 

Kinsey [00:34:28] Or the first thing you do? It can be an experience. 

 

Mark [00:34:34] Go play basketball. Just go hang out, my friends. Go play pickup basketball, talk shit. Go get a beer. You know, just do stupid shit. All the things you haven’t been able to do during this entire time. 

 

Kinsey [00:34:45] I feel so dumb having taken that for granted. [laughs] Now that I can’t do it. 

 

Mark [00:34:50] Now that you can't do it, yeah. All right. I mean, there's still gonna be so social distancing, you know, it'll be really, really interesting. But when history looks back, it'll be bad, but not the worst thing ever. Hopefully. And that means that there's opportunity for everyone. Every single person who thinks of themselves as a business person or entrepreneur, you're gonna be able to find something that gives your company an edge if you look for it. You're gonna be able to do something for your company that gives you an edge if you prepare for it. If you're one of those people that just says, you know what, I got this and I'll figure it out when we get there. You gonna be left behind. And one of my companies is going to kick your ass. [Kinsey laughs]

 

Kinsey [00:35:35] So, Mark, if people do feel like they are that entrepreneur who has this [indistinct] great idea that they are acting on during this kind of downswing, should they apply to go on “Shark Tank,” should they reach out to you on Twitter? 

 

Mark [00:35:47] Just do it. The best businesses don't require a lot of money. Like I said, my company, I was sleeping on the floor. I can name you business after business where sweat equity is the best equity. 

 

Kinsey [00:35:58] Yeah. And just hearing that from you, Mark, because we have had this conversation on Business Casual previously about that it is an obligation to raise money. And a lot of the founders and CEOs I've spoken to have either tried to raise venture money, have failed at raising venture money, or have raised it and then regretted it, believe it or not. So it's interesting to hear that from the perspective of someone who's—part of your livelihood is investing. 

 

Mark [00:36:23] Yeah. Look, I invest in “Shark Tank” all the time, but it's a little bit different than “Shark Tank” because it effectively acts as a commercial as well as television. So there's that angle to it. But, I tell people, if you're a startup and you've gone to venture capital, you've actually already lost a little bit because you don't own 100% of your company anymore. 

 

Mark [00:36:44] When we when we started the streaming industry with a company called Audio Net, way back when, it was my money that I saved living living a student when I sold my first company, and it went from there. And it was because I was able to own so much of it, that when we went public and then sold the company, that's how I got to this point. There's other companies that I could point to that raised so much money, that when they had a billion dollar exits, they owned 1 or 2 or 3% of the company. Now, that's not bad. 10, 20, 30 million is phenomenal. But when you think a billion—you just sold a company for a billion dollars or more, you would think that person is just beyond, you know, just [indiscint] money out the ears, and they weren't because they had to raise so much venture or other money. If you want to really get to this level, it's got to be yours.

 

Kinsey [00:37:34] And maybe right now we'll get an even better opportunity to sort of separate the wheat from the chaff, if you will. And if we are going into a recession, things are gonna be tight. Companies are going to have to—if they're not already bootstrapped, act like they're bootstrapped. So maybe we'll get to experience some of that opportunity firsthand on the other side of this. 

 

Mark [00:37:55] I have no doubt. You know what? When things are fubar fucked up beyond recognition, that's when the heroes are made. That's when their greatest opportunities are available. You just gotta get off your ass and do it. 

 

Kinsey [00:38:05] Yeah, I love that. And now for the rest of this conversation, we're taking it to Instagram live to take questions from our followers. [sound of bell ding]

 

Kinsey [00:38:12] We just had a fantastic conversation about how businesses and how the government should be reacting and stepping in in this really unprecedented time as we all kind of deal with this new normal economically and from a business perspective and also from a personal perspective as we're dealing with coronavirus and the associated fallout. But Mark, we wanted to take a little time now, when we’ve talked about the serious stuff. Do something of a lightning round and —

 

Mark [00:38:40] OK, fire away. 

 

Kinsey [00:38:41] Ask you some rapid fire questions. I've got my list here. First: what are you reading during quarantine? 

 

Mark [00:38:47] Rebooting AI. 

 

Kinsey [00:38:48] Rebooting AI? 

 

Mark [00:38:50] Yeah.

 

Kinsey [00:38:51] The best part of it so far?

 

Mark [00:38:52] It's honest about how hard it is to implement AI in companies. Now, most companies don't know how to do it. 

 

Kinsey [00:38:58] OK. So without sports to watch, what are you watching during this self-isolation? 

 

Mark [00:39:04] The Hunters on Amazon Prime. And what other show could I pick up? I just finished Messiah on Netflix. 

 

Kinsey [00:39:13] OK. 

 

Mark [00:39:13] [indistinct] Every day. 

 

Kinsey [00:39:20] How could you not like it? [laughs] Are you taking this time to learn any new skills or anything that you've been wanting to do, but you haven't had any time to? 

 

Mark [00:39:27] I'm working on my jumper and I've got three kids, so I've kind of like spending way too much time with my son trying to get him to work on his jumper. Hello? [laughter]

 

Kinsey [00:39:37] Yeah. The family shop. There they are. Hi! [Mark laughs]

 

Kinsey [00:39:43] That's awesome. OK. What? Let's see. Let's talk a little bit about leadership. 

 

Mark [00:39:49] OK. 

 

Kinsey [00:39:50] All right. What do you look for in a leader when you are preparing to invest in a company on “Shark Tank”? 

 

Mark [00:39:57] What do I look for? I look for somebody who is prepared, somebody who really knows their industries. Somebody who loves to learn. Somebody who can sell. Somebody who can be nice and somebody who can communicate, and obviously has a good business. 

 

Kinsey [00:40:13] Right. That matters. There's a bee in nature here. All right. What is one business that you feel like you missed out on “Shark Tank” that you wish you had jumped at the opportunity? 

 

Mark [00:40:24] Never even look at it that way. When it's gone, it's gone. Literally, like when we see “Shark Tank,” they bring in deal after deal after deal. So we'll do 10 to 12 deals a day, and then they'll package them into a show. And the deals can go anywhere from 20 minutes for stupid ones to an hour and a half for good ones. And so once they're gone, I don't care, because I know there's another deal coming right after it. 

 

Kinsey [00:40:45] Yeah. That endless pipeline of great entrepreneurs. 

 

Mark [00:40:49] That's exactly right. 

 

Kinsey [00:40:50] OK. We just got a good one here in the comments. I feel for you guys. If you have any questions for Mark to comment here below, who do you think is the best leader of this generation? 

 

Mark [00:41:01] I like Elon. 

 

Kinsey [00:41:02] Interesting. [indistinct], Mark. 

 

Mark [00:41:05] Yeah. I like Elon. He doesn't give a shit. And he's smart and he always comes—when I look at a business, if I look at it and say, why didn't I think of that? Then to me, that's a great business. When I look at what Elon's done and it's like, oh, my goodness, why didn’t I do that or why didn't I think of that? I get a little jealous. So I think Elon really leads the way. 

 

Kinsey [00:41:24] OK, I'm gonna go back to my list here. Let's see. What are the most socially responsible investment opportunities out there right now, as you kind of navigate this weird market situation with no idea what's going on? 

 

Mark [00:41:41] That's a great question. I don't know. I really don't know. It's not something I really dove into. And I just—I'll tell you some of the things that I looked into. So I've got a company called Meepo—M E E P O. And what they're doing is they make these little cubes that have the nourishment and the nutrients of a full salmon or, you know, a full-course meal. But they cost a buck and a quarter to make. So you can get 350 to 400 calories with all the nutrients of eating a full meal for a buck and a half for us to make. I invested because if we get them into the hands of school kids who otherwise can't get a regular meal, rather than them eating junk, they can get the equivalent of a dinner and cost them, like I said, a buck and a half, and that's it. So doing those types of things that can really change the game. Those are some of the things that I really like to do. But you put me on the spot. I was, you know —

 

Kinsey [00:42:42] That was a good one. [indistinct chatter between Kinsey and Mark] 

 

Kinsey [00:42:47] So let's see, what do you think your biggest learning has been? And it can be in any capacity, your biggest learning over the last two weeks that we've kind of been distancing ourselves socially. 

 

Mark [00:42:58] How much you miss social and social interaction, how important it is and how vital it is to us. It's great to spend more time with the family. It's great to annoy them and have them annoying me back. It's great to hear about TikTok videos all day long. [laughs]

 

Kinsey [00:43:13] [laughing] Are you going to start TikToking? Can we count on that now? 

 

Mark [00:43:15] Oh, yeah. I'm Cuban. I'm already there. Renegade. Renegade. Renegade. [Kinsey laughs] [indistinct chatter]

 

Kinsey [00:43:25] I’m a TikTok observer right now.

 

Mark [00:43:26] Oh, come on. 

 

Kinsey [00:43:27] I know, I know. 

 

Mark [00:43:28] When you get yours up, I'll do it with you. 

 

Kinsey [00:43:31] OK. Perfect. It’s a deal. You're on record. [laughs] 

 

Mark [00:43:35] See how he changes subjects. Done. [Kinsey laughs] 

 

Kinsey [00:43:36] OK. Well, just a couple, more real quick. Favorite athlete or the athlete you look up to most? 

 

Mark [00:43:44] My favorite is Dirk Nowitzki. Played with the Mavs for 21 years. And we were really good friends and close and everything. This generation is Luke Dončić, obviously. That's my guy. 

 

Kinsey [00:43:57] OK. Do you have a favorite podcast? Besides Business Casual?

 

Mark [00:44:02] Yeah. Anything on Morning Brew is my favorite. [Kinsey laughs] This Week in Machine Learning, believe it or not. I'm an AI geek. So you know what? If someone were to ask me what's the one thing you need to learn and pay attention to right now, if you don't know AI, you gotta start learning it. You have to start understanding it because it's gonna have a bigger impact on business than the internet or mobile computing. And the challenge is small businesses—big businesses have all the money in the world—Google, Facebook—to learn and make mistakes. Small businesses don't. So that's a real problem. So before all this hit, there was a world of AI haves and have-nots. 

 

Mark [00:44:38] And so if you want to get an edge, learn AI, teach yourself how to do a little three-layer JavaScript neural network. It's not that hard, but if you learn it and figure it out—hey, look, I went on Amazon AWS and did the machine learning tutorials. And I did my Coursera thing, where I took the introduction of neural networks class. You just gotta do it. Now's the time to do it. 

 

Kinsey [00:45:00] And if you want more AI-related news, subscribe to Morning Brew's emerging tech newsletter. Ryan [indistinct] writes all the stuff you need and [indistinct] One last question before we close things out here. We have a lot of college grads who maybe are graduating a little earlier than they thought they would be or graduating under different circumstances. What advice you have for college grads right now? 

 

Mark [00:45:22] Just do your thing. Just business as usual. Once we get by this, people are going to need people and be ready, be prepared. So when you walk into an interview, you've got to be an expert in that business already. People think that they've got to learn. You know, here's the interview questions you've got to have great answers to. I've always thought that when somebody knows my business, when they walk in the door and I talk to them and they've done their homework, that's a great sign. 

 

Mark [00:45:46] Because then when whatever the job is we're talking about, you know how to apply yourself to that job and how you'll fit within that company. That, plus you [indistinct] take chances. You know, when you're just graduating, yeah, you got student debt, but at the same time, what have you got to lose? You know, now's the time to take chances because, hey, you just survived the zombie apocalypse. 

 

Kinsey [00:46:10] You can probably survive most things. 

 

Mark [00:46:11] Exactly. If you could survive this, everything else is just, you know, just brush it [indistinct].