Sports Geek Podcast Transcription: Episode 62
Sean: Welcome to Episode 62 of the Sports Geek podcast. On this week's podcast, I catch up with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. We chat about his new app, Cyber Dust. We talk about how the NBA has changed in his 14 years, his experiences on Shark Tank, and how to break into the sports business.
DJ Joel: Welcome to the Sports Geek podcast, the podcast built for sports digital and sports business professionals. Now, here's your host, who is a sports geek like Mark Cuban, he just has a few more dollars, Sean Callanan.
Sean: Thanks, DJ Joel. My name is Sean Callanan and you are listening to the Sports Geek podcast. If you're listening for the very first time, welcome to the podcast. You can follow me on Twitter @seancallanan. Please send me a tweet if you're listening for the first time. For those of you who have listened for the previous 61 episodes, thank you very much for listening again. You can get Sports Geek podcasts on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher and now Audio Boom. Please, let me know what channels you're using or listening to the Sports Geek podcast.
This week I get to catch up with Mark Cuban, as he's introduced on ABC's Shark Tank, the outspoken, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks. I was chatting with Mark on his new app, Cyber Dust, and very thankful that he agreed to come on the show and have a chat. What I am really thankful for is my friends at ABC Grandstand, Al Crombie and Joey Sullivan, who allowed me to use Francis Leach's studio to do the interview to make sure everything went well. We're going to replay some of this on ABC Grandstand on their early mornings, Saturdays.
For those of you who don't know what I do, yes I podcast and talk with sports media, sports digital, sports marketing executives around the world on the podcast each week. When I'm not podcasting, I'm actually doing work with sports teams and leagues around Australia and around the world. If you work in the sports space and you're looking to engage your fans, please give me a call or send me a tweet or send me a message on Cyber Dust, Sean Callanan on Cyber Dust, and I'll respond to those. Otherwise, you can use that old fashioned thing called e-mail. [email protected], will land in my inbox.
Before we get into the interview with Mark, just a big, big congratulations for the South Sydney Rabbitohs making it into the NRL Grand Final. If you're following along at home, #NRLGF will be the hashtag on Sunday night Australian time when the South Sydney Rabbitohs, a Sports Geek client, take on the Canterbury Bulldogs to see who can win the title. 43 years it's been since the Rabbitohs won the Premiership, so I'll be there on Sunday. Please, let me know if you're going to be at the game at ANZ Stadium. Looking forward to going to my first NRL Grand Final and hopefully, hopefully, the Rabbitohs will win in that one. Fingers crossed and best of luck to all the team behind the Rabbitohs. Hardworking team, Jeremy Monahan, Chris, Tom, and all the guys behind the scenes bringing you all that action. It's been a hectic week for them so far, and I really hope those guys really reap the rewards and really enjoy the day. One of the things that's really vital when you are in a big, big game like that, is to take the time to realise you're in the big game. Take the time to smell the roses, so to speak. Just take a breath every now and again because there's so much activity and realise, and really benefit for one of the big reasons you work in sports. I do have a chat with Mark Cuban about breaking into the sports business. I hope you really like his advice, I completely agree with it. Here is my chat with Dallas Maverick's owner and Shark, Mark Cuban.
Sean: Very happy to welcome Dallas Mavericks owner and you will see him on Shark Tank on ABC, Mark Cuban, welcome to the Sports Geek podcast.
Mark: Thanks for having me.
Sean: Mark, now I'll open up where we were chatting. We were recently chatting on Cyber Dust, do you want to tell us a little bit about Cyber Dust and where it came from?
Mark: Yeah, I had a little battle with the U.S. government where they were taking my messages and kind of repurposing them for their own use. I could say that the sky was blue, and they would say, “No, you're lying, and what you really meant was that the sky was green” and that was just crazy. I created an app called Cyber Dust, C-Y-B-E-R D-U-S-T, two words, that basically is very simple. When you send a message from one user on Cyber Dust to another user, after you're done reading the message, it deletes into Never Never land, never to be retrieved again. Basically what it allows you to do is just protect your digital footprint. We released it a few months ago and it's just exploded worldwide. People are using it everywhere.
Sean: And so the key thing with Cyber Dust is different to other apps where people think that it's private like Snapchat and WhatsApp, is that you're really keen on the privacy.
Mark: WhatsApp doesn't even pretend to be private. They let you delete things, but it's not private at all. And Snapchat, they erase things but, as anyone who uses it a lot knows, you can download apps that let you recover any text or any picture on Snapchat at all, so it certainly doesn't protect you at all. Really, what we're trying to accomplish is, we wanted to make Cyber Dust really easy to use, just like a regular text message. If you were to compare it to Snapchat, I'd say that Snapchat is probably crayons on pictures for middle school kids and Cyber Dust is keyboards for texts for adults. You know, it lets you have a real conversation that you can be open and honest about, knowing that the whole conversation is just going to disappear forever. It's like a face-to-face conversation.
Sean: Yeah, definitely. You've seen a big jump, you've seen the whole iCloud hacking thing and people, celebrities, getting busted for sending photos around, whereas with Cyber Dust, you're not worried about someone grabbing your phone or hacking your account.
Mark: Yeah, I can't tell you who but some of the biggest names in Hollywood and all of athletics, globally, they figured it out that by using Cyber Dust, they can really protect themselves. The reality, particularly if you're high profile, when you send somebody a text, they're going to keep that text. For everybody, when you send a text, the minute you hit send, you no longer own that text, but you're still responsible for it. Whoever you message via regular texting, they can take that text and send it anywhere around the world, post it on Twitter, post it on Facebook, post it anywhere on the web and you have no control over it. With Cyber Dust, you have control because you know after they've read that message, it's going to be gone forever.
Sean: Yeah, I can only tell you when I've done training sessions with athletes and they're saying “Yes, we're using WhatsApp as a group messaging,” and that kind of thing, and then I say, “What if someone accidentally gets someone's phone and they've got access to everything?” and you can just see the blood rush from their faces knowing that all of those messages are out there. Whereas with Cyber Dust, you send it, it's gone.
Mark: Yeah, you get a lot of boys talking stuff on a group message, you know, whether it's Group Me or WhatsApp, you know they're going to talk a lot of crap, and you know that if it gets out there, it's not going to look good. Now, Cyber Dust doesn't have group messaging yet, but it should be out in about two weeks.
Sean: Oh that's true. That's what I wanted to ask, you're bringing out an app like Cyber Dust, and you really brought it for your use case, for what you wanted. What have you seen that the users grab at and use it for that you didn't know was going to happen?
Mark: What's really cool is that groups and organisations are using it to send updates, you know, at colleges and universities, fraternities and organisations are sending updates. You know, where are parties, where are friends going to be? Knowing that they want it to disappear once everybody knows what's going on. At the Dallas Mavericks, we have an account called “Let's Go Mavs” and we send pictures and updates to all of our fans and it's cool because the fans get the updates, they know what's going on, and then it disappears so it doesn't eat up all the space on their hard drives, on their phones, their laptops, or whatever it may be. It's really become a great way from celebrities or experts or just calendars, to send updates to people who get the updates and then move on.
Sean: And the thing is, it's good from the athlete point of view, is they don't have to deal with all the peanuts that are on Twitter, and the trolls coming back at them, they can do that one to one message straight to their fans.
Mark: Right, because I have 100,000 followers under @blogmaverick on Cyber Dust, and when I send something on Twitter, I know I'm going to get beat up by all the trolls who are going to say something nasty and try to be cute. It's not because I care what they say, but they know everybody else who follows me is going to be able to see it. With Cyber Dust, when I blast something out to 100,000 people, using the blast feature, I know that any interaction between me and the people who receive it is private. There are no trolls, there's nobody else messing with you, when you reply back to me and send me a message, I'm the only one who's going to see it. And we can have an open, honest conversation knowing that the idiots out there aren't going to have any say in the matter.
Sean: And so that is the beauty, I mean, that was the early Twitter, that was the beauty of people getting their replies, but there does seem to be so much volume there, that you can't have that conversation. That's what you're trying to offer with Cyber Dust, from an athlete point of view?
Mark: That's exactly right. An athlete can speak to their fans and they don't have to worry about somebody from some other team or country or group coming in and trying to create a hassle, or even somebody who's drunk and online. On Twitter, everybody's a hero because you can be anonymous, and so people will say things just to be mean, and that just doesn't happen on Cyber Dust, so it's a lot more effective communications with your fans.
Sean: And so, the thing with start ups, it's all about getting the users and getting the growth because Cyber Dust doesn't have a reblog or a repurpose function, how do you get that viral component, how do you really make that word of mouth blow up?
Mark: Well, we will have a reblast, is what we'll call it, and hopefully it's coming in the next couple weeks. You're right, if I send a blast and somebody else really likes it, I like to send out a lot of motivational quotes and I get asked all the time, “Can I forward this to my friends?” and right now, you cannot forward in Cyber Dust because we want to protect the privacy, but we'll make it an option so that the person who sends the blast can allow it to be forwarded. In terms of other growth, because you need Cyber Dust on both sides when a Dallas Mavericks fan wants to get all the information and updates and chances to win free tickets, you're going to have to download Cyber Dust and follow us @Let'sGoMavs. If you want to be able to interact with me personally while you're watching Shark Tank, you're going to have to download Cyber Dust and follow me @blogmaverick. There's a lot of ways that we've become viral because if you want to get access to people or you want to protect your privacy or you want to be able develop a following using the blast, then you have to have Cyber Dust. We're not quite to a million yet, but we're closing in really fast.
Sean: Well, I'm really looking forward to seeing how it develops. One other product I want to talk to you about because you're really in this privacy space, is Xpire and where that fits in in how you see on protecting your digital footprint?
Mark: I'm glad you asked. One thing, over the last 10 years we've started texting, then we got Facebook, then we got Twitter, then we got Tumblr. We all put things out there over and over again and over time, you kind of forget what you've written before. It's almost like going back and looking at old pictures of yourself where you thought you were in fashion, and then five years, ten years later you look like an idiot because of your hair style and your clothes. It's the same with social media. We'll say something, maybe in response to a friend, maybe in response to something we saw on television, maybe a movie, and it made sense when we say it, but a year later, two years later, it only makes it look really silly that you wrote it and said it online. We created a product called Xpire, X-P-I-R-E, right now it's only on iPhone, or IOS, the Apple Store. But it will be on Android hopefully soon. What it allows you to do is register for Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook right now and, for your tweets you can set an expiration time. So you can say, “You know what, I'm going to comment about my friends and I hanging out tonight, but it's not going to make any sense a week later, so I want it to automatically disappear in a week,” and it will. You can also import all your tweets and then go back through all your old ones using search terms. If your girlfriend's name was Susie that you broke up with a year ago, you put in “Susie” and you can find all those old tweets or Facebook posts and then just delete them all and take her off your social media profile.
It also makes a difference for your job because now, every employer is asking what your Facebook and Instagram and Twitter IDs are and Tumblr IDs are, and they're going to go look to see what you talk about and what you say and if you've got things going back six months, a year that may not look so good because you were out one night and hanging out with your boys and you were saying stupid stuff, Xpire allows you to go back and delete all that stuff and really clean up your digital footprint to make it as small as possible. I mean, I think in this day and age, people have really got to be aware that anything you post online and on social media, if somebody can find a way to use it against you, they will. Or if someone sees something, even if you didn't mean it, that could keep you from getting into a school, or keep you from getting a job, or cause you to lose your job. We all hear about all these stories that happened to other people, but it's going to start happening to more and more people if you're not careful, and that's why we created Xpire.
Sean: I've done the same with both training with my athletes and also with my teenage kids, I say, “Anything that you put out there will be used against you in the court of public opinion, or even law in some cases.” So you've got to be really aware. You've got an algorithm there where once you sign up for Xpire, you can check your social score and see how risky you've been?
Mark: Yep. Sometimes people think, “Oh, I didn't say anything bad” or “I didn't do anything bad, so what do I have to worry about?” What we've done is we've created an algorithm that goes through all your posts and says, “Look, you might want to reconsider because it might not have sounded too bad to you, but it could sound really bad to somebody else.” It creates your social media score and tells you here are your posts you need to keep an eye on and you might want to consider deleting.
Sean: Well, I was very happy. I checked my score and I got an A plus.
Mark: There ya go!
Sean: I thank my Auntie Kath, my Auntie Kath is 95 and she's a nun. My rule is that I don't want to put any tweets out that I would have to explain to Auntie Kath and it's held me in good stead. It's a really great tool, just like you said from an education point of view. Just running that algorithm, because what you think is offensive, from a different generation, if you're in a younger generation, will be offensive to other people, so even just running the algorithm, to go, “Well, maybe I do need to rethink those tweets,” whether it's don't tweet after 11 o'clock.
Mark: Things change, you know? What we said three years ago, five years ago, might have been hip and cool if you're 21 years old and then five years later you're working at a job and it sounds really stupid and your boss looks at it and you don't get that promotion or you lose your job to somebody else. Or somebody else shows it and says, “Look, who knows what this person was thinking.” There's just no upside to having all that information about you out there. I say to people all the time, “I can look on your Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter accounts and know more about you than your family does.” because people just tend to ramble on and post online and not give consideration and it can backfire on them.
Sean: Well, there was a study just recently that Facebook knows when your relationship is going to end just by the posts that you're doing, so just the analysis of all that data that's there is both fascinating as a marketer, but also creepy as a user.
Mark: Oh and it's creepy as hell what Facebook can do. But Facebook is no different than Google or any other of the big companies that have so much of our data. They want to use it to know more about you, they want to be able to sell to you, they want to try to anticipate what you're going to be interested in next, what movies you'll see, what you don't like, and so everything you put out there is just an invitation for somebody to try to learn more about you, and that's not always bad, but it's something you at least have to be aware of.
Sean: And again, the same thing with Xpire, it's only still new, but are you seeing people potentially using it, sort of in a promotional way, saying, “I'm going to put out a tweet. It's going to be good for 6 hours, it's going to be a specific ticket link just for the Mavs.”
Mark: Yeah, with links to buy, when this expires this deal is off, or this discount is gone. Yeah, we're already experimenting with some of that stuff and so hopefully you'll see a lot more of that from us in Australia, too.
Sean Terrific, terrific. I want to talk about the NBA landscape. You've been an owner of the Mavs since 2000. You're the 12th longest tenured owner because there has been so much change. I want to ask you if there's a bit of a change at the owner's table with so many media and tech savvy owners coming on board in the last couple of years with Vivek Ranadive, Ted Leonsis, Peter Gruber from a movie's point of view. Do you think that's changing the way the NBA looks at the whole digital and TV right types of thing?
Mark: No question about it, you're exactly right. Things have changed a lot. The old school owners who hated me when I got in have sold their teams or died, unfortunately, or whatever happened, and the new guys come in are just a whole lot smarter. They understand technology, they understand media, and they're able to bring that knowledge and they also use it on the court. Teams are using analytics now, they're just a lot smarter and you have to be a lot smarter to compete.
Sean: I mean, on the digital rights, we heard Adam Silver talking about potentially having games early Saturday mornings for prime time in China. Do you think China and India, and the growth of the NBA in that space is really going to be a really key part of the next deals that the NBA does?
Mark: You know, I hope not. I don't want to see us play an early morning basketball games. I'd rather just see us go overseas and just play them there, but, yes, it's possible. It's a business. It's a sport, it's a game, but it's also a business. We always have to be aware of the business issues and the opportunities. Adam's going to be great at trying to figure those out. Hey, if it comes down to a vote, and they ask if we should be playing games at 10 in the morning on Saturday so they're on at night for Australia and China, I'm going to be like “No.”
Sean: Well, I mean, that's the thing. You've also got to keep your tribe happy. You want people in people Dallas, they're your key customers. I mean, it's great for the TV deal, but your key customers are in Dallas.
Mark: And plus, you know, it's just such an impact on the guys' bodies. Imagine an Australian Rules player having to get up all of a sudden and play a game at 9 a.m. It's just hard on you physically because your body is not adjusted to it and it won't adjust that quickly. I just think physically, we won't be able to provide the best version of our game. I just don't like the idea right now.
Sean: You were talking about before about the growth of tech in sports and the moneyball side of things, made famous by Billy Bean and made into a movie and all that thing. The whole analytics industry in the NBA has grown, they've got the Sport View, tracking technology in all the stadiums now. I'd love to be talking about Dirk Nowitzki's pure shooting percentage and that kind of thing, but I wanted to talk to you about, I say the other moneyball, the business side of it, understanding the fans and the CRM and obtaining that Holy Grail of 360 degree view of the customer that you can now get with all these touch points, what's your take on that and what are the kind of things you're looking to do with the Mavs?
Mark: There's two things, one, how do you make the customer happy in terms of delivering product, food, merchandise, service? You got to do whatever it takes to anticipate what they're going to want, all of the things I said to be careful of, to get Xpire. Once they walk into the arena, I want them to have the best experience possible. On the flipside, when the game is being played, I don't want a lot of technology being used. If someone is looking down at their phone, that means I failed in terms of the product, in terms of the entertainment that I'm offering. Even between quarters, at half time, time outs, breaks, I want to be offering some sort of entertainment so that you feel like you're getting your money's worth. You walk into a stadium or an arena and you can just feel the energy of a game, and that's what makes going to a Mav's game in Dallas unique. You walk in and you feel the energy, you feel the excitement from people. If you give them too much technology during the part of time where the game is being played, you diminish that electricity, and that's the last thing I want to do, because that's what makes our product different. When it comes to the functional things, delivering sodas, hot dogs, food, whatever it may be, merchandise, that's where you want technology to really take over and simplify things for your fans.
Sean: Yeah, you definitely want to enhance the experience and not just be tied up in fan engagement, which is a really big buzz term and thinking that it has to be all about technology.
Mark: Right, people think that just because people have phones and they want to use it that they will use it for everything, and that's just not the case. You know, people don't look at it that way. I mean, we try to find so many different ways and so many different reasons for us and our kids. However old we are to put down our phones. You go places so you can get away from just staring at your phone and we want a Mav's game to be getting away from all of it as opposed to just one more place to use your phone.
Sean: Yeah, definitely, I mean you want to have that event where I don't want to pull my phone out because I'm so into the game.
Mark: Exactly, we want, “Oh shoot, I haven't checked my phone in an hour, I forgot.”
Sean: The other part of that equation is that you were one of the first teams with all the technology and wired it all up is the rise of the iBeacons and trying to find the right mix of how you use those in the stadium without becoming, you know, the new pocket spam. What's your take of that space?
Mark: You know, it's a great question because on the surface, the iBeacons and all the tracking manners, just make so much sense. Hey, you're walking by the merchandise store so let's ping you on your phone and tell you that we've got a discount on Mav's gear. At the same time, to your point, you've got to be careful of spam. We're not the only one's thinking about that, and so everywhere you go, you're getting pinged with an iBeacon, you're just going to get annoyed and turn the whole thing off. I personally think iBeacon is going to have challenges. I mean, it's been out there a couple of years now, and you haven't seen anybody really just use it in a way that everybody says, “I love it and I'm glad they did it,” and so I think that we've got to find other ways to ping or bind or whatever you want to call it, booing the customer and let them know that we've got something for them because, you know, you hit the nail on the head that it's so easy to spam that I think it actually becomes more of a negative than a positive.
Sean: Yeah, I think part of it is, I was talking to the guys at Sporting Innovations at SEAT earlier this year, and part of it is tying it into the loyalty and tying it into that data component so, if I'm a Dirk Nowitzki fan and I've turned up to 10 games then the idea is that's when you boink me or ping me, I don't know where we got those terms from.
Mark: Yeah, that's really not the hard part. Tracking the loyalty really isn't all that difficult. It's just, you don't want to be part of the mess, right? It's like one more billboard. If you're driving down the street by where I live, you're going to see 30 billboards and it gets to the point where there's so many billboards you don't pay attention to 90% of them, and I think that's the risk. While I want to come up with a loyalty program that rewards people and notifies them when they're close by, I don't know that iBeacon is going to be the way to do it. I haven't solved that one, but if you have any good ideas, I'm wide open.
Sean: Well, I did want to ask you about loyalty because there really is a really strong play where we see the 49ers launch a big rewards program. A lot of the NFL teams are doing it where they are rewarding both the social engagement, which is great, but there's not much money in that, for tweeting and posting. But then, tying it into what they're spending with turning up with tickets and buying with concessions and buying with merchandise, that's an old model that they've been working in the airline industry and retail and Starbucks. How do you think sports is going to tackle that one and sort of help solve that equation?
Mark: I don't think we are. I don't think, yeah, we're not all that creative for the most part with sports. It's something I look at and try to say, how I can try to do it differently, and what can I do differently and, if I had to start from scratch, what's the best way? Everybody looks at the phone as such a predominant device. I don't know, you've got to do the basic loyalty things, and we do that with the Mav's, we track how many times you're coming, and we'll send you a text if you want us to, or we'll send you an email if you want us to, we'll send you an alert on your phone if you want us to, we'll send you a Cyber Dust message if you want us to. I think the direction we're going is, tell us how you want us to communicate with you and we'll figure out the best way to do it in that manner. Rather than saying, “This is our way, take it or leave it.” I think that we're asking the customer more and doing it in the way that they want.
Sean: And there is really no one way. I mean, talking to Oscar Ugaz, who was at Real Madrid when they launched their first loyalty program, the Madristra Program, they charged people for it. They said, “You want to be part of it, it's €20 a year.” That is something no one would even consider doing here in Australia and in the U.S. Everyone is expecting this stuff for free but you set up that program and you say it's $20 to be in and you're going to get all these benefits and access to these simple things, but it starts them on that escalator.
Mark: It also depends on how big your fan base is too. Real Madrid is global, right?
Mark: The Mav's have a global fan base but not near their size. But, I hope they get there someday, but we aren't there yet. You're right, what we could charge for a year ago or 10 years ago even, you can't charge for today.
Sean: The thing from the whole data point of view is that email, it's sort of the ugly stepsister of digital these days. Everyone is trying to get out there and sell via Twitter, we see Facebook doing a deal with Stripe with the Buy Now button and Twitter doing the Buy Now button. Do you see that space developing as far as you being able to sell straight away?
Mark: Oh yeah, no question. There's a bunch of online commerce companies coming in where it's just one line of code and you just stick it anywhere, whether it's a Tweet, whether it's a Facebook post, whether it's a Tumblr post, whatever you have and it's just click to buy. You know, you could do it before by just sending someone to a web page, but now you can just simplify it even further and so, yeah, I don't see how that slows down at all.
Sean: I mean, and especially from a sports point of view, that whole impulse buy, you know.
Mark: Oh yeah, we want to take their money wherever we can.
Sean: Well exactly, and at that peak when you're in that emotion of the game if I could just hit that button at the end, and there you go, I've got that Dirk Nowitzki t-shirt or whatever, that'll be one of the easiest, when everyone's been looking to monetise social media, I mean I think it's a much of a longer play, but this will be far easier, where you'll put out that post and see results right away.
Mark: Yep, you'll see us right there. Click to buy, you know, hopefully we'll already have your credit card. That's what makes Amazon so easy, right? Because they already have all your information and you know they're good at delivery, and so you click and it shows up on your doorstep, and that's the way we want it to be.
Sean: I had a really good discussion on a panel I ran at SEAT a couple months ago with guys at ESPN and NFL and Major League Baseball about trying to get your message to the fan, and the fan is a moving target. You're trying to get them on the couch, on the move when they're around, and then on the way to the stadium, and in the stadium. Where do you try, it's very hard to get your message in there with the leagues putting their message in, ESPN and Fox are putting their message in, where do you see the team's point of view in that space in trying to get access to your fan?
Mark: We're a lot more local. We want to try to get to them in Dallas and you know, the whole North Texas area where most of our fans are, or at least the ones who are going to be the most active in buying tickets and merchandise. We'll use local media, I mean, from our website, to other websites, to billboards, to radio, to television. You know, we don't leave any stone unturned. Old school media, new media, you name it, if there's any angle, you know, Cyber Dust, whatever angle I can try, I'm going to try it, because you're right, it's a moving target, and so, you know, as long as fans keep on moving and new things coming out. What I try to do, I guess, to try to give us an edge, I try to look at all the new technologies and try to stay ahead of people there, and when the technologies are still new, they're usually a lot more forgiving and open to unique kinds of deals. Then those type of things hopefully catch on quickly and we're ahead of the pack and that's typically how the Mav's have been able to do it. We were the first website for eCommerce in the NBA, we were the first mobile app in the NBA, we just try to do things a little bit ahead of the curve and by doing that, we think we can catch the tip of the momentum from fans.
Sean: I did want to go back to you on that. Like myself, I was a coder and a geek before I was a Sports Geek, you used to get on the tools back at Micro Solutions, put together systems, so do you think that coding background has helped you as an entrepreneur knowing where these tech trends are going and what they're trying to do?
Mark: Oh yeah, no question. I mean, knowing how to code and understanding technology and the logic behind it helps in everything. You know, it helps in business because you kind of understand how to start something and how to get it to a finishing point and how to define all the logic between. That applies, not just to writing software, but also to putting together a business plan, to executing on the business plan, to understanding things that are being pitched to you. Also, we're so technologically driven now so that when someone pitches an idea and they want to try to talk over your head from a tech perspective, they can't do it because if you know how to code and you understand hardware, then you're going to be able to figure everything out. I always tell people every day, there is something brand new that comes out and the person who developed it, they have an edge, but everyone else is tied with you in figuring it out, and if you just put in the time, you can figure it out as well as anybody but the developer. I've always kind of used that approach to find new places and new edges for our business. If you can code, you're going to have an edge in business.
Sean: Yeah, and I definitely think, you know, when I started Sports Geek, one of the things was to weed out those cowboys in the tech space that just go off, promise the world and deliver less than that. I think the growing knowledge of technology and being able to spot those cowboys out there is just making a better experience for you as a business owner.
Mark: If you're trying to start a company and you require technology and you don't understand technology, you are going to get taken advantage of. They're going to see you coming and they're going to charge you more than they should and you're going to have an issue. If it doesn't work the first time, you're not going to have any idea how to fix it and you're going to repeat the same mistakes. Having a tech background, having a partner with a tech background, is enormously useful.
Sean: Yeah, I really liked the deal you did on the first episode of Shark Tank, with the girls from Roominate, pushing to get technology and getting kids and girls, specifically, into engineering and building, that kind of stuff. As I said, as a dad, always looking for positive role models, so I really loved that deal you did with the girls of Roominate.
Mark: Thanks, I really appreciate that. I want to push my kids or let them go into whatever they want to, but if I can push them in to experience new things, at least so that they can make up their own minds from a more educated basis, I'm going to do it. You know, I'm a lucky guy, and so, having Shark Tank and other things available to me, I'm going to take advantage of everything I can for my kids.
Sean: And on Shark Tank, I mean, how has the experience been for you, being a shark on Shark Tank?
Mark: It's cool. It's interesting because, you know, it's a lot of work. Not so much filming the show, we film the show in like 20 days, total. We get there in the morning, they just bring us deal after deal after deal. The deals in real time can go anywhere from 30 minutes to two and a half hours. Then, they cut them down to 10 minutes. Doing the show itself, the filming is easy. The hard part is helping all the companies that you invest in. I think I'm past 40, 50 companies, I don't even know the number. I'm getting reports from all of them, e-mails from all of them, calls, and so that's what takes up all the time. You know, it's a lot of work, but the reality is the show is being seen globally, and it really tells people around the world that if you're willing to put in the effort and take time to learn, then anybody can start a company, in any country worldwide, whether it's the U.S., Australia, Japan, Paraguay, Argentina, we're being seen everywhere now. It really feels good to know that we can have an impact.
Sean: I mean, what you just said then about, you see the glamour of the show, but all the hard work that's happening behind the scenes to make all of those companies a success. That is the story of every small business, like that you've got to do all that work and people see the microsegment of you having success and not realise all the slog that you're doing, you know, seven days a week to make that happen.
Mark: Oh, yeah. I mean, I went seven years without taking a vacation in my first company and you know, from the time you start to where you hopefully end up at the top, it's never a straight line. It goes up and down and zigs and zags and all around and you just hope you end up where you wanted to end up. It's scary, but that fear, at least for me, has always been a huge motivator.
Sean: I did an episode, I've got another podcast called “Beers, Blokes and Business”. We did a whole episode on facing that fear and that's the adrenaline. That's the driver that gets an opportunity up and about.
Mark: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I say to people all the time that business is the ultimate sport. Whatever adrenaline you feel whenever you're competing, whether you're playing basketball or rugby or Australian Rules, whatever it may be, you get that rush, but that rush is why you're on the field. You know, maybe you get fired up during practice and while you're training, but business is 24 by 7 by 365, and you don't even know who your competition is, you don't know who the other team is half the time. They're always coming at you, and that fear of, at least for me, that 18 year old kid in Australia, down there in Sydney, he wants to kick my ass, that motivates me to work harder, be smarter, try to stay ahead.
Sean: Yeah, I mean, I highly recommend to anyone that's listening to read your book on Amazon, it only costs you less than a cup of coffee. “How to Win at the Sport of Business” because that's what it is. It is a sport that you're competing against everyone in the world.
Mark: Oh yeah, particularly with the internet. Everybody who is in business in your area is your competition and you need to realize that.
Sean: One thing I want to go back on, talking about Facebook. Early on, when Facebook came out with the boost feature for posts and you were just the same as me, shocked, when it said “Yes, you can boost of posts of the Mav's, it'll only going to cost you $1,500.” I call the boost button and Facebook ads for dummies. It's pretty much a donate button to Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark: Yes, that's the truth.
Sean: But the thing is, have you had a second look at the other options from the advertising point of view in Facebook?
Mark: Yeah, there's so many options. Look, there's certain things you want to advertise on Facebook, even though, well first let me take a step back. The whole idea of investing to create “likes” is a waste of money. You know, and that's kind of unfortunate because Facebook mislead us into thinking that if you build up a bunch of people to “like” your business page then that's going to be a good thing for you and you're going be able to benefit from it, and it's turned out to be the exact opposite. There's no benefit for all those “likes” other than to tell Facebook to sell to you. Now, as far as posting ads and boosting it, I mean that's fair enough I guess, because Facebook does have some better information than some others and while I hate getting money, like you said, just putting it right into Mark Zuckerberg's pocket, if there's a very specific thing that I'm looking for, Mav's fans in Australia, probably the only way I'm going to find them is on Facebook. Maybe Google, but probably on Facebook, so you know, you have to use them sometimes, but they are not at the top of my list by a long shot for the very reasons you mentioned.
Sean: Yeah, for mine, once you get into more advanced stuff, being able to target a fan who's visited mavs.com, so you can know they're really interested so I can put that offer.
Mark: That's what they just announced today that they're going to be doing too, so it's going to be even more advanced.
Sean: Yeah, yeah, and the fact that they aren't tracking you everywhere, which goes back to our Cyber Dust discussion, but they are tracking you everywhere you go. As a marketer, I love it. As a user, it's creepy as hell, so I'm in that conundrum. You know, as long as I can still push out an ad or promote a podcast or promote a product or help teams sell more tickets, you know it's all about getting the cheeks in the seats, I love that as a phrase from a sports business point of view. You would be asked all the time, no doubt, “Mark, how do I get into the sports business? I'm a big sports fan, I love sports, I want to work in sports business.” What's your standard answer to that question?
Mark: Don't. Pick another business, because it's so competitive. Particularly here in the states, I don't know how it is in Australia. So many people want to work for sports teams that they're willing to work for free. You know, “I'll just get my foot in the door, I'll work for free,” and because of that, you know, salaries aren't real great and it's really hard to get a job and more often than not, it depends on who you know. I would say that if you want to work in sports, then focus on the things that are most important to us right now, which is not marketing, but it's analytics, it's biology, having a medical degree is going to give you a better chance at getting a job in the sports field than having a sports marketing degree.
Sean: Yeah, definitely, the whole analytics side, again, both on the court and on the fields point of view and that analytics side of understanding the data around sports is massive.
Mark: Oh yeah, there's an Australian company I invest in called Catapult. That, you know, just tracks your health data and tracks your performance and your workout and your heart measurements and knowing how to use that product, and being an expert in that product will get your foot in any door. Knowing how to, or thinking you know how to sell seats if you're a salesperson, that's a good foot in the door, but as a marketing person, that gets you nowhere.
Sean: Yep. I do like a phrase a mate of mine, Ted Johnson, from the Timberwolves said, “If you're going to go into sports, don't be a jock sniffer.” Don't be there and have the jaw, hit the ground when Dirk Nowitzki walks by.
Mark: No, you can't, you can't. You've got to be ready to work and you've got to know what the goals are. You've got to be ready to put the cheeks in the seats, like you said, and get after it. It is not an easy job at all because there is so much competition for that spot.
Sean: Yeah, and the key thing is you're in the sports business. It's the business side you have to focus on. The sport is the gravy, it's the fun stuff. You do get to celebrate the wins and those kind of things, but in the end, you're part of a business and you've got to keep delivering on that space.
Mark: Yeah, and if you don't remember that, you're in trouble.
Sean: Yeah. Definitely, definitely. So, one of the things around Shark Tank, what are the advice you've got for people looking to pitch, because again, you would have people pitching you all the time, what makes a good pitch from a Shark Tank point of view?
Mark: A good pitch. You've got to know your industry, you've got to know why your company fits in the industry, and why it will do well. You've got to tell me how big the upside will be. It can't just be “Okay, we'll sell a $1 million worth”. That's good for you, but as an investor, that's not going to work. You've got to tell me how you're going to do the work and get it done. It varies from company type to company type but the reality is, are you smart? Are you willing to work? Is it an opportunity that can be big, big enough to make it worth an investment? Are you the person to get it done?
Sean: I mean, how many of your deals, like the girls from Roominate, how many are you investing in the person, because of the way that they're wired?
Mark: It just really, really depends. It just really depends. You know, I'd say 90% it's the combination, 10% it's the person and it's never just the product. I've learned too many times that if the person running the company is an idiot, it doesn't matter if you're selling gold for a penny, you know, it's not going to sell.
Sean: Yep. With the Mav's, recently, you launched a crowd sourced jersey, the new skyline jersey, you can see it at Mavs.com. How did that experience go, pushing it out to the fans to ask for the design?
Mark: It was fun, because I liked the designers and people we worked with in the past, but my thought was that, out of the tens of thousands of people who were the least considered in creating a design, one of them would be at least as good, if not better than what we could do and that's what turned out. The guys name is Jeff Case and he was one of thousands that contributed, but he really stood out, turns out he was a designer, a professional designer, and he got himself $1,000 and a couple season tickets to the Mav's for his work and he did a great job and I think it looks great.
Sean: I mean it's a great way to engage your fan base and get that backwards and forwards. The Portland Trail Blazers recently crowd sourced the design of the new floor of the Motor Center and they got over 18,000 different variations of the combinations.
Mark: Yeah, because, during the off season, you're looking for ways to engage the fans, and this is just one simple way to get people thinking Mavericks, and we want as many ways as we possibly can during the off season to get you thinking, “Okay, when does basketball start, when do the Mav's start? Let's think about the Mav's”.
Sean: That's right, Media Day was today, the season is starting to come upon us. I love Coach Carlisle's quote, “You're either first or you're tied for last with everybody else.”
Mark: He stole that one from me.
Sean: So, what are your thoughts on the Mav's this season?
Mark: I don't make any predictions. I mean, I like our guys and I like the team we put together, but I always do, you know, and so, we've got a good group of guys, now we've just got to stay healthy and produce. The western conference of the NBA is going to be super tough, there's no easy teams, and we'll see what happens. You know, I always get nervous and I always get excited and I always hope for the best, but I never make predictions.
Sean: I don't expect you to make predictions, because you do, you want to go out there and win. From a fan experience point of view, what will Mav's fans expect this year, is there anything new, from a fan engagement point of view?
Mark: Yeah, I can't tell you exactly, but we've got a whole series of giveaways that we're doing that are going to be different, we've got some things for the television, broadcasts that hopefully we'll have done by the second week as the season starts, that will make our broadcasts completely different. We're trying to keep pushing the envelope and staying ahead, because it's important, like you and I have discussed. It's not easy to do, but it's important to do, because you don't want your customers, your fans ever feeling like they've been taken for granted.
Sean: Have you been sort of following the trends? I come from Melbourne, which is very much focused on membership as opposed to a season ticket holder, seeing some of that taking hold in the U.S. with the Kansas City Chiefs starting to call their fans “members'. Is that something that you're looking to do with the Mav's, to sort of make them feel like they're more inside the inner circle, so to speak?
Mark: Yeah, we always say that you're part of the Mav's family, but, I don't know, calling them “members” makes it sound like we're going to ask them for more dues, you know?
Mark: Yeah, so, it's a good idea, I just don't know if I, sometimes ideas like that take me a little while to warm up to. It's not a “no”, but let me think about it and let me bounce it off some people first. I can see why you would do it, I just don't know for sure that I would do it.
Sean: So, it's very much a cultural thing over here. I'm a Collingwood member, my son is a Collingwood member, and it sort of becomes something that is more of an emotional decision less than a financial decision.
Mark: Yeah, it's so different over there, with soccer, with Australian Rules Football. It's got such a long tradition attached to that part of the country that it's you against every other part of the country or other areas. We're not quite there yet here, but that's something I hope we get to at some point.
Sean: So, do you look at teams like Arsenal and Real Madrid and how they have that really huge tribal following, is that something you're aspiring to from a Mav's point of view?
Mark: Absolutely, absolutely. We want people to be as rabid about the Mav's as they are about their football teams.
Sean: I mean, that's the thing, you want them naming their kids Maverick.
Mark: Yeah, we get a lot of that. We get a lot of that, but we want more.
Sean: Exactly. My son did not get a choice on who he got to barrack for, so you want to continue that kind of thing.
Sean: Well, Mark, thank you very much for taking the time.
Mark: I really enjoyed it.
Sean: People can find you all over the internet, you're not that hard to find. Watch Shark Tank on Fridays on ABC in the States?
Mark: Yep, Friday nights on ABC in the States and you can see it different spots online after that and if anybody has any questions, download Cyber Dust. We'll add you on @blogmavericks and I'll do my best to get you an answer.
Sean: And, Shark Tank Australia is going to be opening soon in Australia so everyone who is listening in Australia, will be able to see Shark Tank, maybe we'll have to get you down to Australia some time.
Mark: I'd love it. I'll tell you what, I'd love it. When I was on Dancing with the Stars, my partner, Kym Johnson, was from Sydney, I believe.
Sean: Yeah she was.
Mark: She's down there now on Dancing with the Stars as a judge now, so she's been trying to get me to come down.
Sean: Well, if not down to Australia, we'll have to try to get you to SEAT Conference next year, which is Sports Entertainment Alliance and Technology. It's in San Francisco next year, so we're going to have all the big tech players in there, I'll send you the details. I'd love to continue this chat at SEAT next year in San Francisco.
Mark: Yeah, I hope so, it should be fun. Definitely.
Sean: Alright, man. Thank you very much.
Mark: Appreciate it.
Mark: Thank you so much.
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Sean: Thanks again to Mark Cuban and please, sign up for Sports Geek News. You will join the likes of sports business executives like Mark Cuban who are on the mailing list to get the latest on sports digital, sports marketing, sports social media articles from around the world that you actually help curate. Everything that you click and retweet and engage with via my Twitter account @SeanCallanan or @SportsGeek, that's how we decide what goes into that newsletter. As a bonus, you get a free eBook from our presentation at SEAT Conference in Miami. Don't forget, keep an eye out for SEAT 2015 now on sale at sportsgeekhq.com/seat2015 to check it out.
That clock tells me to wind up this episode, you can find the show notes at sportsgeekhq.com/62 and this week's Sounds of the Game comes back from our time 2010 at a Dallas Mav's game.
So you can definitely hear what Mark was saying before about creating that raucous atmosphere where you actually don't want to pull out your phone. You want to be watching the drummers, you want to be watching the dancers and really have that full on fan experience.
Thank you again, if you're a first time listener to the Sports Geek podcast, please go back to our archive. Go to sportsgeekhq.com/sgp you can see over 80, I think we're up to now 90 guests, I'm getting close to guest 100, but I had guests from Arsenal with Richard Clark. Oscar Ugaz talks about Real Madrid, I've got that conversation that I spoke about on the chat with Mark at SEAT which is episode 55. Plenty of conversation with people in sports both in the U.S., in Australia and in the U.K. and also check out Beers, Blokes and Business, I mentioned a couple of those episodes in the interview with Mark. One specifically, Passion vs. Effort and then another one on fear.
That pretty much wraps up this episode of the Sports Geek podcast, thank you very much for listening. As I said earlier, please, if you have listened to the podcast, send me a tweet, tell me that you have, @SeanCallanan. Also, please, send me a message on Cyber Dust or add me on Cyber Dust the same handle, @SeanCallanan. I will be hosting a Facebook Q and A on my Facebook page, that's facebook.com/sportsgeek for some follow up stuff around this interview, so please, please like us on there. And that's it, that's enough of the plugs. As I said, thank you again, for all the response I've had so far for the interview. I hope you really enjoyed it, and if you do enjoy it, please share it with your networks.
Until next week, and I hope you will be back for episode 63, got some really great guests lined up. My name is Sean Callanan, from sportsgeekhq.com, stay tuned after the credits for bonus Sounds of the Game from the AFL Grand Final, thanks, Martin, for sharing this. This is what it sounded like at the MCG after the Hawthorn Football Club won the 2014 AFL Grand Final. Cheers.
Announcer: Check out which teams work with Sports Geek at sportsgeekhq.com/clients. Find all Sports Geek podcasts at sportsgeekhq.com/sgp. Send in your sounds of the game. E-mail Sean at sportsgeekhq.com. Thanks for listening to the Sports Geek Podcast.