Mark Cuban has seen all types of aspiring entrepreneurs in the past five seasons of ABC’s reality pitch show “Shark Tank.” He’s seen idea people, sales people, and numbers people. But the only thing that actually gets his attention, and keeps it, is hard work and measurable business results.
The billionaire investor and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who himself has built several successful companies, recently talked with Business Insider about the best and worst pitches on the show, the fastest way to lose his interest, and the best advice he ever got.
Below is a transcript of that conversation, edited for clarity.
Business Insider: What do you consider the all-time worst pitch on “Shark Tank?”
Mark Cuban: The worst was easily the two doctors that came on this season. They kept on throwing out buzzwords about social media as if that would wow us. They had no company. No business. No clue.
BI: What was the best?
MC: I actually liked the Plate Topper guy [in season four]. He was the longest deal we have ever had. It went on for two and a half hours. The entrepreneur was a J.D., Ph.D., and MBA, I believe. He knew every answer to every question. But he thought he was smarter than all five of us. Every time he thought he had an advantage one of us would tell him where he was wrong.
What I loved about him is that he never quit and kept coming back at us with confidence and eventually got a deal.
BI: What could a hopeful entrepreneur do to immediately get your attention?
MC: Have a real, operating company that has started to get real traction in a new industry that has a ton of upside.
BI: And what do they often do to lose it?
MC: The worst thing you can do is give a long backstory. It’s not the time to talk about your struggles and hard work. Every entrepreneur has a similar story. You have to get right into the meat of the business.
BI: What is the worst investment you’ve made so far on “Shark Tank?”
MC: The worst is Toygaroo, [a subscription service for toys]. They went out of business.
BI: The best?
MC: I have a lot of best companies. I can’t pick one. That wouldn’t be fair.
BI: It seems like you and the other Sharks bicker a lot onscreen. What’s your relationship like off-screen?
MC: We get along and will hang out all the time, but that doesn’t reduce our competitiveness with each other. I can deal with losing, but I don’t like it.
BI: Which deal are you most bitter about losing to another Shark?
MC: I don’t recall ever losing a deal I really wanted.
BI: What’s your best advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs? And what’s the best advice you ever got?
MC: They are the same. Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts. My dad [told me that] when I was in high school. My dad did upholstery on cars, and he was always very encouraging but also realistic.
BI: What are three books that you believe are required reading for an entrepreneur, and why?
They motivate me and force me to be self-critical. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is that we lie to ourselves. We don’t step back and look at ourselves like a competitor would. These books helped me take those steps.
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