Exclusive Conversation with Mark Cuban

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Mark Cuban, Successful Innovator and Entrepreneur

Most people in America know of Mark Cuban as the owner and face of the 2010-11 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, as well as one of the entrepreneurial stars of the smash TV show “Shark Tank.” In the business world, Mark is known in a different way: as the highly successful pioneer of HDTV (through HD Net, now AXS TV), and most recently, as one of the principals of Magnolia Pictures. Magnolia is the first studio to deploy truly 21st century technology, from the way it produces films to the way it advertises and distributes them.

Mark is one of the most successful entrepreneurs America has ever seen, with an irrepressible combination of insight, vision, energy and business savvy. We had the rare opportunity to catch up with Mark for The Legacy Series Magazine. This is an excerpt from the interview that will appear in our premiere issue in mid-November.

Q: First of all, Mark, you live an entrepreneur’s dream. How did your entrepreneurial instincts sharpen during the journey to create what you oversee today?

A: I was able to see a lot of repeatable patterns that occur from business to business which allows me to move faster than most. I also make a point to always ask myself to always re evaluate my businesses so that, if I were to start from scratch, what would I change? Then I try and change it.

Q: Magnolia Pictures seems to be a 21st century version of the vertical integration found in the Hollywood studios in the 1930s through 1950s: a production company, distribution arm, the Landmark theaters and cable rolled into one chain. What did you see in the movie world that created an opening to develop this business model and run with it?

A: We realized that because we are vertically integrated, with AXS TV, Landmark Theaters, Magnolia Pictures and 2929 Films, not only could we make, distribute, show and sell movies, but we didn’t have to play by all the old Hollywood rules. I decided to look at the technology opportunities that would allow us to change how the game was played that others may not be aware of.

Back then, everyone at the internet as the big opportunity for movies and distribution. Many still do. I have a rule: if everyone is looking in one area/platform for solutions, that probably is not where the new opportunities are. In this case, everyone was ignoring the fact that cable and satellite had already gone digital. From a tech perspective, everything that Youtube and other online video sites could do, cable in particular could do as well. Knowing that cable TV providers would leverage new digital technology, we made a big push to understand how we could leverage their VOD platform to sell movies.

We changed the game and now we are starting to see Lions Gate and others starting to try to copy us, and consumers are pushing hard to see windows for films collapsed to the Magnolia/AXS TV model.

Q: A great feature of Magnolia Pictures is the types of films you produce – adventures, tight thrillers, smart character and ensemble pieces, and truly innovative documentaries. We’re curious as to what you saw in the documentary market’s potential to choose this route, since most other studios tend to shy away from docs?

A: It’s tough to get people to leave their houses to go to a theater to see a movie. It has to be very timely and topical to a great number of people for docs to work theatrically. Because we make our docs so easy to buy, via VOD, we can reach a far greater audience than other distributors can.

Q: What prompted you to climb aboard Shark Tank? What is the biggest takeaway message you try to give contestants — whether or not you invest in their businesses?

A: I loved the idea of making the business decision-making process public. Most people feel that they aren’t in a position to start or run a business, because they don’t have connections or are missing something else. Shark Tank allows people to see that anyone can start and run a successful business. I wanted to be part of that. The biggest takeaway I try to create is that, although a shark may not invest in their business, hard work and smarts are always more important than money.  If the entrepreneur keeps on working hard, anything is possible.

Q: When discussions on innovation ensue, it seems everyone can speak the language, but not so many move forward with innovative ideas. How does one focus their instinct and vision to create something truly innovative in such an apparently crowded marketplace?

A: By doing your homework and being honest with yourself.  You have to know more about your industry than anyone else in the world. If you don’t, someone else out there is in better position to win your customers than you are. It comes down to effort. It’s surprising, but most people think they work hard and smart enough, but they don’t. They get outworked.

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The Road to Robust Business Innovation

In the past five years, we’ve heard, seen, read and experienced plenty of difficult news concerning business and economy. However, as the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Out of the rubble of the Great Recession has come tremendous focus on innovation and invention. Both will be featured and discussed at the INPEX convention outside Pittsburgh, which we’re attending to showcase The Legacy Series: Innovations and Technology.

“When you look at it, the amount of innovation in business the past 10 to 15 years has been astonishing,” says  The Legacy Series publisher Charles Warner. “Take one of Steve Jobs’ creations for example — the app. Who would’ve thought when he came up with the idea of a mobile app that apps would fuel billion-dollar companies?”

Creative minds throughout the business world are running on overtime to create solutions and enticing products to energize the economy. Innovation has been the subject of recent books, including Gary Shapiro’s Comeback: How Innovation will Restore the American Dream. It also is finding its way into the public at large, through direct advertising campaigns like Fujifilm’s “expect INNOVATION,” and Dodge’s newest slogan, “Get Into Innovation.”

“Innovation is one of the things America can hang its hat on and feel good about,” Warner says. “Our eyes are squarely on the ball when it comes to innovation, and what you see happening are new markets and niches opening up from new ideas and products.”

Innovation will be a major theme of The Legacy Series: Innovations and Technology, which publishes in Fall 2012. Leading business, technology and feature writers, along with visionary business executives, will spotlight the latest innovations in manufacturing, software, education, green business, computer technology, and industries that have reinvented themselves in the past ten years; the automotive, Internet-based and book publishing industries are three examples. Accompanying the case studies and in-depth articles will be specific pieces on how these innovations and inventions are transforming the economy into the viable, sustainable and abundant marketplace of the future.

“That’s why we’re coming to INPEX,” Warner says. “Let’s go to this show, get to know many of the top inventors working in and for the marketplace, and see what types of innovations are taking place among industry leaders.”

National Inventor’s Month: A Time to Tap into Our Inner Innovator

Right now, we’re in the midst of one of the most significant but understated commemorations –National Inventors Month. Sponsored by Edison Nation, the free community of inventors, ideas and entrepreneurs, National Inventors Month honors one of the most crucial stages in business: creating new products and technologies and bringing future vision into present-day reality.

Invention is also central to our editorial focus with The Legacy Series. It is the pivotal link of a vital four-part equation that converts an idea into a finished product that succeeds in the marketplace. After all, without the vision and ability to invent, where would our featured inventor for this issue, Steve Jobs, have taken Apple? Where would our lives stand now without all of the innovations and new industries driven by his inventions — and the slew of allied and competitive products and businesses that resulted from their impact on our personal and business lives?

When looking at the life course of a new product or technology, invention comes third — the pivotal position — in a four-part process. Everything initiates with the IDEA, derived from a perceived need in the marketplace and one’s plan for filling that need. Next up is INNOVATION, the R&D phase, where full creativity is unleashed to find ways to turn the idea into reality. Everything pivots with the INVENTION, the actual product that is the physical manifestation of the idea and the driving force of the innovation. Following that, gears switch into the nuts-and-bolts world of PRODUCTION-MARKETING-DISTRIBUTION, the new invention’s emergence in the marketplace.

We’ve always celebrated the great inventions, those that profoundly change our personal and professional lives: Cars. Airplanes. Televisions. Telephones. Personal computers. The Internet. iPods. Tablets. These inventions and others not only created huge sales and market share, but they also expanded entire industries by increasing the production and performance potential of vast numbers of people. The amazing thing? When the invention hits the market and becomes part and parcel of our lives, we ask ourselves: “How did we live without this?” Yet, before the invention reached the market, chances are, only the inventor could see this.

That’s why we are so enamored with inventors and their inventions. However, as we are chronicling in The Legacy Series through a series of provocative, enlightening stories and profiles, everyone has the potential to invent and innovate — and that goes for every company developing products, services and technologies for either business-to-business or consumer markets.

Celebrate National Inventor’s Month. Better yet, extend the celebration for two weeks. A great way for you to check out tomorrow’s technologies — and pick up a creative spark for ideas and innovations you might be percolating — is to come to the inventor’s trade convention, InventHelp’s INPEX. The event will be held June 13-15 at the Monroeville Convention Center just outside Pittsburgh, PA. We’ll be there with The Legacy Series, looking forward to hearing of your inventions or innovations, and joining hundreds of innovators and inventors who are setting the course for our business and personal futures.