Mark Cuban is a man who needs no introduction, although moderator Michelle Skelding still gave him one, ahead of his discussion at SXSW this year along with Adam Lyons, CEO and Founder at The Zebra. The two would be discussing how they have been successful as disruptors, a buzzword at this year’s conference, and how this can be accomplished by either working with or against the government and the endless regulations in specific marketplaces.
What role do disruptors play? Skelding was visibly and audibly nervous throughout the panel, but Cuban was his typical quick-witted (to the point of being a smart ass) self, and still managed to articulate some good click bait quotes. He pointed out that being able to take that first step and fight through the naysayers was important, but once you start to gain traction is when you really have to fight, and that the fight itself is no less important despite who is in office. “We need disruptors to make the world better,” Cuban said.
Skelding prodded Cuban about where his internal drive came from, and why he was not afraid to fail and be a disruptor. Cuban quipped back “I just never gave a fuck.” She threw him a softball and so he knocked it out of the park.
Lyons company, The Zebra, is considered a disruptor in the highly regulated insurance marketplace. Lyons used that very regulated space of insurance to leverage technology and publically available information to simplify the complexities for the consumer, answering the question “how do you simplify insurance?” Cuban was one of the early investors in the company, and both he and Lyons are high school drop outs from Pittsburgh who have gone on to graduate from college and start their own businesses. Although Lyons was on stage throughout the panel, Skelding seemed to focus on Cuban primarily with her questions, seemingly stemming from an obvious intimidation of Cuban and his often terse responses.
One of the more humorous portions of the discussion came when Skelding brought up Chris Sacca from Cuban’s show “Shark Tank.” Cuban joked that he liked to battle with Sacca, and that it’s actually not much of a fight. “He’s a VC and I’m an entrepreneur, there’s a big difference,” Cuban laughed sarcastically. Cuban also admitted to passing on a chance to be an early investor in Uber, and advised people wanting to be disruptors to “Ready Aim Fire” in regards to taking risks in going up against regulated industries. He inferred it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission.
At one point Skelding asked Cuban a very long, complex hard to follow question, to which he replied “other than that Mrs. Lincoln how was the play?” This summed up the panel pretty accurately. Although the topic could have been interesting, the questions being asked to the panelists did not give them many opportunities to dive deeper into the topics the audience had come to see. There were audible sounds of frustration from numerous people in the crowd, and many left the ballroom early. It was frustrating, but still interesting to see Cuban and learn more about The Zebra.
Learn more: Is Govt Disrupting Disruption?