You’d be hard-pressed to find a more recognized tech investor than Mark Cuban. The serial entrepreneur founded multiple 90s tech companies including Microsolutions and Broadcast.com before becoming a prominent investor in the 2000s. With many claims comparing today’s blockchain hype with the internet of the 90s, we’re investigating the ideas of leaders like Cuban who successfully emerged from that explosive tech era.
In recent tweets directed at popular gold enthusiast and Bitcoin critic Peter Schiff, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, wrote, “…BTC/Eth are technologies that can make you a banker, allow friction-free exchange of value, and are extensible into an unlimited range of biz and personal applications.” He continued in a second tweet, “What we are seeing built w/ crypto today is just proof of concept…” “…But Gold won’t ever change. This is why it will die as a SOV [store of value].” For those who recall the October 2019 headline “Tech Billionaire Mark Cuban Picks Bananas Over Bitcoin“, Cuban championing Bitcoin might come as a surprise. Fortunately, the billionaire has recently appeared on numerous talk shows to explain why he has newfound enthusiasm not just for Bitcoin, but also for trending cryptocurrency applications such as DeFi and NFTs. Let’s take a closer look at Mark Cuban’s latest thoughts on the world of cryptocurrencies.
“DeFi”, or decentralized finance, is a quickly growing cryptocurrency category that makes financial services more accessible through decentralization. DeFi’s recent maturation seems to be making the choice between bananas and bitcoin more difficult for Cuban. As the standalone guest on March 9th’s “Blockchain & Booze” episode, Mark updated listeners on his position, saying, “In terms of utility, pre-DeFi, a banana had more utility than bitcoin because I can eat a banana. Now the utility has changed. There are so many things that you can do now. If I’ve got my bitcoin, whether it goes up or down in value, I can take a percentage of that and borrow and lend and earn income, and be my own personal banker.” So, while Mark still believes that “Bitcoin is an algorithmic source of scarcity and a store of value”, the broader DeFi ecosystem is what gives it real utility.
As a true leader in crypto, Mark isn’t just subscribing to a popular narrative—he’s getting his hands dirty. According to an interview with Decrypt, he’s teaching himself Solidity. Solidity is the programming language native to the Ethereum blockchain, where most DeFi smart contracts have been built so far. While Mark isn’t shy about the risks of investing in crypto assets, he speaks enthusiastically about his predictions for the future of the space. In the same Decrypto interview, Mark imagines a future where smart contracts remove the need for inefficient intermediaries like insurance companies or accounting firms, which are vulnerable to human error and corruption. In short, Mark says, “…simplification of smart contracts is what gets me excited. Because now, all these SaaS [software-as-a-service] companies, all these different companies, I could see just disrupting the f–k out of them…” Well put, Mr. Cuban.
While DeFi’s growth exploded in mid-2020, NFTs are the latest hot topic in crypto. In essence, “non-fungible tokens” are uniquely identifiable blockchain-based assets that grant their owner immutable ownership. By enabling digital assets such as art, music, video-game items, etc. the ability to give true ownership to consumers, many digital services are ripe for disintermediation. Though the value proposition behind NFTs may be unclear at first glance, Mark thinks they are more digestible among younger consumers. “The crypto natives, particularly Gen Z, their most valuable assets are on their phone…” “…That’s why people my age don’t fully understand that this is not a transition, this is not hard, this is natural.”, Mark wrote in his January 31, 2021 Blog Maverick post titled “The Store of Value Generation is Kicking Your Ass and You Don’t Even Know it”.
Ever the early adopter, Mark has already tried out creating his own NFTs. “I just took GIFs of me going to work out and I put them out there for $25 apiece, thinking no one’s gonna spend any money on this. Then I was asked, ‘What would you like your royalties to be?’ Oh my god. What a game-changer, that just changed the nature of selling anything digital, period, end of story.” Traditionally, the “starving artist” is paid only once for their work, even if it goes on to resell for millions. Similarly, musicians face restrictive gatekeepers and costly distributors to get their music to the masses. The “game-changer”, as Mark points out, is NFT technology’s ability to make digital collectibles more rewarding, both financially and intrinsically, for artists and collectors alike.
We’ve previously covered why the unprecedented institutional interest in crypto assets is changing the game this market cycle. Now more than ever, we can look toward prominent investors for clues on the next cryptocurrency trends. As a veteran of the dot-com bubble, Cuban’s cautiously optimistic involvement in DeFi and NFTs is exciting for many crypto enthusiasts. Still, many wonder: Are we in a bubble? Only time can tell. Irrational exuberance seems inevitable for certain crypto assets, especially among NFT markets where prices may become more driven by financial motivation than subjective intrinsic valuation. But with leaders like Mark seemingly long on the space, we remain focused on finding the best projects in the crypto universe.
By Nathan Frankovitz