Mark Cuban: NFTs, Blockchain & The Defi Ecosystem

In this discussion, Tristian interviews Mark Cuban about his entrance into the crypto space, the defi ecosystem, smart contracts, nfts, and more.

*Compared to major competitors. Terms and conditions apply. This is not investment advice or an investment recommendation. NFTs are shown for illustrative purposes and the types of NFTs available may vary. Cryptocurrencies, including NFTs are highly volatile, subject to significant price risk, and may not be suitable for you.


We had the pleasure of sitting down with Mark Cuban and discussing his journey not only as an entrepreneur, but also as a cryptocurrency enthusiast. From how he got started as an entrepreneur to how he got started in crypto, we dive in to his history and what he expects to see in the future in this industry. 

Mark Cuban Interview 

Tristan Yver: 

Hello, everyone. Welcome to the FTX Podcast. I'm your host Tristan Yver, and I'm really, really honored to have you with me here today, Mark Cuban. Welcome, man. 

Mark Cuban: 

Hey, it's nice to be here, Tristan. Thanks for having me. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. An absolute pleasure. I know everyone must know who you are at this point, but I'd still love it if you could give a brief introduction of yourself for maybe those remote listeners that don't. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. I mean I'm an entrepreneur, I'm on an American show called Shark Tank that's shown around the world where I invest in companies. I own the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and I'm a crypto neophyte, but I've gotten hardcore relatively speaking over the last couple of years. 

Tristan Yver: 

Awesome. Thanks for that. Yeah. So I want to go back in time, Mark. I want to go back to where you came from. I want to hear where this entrepreneurial drive was born from, and how you realized that this was the thing for you. I mean I'd love to hear that. At what moment in your life did you realize, "I'm a builder. I'm going to put things together."? 

Mark Cuban: 

Probably when I was 9, 10, 11 years old. I always had side hustles because my parents had regular jobs and never graduated from college, and they were always about, "Look, if you want something, you got to earn it." And I just took that to heart. And so anything that I ever wanted, I had to find a way to figure out how to get the money to do it myself. And so whether it was buying and selling trading cards when I was 10 years old, to going door to door selling garbage bags when I was 12, to buying and selling stamps when I was in high school. You name it. I mean where there was a way for me to try to take care of my own expenses I did it. And then that just led me to realize I wasn't a very good employee and becoming an entrepreneur. 

Mark Cuban: 

And I went to Indiana University, graduated from there, worked a couple of jobs that didn't last long. Went down to Dallas, worked as a bartender, got a job at a software store, which really is what got me into technology. Got fired after about nine months. Started my own company, and over the next seven years taught myself to program, turned it into a systems integrator called MicroSolutions. Became one of the largest systems integrators in the country doing local and wide area network and distributed database applications. And that's how I got my first start. 

Mark Cuban: 

From there, I sold that, took that money, traveled, had a lot of fun, and then started trading stocks. Did really well trading stocks. Then connected with a buddy of mine from college named Todd Wagner. And he was like, "We've got to be able to use this new thing called the internet to listen to sports." And I'm like, "Okay. I know how to deal with networks and I can write some software, let me see what we can do." And so we started the first streaming company. It was called AudioNet, and took the streaming world by storm, and the internet by storm. And went public in '98, sold it in 2000, and bought the Dallas Mavericks and the rest is history. 

Tristan Yver: 

Nice. I want to go back a little bit to this first business you started. You sold that one as well, right? 

Mark Cuban: 

Yep. Yeah. MicroSolutions. 

Tristan Yver: 

How old were you when you sold MicroSolutions? 

Mark Cuban: 

30, I think. 

Tristan Yver: 

Okay. So my question here is, you sell this business, you probably made enough that you could have gone and relaxed, and had a laid back life. What was it that gave you that drive to grab this capital, risk it again, and put it all in to keep building? Where did that drive come from? 

Mark Cuban: 

Well, let me interject there. So, I bought a lifetime pass on American Airlines when I sold it and traveled the world and partied like a rockstar. And then, originally I told my broker I want to invest like an old man because I don't want to risk that capital. But he would always connect me with these analysts for stock brokerages. And I would tell them what was going on in the industry because I mean I was eating, sleeping, and breathing technology and networking at the time. And then all of a sudden, I hear them say exactly what I told them on financial news networks or read it in the Wall Street Journal. And he was like, "I keep on telling you, you've got to trade because you know this stuff better than the analyst." 

Mark Cuban: 

And so I did and just crushed it. I mean made tens of millions of dollars. And so by the time we started AudioNet, I thought I was retired for good, that I wasn't going to work. And originally I was just going to be an advisor and provide the capital. But streaming turned out to be... It was obvious that this was going to happen it was just a question of when. And so I just dove all in. And once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. And so, I always knew it was in me, but I got back into it and kept on going, and I haven't stopped since. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. I mean I imagine you must have a blast doing it because I can't think of another reason that you would just keep at it. Because you're still at it full on right now. I mean you're still launching ventures. Yeah. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. I'm competitive. For me, it's about competing and winning. It's like a sport. I even wrote a little book called “How to Win at the Sport of Business”, and you can get it on Amazon. And basically, all I do is talk about how business is the ultimate sport. You're always competing. I mean crypto is the perfect example. DeFi is a... What you guys are doing at FTX is a perfect example. It's nonstop. You can never let up. There's always something new. And to me, that's energizing. That's crazy fun because it's a battle of wits, it's a battle of brains, it's a battle of effort, it's a battle of innovation, and you're always trying to move the needle to try to stay one step ahead. And you never know where the competition is coming from. It could be a 12-year-old kid in Indonesia. It could be a kid in Shanghai. It could be a kid in Brooklyn. You just don't know. And so you got to keep on pushing forward. And to me that's fun. That's what gets the juices going for me. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. And so you've been very successful up to this point. You did your business, you've been trading, it all worked out really well. You go after the Mavericks, you get the Mavericks. At this point, I'm assuming you start becoming quite of a celebrity beyond the business sense, and people in the wider mainstream start knowing you. How much after that did Shark Tank begin for you? 

Mark Cuban: 

So I bought the Mavs in 2000 and that's really where people started to know who I was because I was always getting in trouble and raising hell. I was like Elon Musk before Elon Musk but in the sports world, where I just didn't give a shit and I was always getting in trouble, and it was always on the front page of the papers and in the media and all that. So that's where people started to know me, particularly in the sports world. And then I went on Shark Tank in 2010, its second season, and then that's when it just blew up. Because the show was close to getting canceled and then, for whatever reason, it just took off. And now we've done 12 seasons, and now there's a lot of people who know who I am now for better or worse. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. Absolutely. I mean I do think you added a very, very special energy to that cast as well, and gave it kind of that flair. You have that just fast pace energy. It feels like you're like 20 or something. You're just like, "Go, go, go, go." 

Mark Cuban: 

I am 20. I'm 22. 

Tristan Yver: 

I was going to say 24, but that sounds right. 

Mark Cuban: 

All right. I will take it. 

Tristan Yver: 

So the question I have here for you Mark is, you become a mainstream celebrity, you're on the television, everyone knows you. How does this feel for you in your life and your relationships? Do you have to change how everything was, or did you already have good enough people that it didn't matter? 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. My friends are my friends, and my family is family. I'm not looking for new friends. And so at the beginning, it was different because when you go from just being normal to, okay, you're the guy with all the money, it's a little different for my friends and my family. And they didn't know how to act. And even for me, it was like, "All right. Am I supposed to be different? What changed?" But, I always found that just being myself, being authentic, and not giving a shit really is just who I am. And there was just no good reason to change. And once my family and friends figured that out, that I'm just the same idiot that I've always been just with a bigger bank account, then everybody got along, and it was pretty easy. 

Mark Cuban: 

But look, I'm not going to lie, with social media, being a celebrity became different over the last five, six years. Where it used to be, okay, you got all the perks and there wasn't a lot of downside. Now everybody has got a camera on you and it isolates you. But you know what, I wouldn't trade it for the world. It's just part of the drill. Everything changes. And my kids are 11, 14, and 17, and everybody [their age] is a celebrity because there's always a camera on you, and there's always a social media account that's got your picture. And so it's natural for everybody.  

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. That makes total sense. I mean for a guy like you that likes sharing information and helping people, it must be a great platform for that as well, right? 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. I mean, look, it's unique to have a platform like this where I've got probably in aggregate tens of millions of followers across all the different social media platforms. I can just pick up a phone or send an email and go on TV, or go get interviewed anywhere. So it creates a great opportunity. And on the flip side of that, it's not so much that I want to just go out there and say, "Here's what I have to say." I like to do interviews like this because I get challenged. I get a chance to learn. And sometimes you think you know things and you end up not knowing as much as you think you know. And you typically find that out by the questions you're asked.

Tristan Yver: 

Oh, tell me about it. I'm surrounded by so many incredibly intelligent people in crypto that I'm just trying to absorb everything all the time. It's like, "Holy, shit." 

Mark Cuban: 

[crosstalk 00:09:48]. What's the newest thing coming out? There's just everything continuously. 

Tristan Yver: 

All right. And then I want to hear a little bit about this crypto journey then, Mark? At what point did it click for you? At what point... Sorry. Not that did it click for you, when did you start paying attention? When did this start? 

Mark Cuban: 

Probably started paying attention about 2012 when I got my Coinbase account, and I would just get stuff in there. And remember by 2012, everybody was talking about Bitcoin and Bitcoin as a currency. And in my mind, there was never a chance that Bitcoin was going to be a currency. It was just too difficult, too complex, and it was just going to be too many steps for it to be effective. But I always saw the blockchain, because I'd worked in databases before. So I saw the blockchain as an opportunity. And the more you dug into blockchain back then you realized the limitations. Limitations of block size which limit transactions. And so I followed it but I wasn't a big believer, to be honest with you. 

Mark Cuban: 

People would send me stuff, Bitcoin was cheap, and this is cheap, and then the forks happened and I would get this and that. So I never sold anything, and I just accumulated in my Bitcoin wallet, I mean my Coinbase wallet. But then you had the hard forks in 2017 and the ICO boom. And I tried to learn and do some things there and actually lost some money there. But then once Ethereum and smart contracts really started to happen, then I started paying attention. And then with the DeFi Summer and everything that happened this past summer, that's really when it came to my attention. And really where I dug in was December, January recently when I just decided, "Okay. I needed to learn more about NFTs and smart contracts." Because I understood them conceptually, but I hadn't really dug into the details. 

Mark Cuban: 

And I went to Mintable.app and because it was gasless minting. I'm like, "Okay. I don't want to spend any money yet. I'm going to just go figure it out." And as I was going through minting just a GIF file that I had, I saw the option to fill in everything, and there was royalties. And I was like, royalties. So I started [inaudible 00:11:57]. And I'm like, "Okay. There's a standard, and now it's standardized." And so I'm like, "Okay. This is the game-changer because now all intellectual property that can be digitized has a way to continue to earn money as long as the standards are upheld across chains, across marketplaces." 

Mark Cuban: 

And so I dug in, and then obviously I minted what I put out there, and then I just tweeted about it. And I minted to just a GIF just a silly GIF. And I think I sold it for the equivalent, ETH equivalent, of $25 for 20 of them. And that wasn't the interesting part. They sold out in minutes, but they kept on reselling and reselling and reselling. And I kept on getting [hits] in my history it was more and more hits going up for my royalty. And I'm like, "Okay. This is truly a game-changer." And so that's when I really started digging in. 

Mark Cuban: 

And being a tech guy digging in isn't just about learning it superficially. You got to know it. And the good news is learning Solidity is easy if you know any programming languages. And if you have any Python, if you have any JavaScript, it's really simple to do. Understanding the concept of smart contracts is easy if you understand triggers and different applications and I've done that. Understanding blockchain is relatively simple if you understand databases and distributed databases. And then you just have to dig in and start to understand proof of work, versus proof of stake, versus validators, versus staking, and then the implications there. And then that gets you into DeFi. And then you just start understanding liquidity, the APYs, and the musical chairs games that are being played with tokens. 

Mark Cuban: 

And so that's where it starts getting complex and to a certain point overwhelming. But it's interesting. And it became very apparent. It was just like 1995 in the early days of the internet where everybody thought creating a website was complex, and you needed a tech expert to create a website. And then everybody realized, HTML and JavaScript were pretty easy. And then it was just a matter of marketing and understanding the business dynamics once you understood the technology. And that's really where my strength comes in. I can dig deep on the tech and fully understand it, and also understand the marketplaces, and understand the business applications around it, and understand how to get from point A to point Z, and what will work. Not always, but typically what will work and how long it'll take it to get there. 

Tristan Yver: 

That's so cool. It sounds like your whole background in many different ways was prepping you for this in the sense that when this all came about you were like, "Oh, I see. Oh, this, this and this." You had all the parallels already set for you. That's freaking great. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. And really, it's newer, better... It's newer and better. Blockchain and all the various blockchains. I mean just look at the competition between blockchains. They're all created for a reason. Polkadot wants to be customized to different vertical applications and allows you to have different capabilities versus Ethereum. And everybody and their brother is betting that Ethereum 2.0 is not going to happen fast enough, and so they're building either a layer 2 and trying to make a business out of that, or they're creating their own blockchains. And then, if you have a blockchain and you don't have any transactions, is it really a blockchain? 

Mark Cuban: 

So everybody is going out there trying to build the value of their tokens so they can use their quote-unquote foundation to issue grants, to get people to use it. So you see, all the same blockchain foundations are investing in every single DeFi and NFT business, because it's really a death war right now between blockchains. And that makes it just like the internet where, in the early days of the internet, everybody needed to get traffic. If you had the most amazing website, but you didn't have anybody showing up it was useless. And so they would use celebrities just like all the blockchains are using celebrities for their NFT offerings and the marketplaces they're trying to get. They would use stock to go make acquisitions and to invest in other companies just to spray and pray and hedge all their bets. And that's exactly what's happening now. 

Mark Cuban: 

And so there's going to be a lot of losers. There are going to be a lot of winners too, but it's going to be interesting. And just the dynamics, even the early days of the internet were really North America driven. Particularly the US. Whereas the early days, the current days of liquidity providing, and DeFi, and the wells, they're not really driven here in the US, they're driven where you are and around the rest of the world, in Asia. And so the dynamics are different. And trying to build a business is a little bit different because if you don't have that liquidity, you don't have a business. And you can have all the great technology in the world. 

Mark Cuban: 

And so everybody has their own little angles that they're trying to sell to build liquidity, and it's still a rigged game in that if you know the people with liquidity, and they're willing to stake, and they're willing to hold it for a while then you win. And you see the people who think they know people, and they stake and the NVL is huge for a week. And so there are all these little games that get played and that's 10% technology and 90% business. And that plays right to my strength. 

Tristan Yver: 

That's so cool. It's so cool to see you have this understanding, man. It really is. And I love the analogy you did there with the early days of the internet where the valuations were tied to the amount of traffic the website had and not sales, nothing, just how many people were on that site. Because 70% of my time goes into building out the Serum Solana ecosystem these days. So I totally see what you're saying, and I'm involved in a lot of these dynamics and it's quite fascinating. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. Because back then a press release meant your stock price would go up. And it's the same thing here now. Companies are putting out press releases to get their token values to go up. So we're going to be implementing this on Serum and da, da, da, da, da. Right. And so there's a lot of gamesmanship going on. But the interesting thing is, it's not an efficient market yet for tokens because all the tokens are priced differently across different exchanges. And the ARBs aren't fully operational yet in terms of automation, even though they try to be because not all the exchanges work quite the same. But it's interesting how this process is taking place. 

Mark Cuban: 

And unless you were there in the early internet days, it's going to be hard to remember that it was messy back then too. When we first started streaming, we didn't call it streaming. It was called net casting or internet broadcasting. In order to be able just to listen to a podcast. A podcast existed in a different form back then. But to listen to anything on-demand or live, you had to have a PC, no phones. A PC with a modem because probably you don't have broadband yet, unless you were at work. And you had to have a TCP IP client, which allowed you to dial-up to your internet service provider. And then you went to a website like AudioNet where you clicked on a batch file that loaded all these different links that in turn were processed by a media player. And then if you had a good connection, you were able to listen to audio at 16K. 

Mark Cuban: 

And now you don't even think about streaming like that. You just click, or you just... It's just there. And as long as you have a good bandwidth connection, you got everything that you need just like we're doing right now. And 25 years ago, the idea of just doing it like this off a phone to Shanghai and then having enough bandwidth, you don't really have to think twice. That was the dream. And so when you look at crypto right now, you can argue we're 12 years in if you pick 2009 as your starting point. But as a business, you're really not because until smart contracts really started to hit, you couldn't do most of these things. 

Mark Cuban: 

And it was smart contracts, and the quickness that people were able to use Solidity and offshoot, so that allowed people to start coming up with business applications. But we haven't even seen the best business applications for smart contracts yet. I mean we're just seeing... Just like in the early days of streaming, we put on sporting events because we knew people were fans and they would listen to them, but it was difficult. But really our business was in doing business applications. And it took a little while for the business applications to hit. Now the NFTs of arts and collectibles and top shots. That's just a proof of concept. The real applications are going to be business applications that change how we do business. 

Mark Cuban: 

There's the old Marc Andreessen saying that software ate the world, or software eats the world. Well, blockchain is going to eat software. And so blockchain and smart contracts will eat software. And that's what we're seeing right now, where you're going from, "Okay. I have a business application that I need to write. And maybe it'll be a SaaS. I'll do a SaaS and sell it as software as a service." But now it's like, "Okay. What processes can I decentralize? How can I move the element of trust from one centralized organization like a bank to the individual who owns the asset, and let them make their own choices in a friction-free manner." And do it in a way where you don't write software because software effectively is centralized by definition. And so we're just in the first couple innings of the business applications, and to me, we haven't even seen the most exciting stuff yet. 

Tristan Yver: 

And what's amazing is the amount of talent that's coming into this space. For it to be this early as you're saying, and I completely agree. I think we're going to see so many iterations of where we're at now that are going to blow us away maybe in a few years. But not just that, we're at this very rudimentary stage, and we have world-class people that are here to build, and they're at it day and night quitting their jobs. So, I don't see how that doesn't happen. Yeah. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. That's what entrepreneurs do. I mean you just go after it, and you see what happens. And most fail the first time, but that's okay because you learn, and you add, and you keep on growing, and you'll get to where you need to go. But it's the unique applications that... So the first thing that'll happen is, just like with technology you replicate what you did in an analog world, and then you distribute it in an internet world so that those PC-based and server-based applications now are on the cloud, and are SaaS driven. And then you try to take some of those and you apply blockchain and smart contracts in equivalence to those, and then we come up with better solutions. So it's not just replicating what was happening previously, but you find new and better ways to do it. 

Mark Cuban: 

And governance is going to be part of it, the technology will be part of it. But it's going to be really, really, really interesting because some of the stuff is fragile. All these different blockchains, they're not all going to survive. There's just no way. And all the different DEXs, and AMMs, and all the different approaches to yield farming and gaming. And right now it's interesting and it's a gold rush as everybody tries to come in, but they're not all going to survive. There will be consolidation. There will be companies that go out of business. 

Mark Cuban: 

But those that do survive will be the Amazons and the eBays of the crypto world. And it'll just have a huge impact. And I've said this so many times when we look back on the summer of 2020, and we talk about what was the business impact of the pandemic. It gave people time and focus to create world-changing companies. And you're already seeing that with the DeFi Summer. If it wasn't for the stimulus checks around the world, and all the time to dig in and understand what DeFi is, and how to yield farm, and all the different applications, and what you can do with NFTs, who knows if all this would be happening right now if it weren't for the pandemic. And the impact is going to be enormous. 

Tristan Yver: 

Man, how the heck are you so tuned in with all the other things you have to manage at the same time? I mean I'm full-time doing this, and I'm barely keeping up with everything.  

Mark Cuban: 

I read a lot. Yeah. I like it. It's fun. Because again, I'm competitive. Like if I'm playing basketball back in the day, I'm out there on the court shooting all the time to improve my game. And if you're going to be great at something... I say this to my kids, I say it to everybody. The one thing you can control is your effort. And if I want to compete I got... Otherwise someone was going to kick my ass, and I'm not ready to ride off into the sunset. I'm ready to do more ass-kicking than taking an ass-kicking. 

Tristan Yver: 

Totally. I have a question about your thoughts on something. So- 

Mark Cuban: 

Sure. 

Tristan Yver: 

... a lot of what's going on is to get rid of intermediaries and different business processes, which at the end make it easier and cheaper for the end-user. But a lot of these intermediaries are actually trying to get involved themselves as we're seeing with, Visa, and USDC, and a lot of these different things. Do you think we're going to end up with all these intermediaries on the blockchain as another mid-layer, or will we disintermediate? Do you have a sense on that? 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. You'll see both. Because it all comes down to trust. And for a period of time, people aren't going to trust decentralized governance. If you just look at just people around the world, well, more in the United States just there's less trust maybe where you are than other places. And so people still want to know when it comes to their money, they can have the ultimate trust in who is holding their money. And so until people really start to say, "You know what, I can do my own custody." Like I have somebody who has my crypto, they're the custodian because I'm terrified I'm going to take my Tezos and I'm going to lose it. And it's going to be over, and I'm going to be doing all these TV shows about how much Bitcoin I lost. 

Mark Cuban

And so I let somebody else custody for it. But it's still scary because it's not a traditional institution. And so while you and I realize that banks are screwing us over left and right in a lot of different ways, and really holding back commerce in a lot of different ways, everyday people aren't there yet. And so that trust factor, particularly with older people, isn't going to go away over the next 20 years. And so when I say older, I mean someone 40, 45 and older right now. As they get into their 60s and 70s, they're not going to all of a sudden start saying, "Yeah. I got my MetaMask wallet. I got my..." What's your app that you guys bought? 

Tristan Yver: 

Blockfolio. Yeah. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. Blockfolio. And I trust it. And so they're not there yet. And so that's why Visa knows they have to be ready on the edges. And then what I think happens is you'll see a lot of localized things because the reality is, if I'm in a community, a physical neighborhood in Dallas, and I want to open up a digital bank. And I want to have decentralized governance with my neighbors, making the decisions on what's going on so that if we all put our money into Preston Hollow. Preston Hollow is the name of the part of town I live in. So a Preston Hollow DAO, and we all stake there, and we all vote on where we lend money to develop the community, and the schools, and support projects. Yeah. That's the ultimate crypto. 

Mark Cuban: 

So right now, even though there may be 70,000 or 200,000 miners, or stakers, or whatever for any particular crypto, it's decentralized but the governance isn't localized. You want localized decentralization because that's where you have the real impact. Because as much as everybody tries to align themselves, it's hard to align. Because particularly in this country, in the United States, people don't vote. More than half the people don't vote more often than not. And so it's not all of a sudden that they don't vote in political elections, and they're going to vote in governance elections for the blockchain or for whatever applications they're participating in. 

Mark Cuban: 

And so you get certain people who dominate. And that happens in crypto games, it happens in crypto communities, it happens with governance, where people just... You go into a discord server, you go into a Telegram group and you see the same people dominating over and over and over again and politicking to be designated voters in the community because everybody wants power wherever they can find it. What I say, within every group there's somebody or a few people who want power wherever they can find it, and crypto is not immune to that. 

Mark Cuban: 

If you go into crypto games, there are always scenarios. There’s somebody who bought up all the land first and they dominate everything, and they're the ones that set the rules. That's just the way it works. And by localizing it even more, then you start to absorb some of that. And it may get down from the neighborhood to the block, to the street, to whatever. But those are the opportunities in the evolution that I think will happen. 

Tristan Yver: 

I am so hopeful for that, Mark. I truly think that one of the things that blockchain was made for was to put public monies on the blockchain and allow transparency for it because- 

Mark Cuban: 

No question. I mean you look at insurance. So with health insurance in the United States, you give them your money. When you get sick you have to really argue, and scream, and yell to get them to pay for the things you need. And it's because it's centralized where the people at the top of the food chain treat it like, "Okay. We're going to do everything we can to keep your money and not pay for the treatments that you need." And if you put insurance on a blockchain, in a validator type environment, or you look like what, oh my God, Optimism is doing. Where they look for fraud as opposed to trying to do it proof of stake in a traditional way. They look for the exception to see which of the validators are not working the right way. 

Mark Cuban: 

And if you look and apply something like that to insurance, health insurance, or any kind of insurance for that matter, you change the game. Or these other applications for insurance. There's one company I saw that's using the blockchain for selling basic insurance. So for instance, if the Mavericks are concerned about the temperature in Dallas falling below zero Fahrenheit because at that point we'll have to cancel a game or there being precipitation of beyond a certain amount that turns into snow. Well, they have an Oracle from the National Weather Service, and I can buy insurance that's on a smart contract, and if precipitation is above X, and temperature is below Y then it just automatically pays. 

Mark Cuban: 

As opposed to the traditional ways where I have to file a claim, etcetera, etcetera. So there's all kinds of business applications that can be truly localized down to a block. There's just so many different ways that we haven't even gotten to yet. But once people start to trust more and understand it more... And it might take 20 years, it's not going to happen overnight. But when that happens, then we'll look back to 2020 and realize that the shit really changed. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. Absolutely. I mean going back to what you were saying before about these power players across the DeFi space and decentralized space, it's true. You're starting to see, I think, a lot of VCs who realize that they can play politics now on the blockchain space and they're maneuvering to do that and be able to be in positions [crosstalk 00:32:16]. 

Mark Cuban: 

And I'm not even talking about VCs. I'm not even talking about VCs. But pick any game that you like. Any blockchain-based game where there's governance involved. The early adopters went in and got all the good land. They weren't stupid. 

Tristan Yver: 

That's true. Yeah. 

Mark Cuban: 

And they're the ones collecting the best rents. And yes, you can bring in... Like I'm involved with a couple of different games, and I think it's great because people without any money can come in and participate and maybe make some money, convert it to fiat, and have an income that they didn't otherwise have. So there's great things that come with it, but you still have to realize when you start to create your governance that those early adopters who got the good property, they're the best landlords. It's the same way around the world. 

Tristan Yver: 

Sounds like society. 

Mark Cuban: 

[crosstalk 00:33:03]. Yeah. It mimics society in a lot of respects. And so, unless you're able to develop governance rules that accommodate that, then it's the people in first control the most gold, and the ones in last, doesn't mean they can't participate and participate successfully, but they're going to be at the beck and call in a lot of respects by the people who set the rents, and that impacts governance. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. I know- 

Mark Cuban: 

And literally, it's the biggest risk to Bitcoin. The biggest risk to Bitcoin is what do the biggest whales do with their Bitcoin as more and more people want to have it. 

Tristan Yver: 

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. No. It's very true. I'm really glad to hear that you're looking into blockchain games as well. I think there's a lot of space there for growth. And not just for growth within blockchain, but for people in their livelihoods around the world. To give a quick example, there's this game called RuneScape that kids used to play in high school. Similar story to you, my mom didn't have any money. I didn't ever want to ask her for money. So I'd play this game and sell the game gold for real money, and how I'd get by. I'm seeing the same thing now, but on a way larger scale in games like Axie Infinity and some of these different land games like Decentraland. And I think you really get people in places like the Philippines, and random places in Africa- 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. No question. But the key to that working... And I'm involved with Axie, I'm involved with yield guild. I played some megalopolis. Megalopolis it seemed like a good fit. But the thing to make those work because there's got to be something that creates value for people off-chain, outside the game. Because otherwise you're just moving whatever it is, whatever the currency is from one person to another person. It's just rent accumulation wherever you can find it, and there's nothing really new introduced other than maybe the game providers selling more tokens and putting more in. 

Mark Cuban: 

But once you get enough scale in those games, you can start selling advertising and sponsorships. And the people like you mentioned in the Philippines that create NFTs in the game can sell them on other chains, and just sell them as NFTs because they all... And so not in the organic... Not in SOPs and Axies. It’s selling them for ETH so that they can bring that money in. So you've got to have some level of productivity that comes from outside the game, in order for the game really to generate income for people on a sustainable basis, otherwise, it's just musical chairs. 

Mark Cuban: 

And that's part of the challenge across crypto right now, it's just musical chairs with tokens, as long as you keep on bringing people into the game, then the circle of musical chairs goes bigger and bigger and bigger so it's harder to get out. But sooner or later those people realize they're not gaining a lot, unless there's something from the outside coming in, because there's something of value being created. And there's Axie, and Decentraland, and... They all have the opportunity to create things of value that they could sell to the outside. Just like Fortnite brought in Travis Scott and had 17 million people watch, and then just sell stuff. And so, there are lots of value propositions there, you just have to understand how economies and economics work. 

Tristan Yver: 

How do you feel about... So you're saying how there are all these different chains that, as you say, are competing for traffic and for different users to use the different decentralized applications. How do you feel about a pie that grows through allowing these chains to be interoperable? Or do you think that's idealistic, and it'll end up being a few that take the whole pie? 

Mark Cuban: 

So first you have to ask yourself, why are people bridging? Why do people bridge? So when you look at bridges, most of them bridge back to Ethereum to try to avoid the gas fees. And what they'll do is they'll lock on Ethereum, and then they'll open it up and say, "Okay. I've got the whole card. I've got that ace that we posted on Ethereum and we're locking it. So now because it's locked, we can take that NFT and we can trade it anywhere else, and move it anywhere on our blockchain and write it. And then if we pull it off of our chain, we can unlock it back on Ethereum." And so when you do bridging, it's not bad, but it's really a solution for hopefully a transitory problem because you're just trying to avoid the challenges of Ethereum right now. 

Mark Cuban: 

So if it's just for that, who knows what happens. It really depends on the ETH 2.0 and what happens there. But there's other... I think in terms of as blockchains compete, and I'm just pulling things out of left field, not for any technical reason or other reason. Well, let's just say there's an NFT on NEAR, and you want to move it over to Matic or Serum. Whatever it may be. And just because there's a buyer on Serum who wants to use your coins, SRMs, or whatever they are to buy the NFT. And so you pay a fee to bridge, and that's all fine and good. Or maybe there's a bigger or better community on Serum than there is on NEAR, or Matic, or whatever. 

Mark Cuban: 

So there are some fundamental reasons, but they're all kludgy in their own way. And they're all designed to overcome the kludge because blockchains by their nature are not interoperable. And people are trying to make them interoperable, but... So back in the early days of the internet, again to use that analogy. I had this argument with Vint Cerf who would say that, "Once you connect two networks, then the traffic is just going to flow freely, and there's no disincentive for the traffic to flow between networks just open." And I'm like, "No, you don't understand. These networks are in death wars. They're competing with each other for everybody's business. And so they're going to try to create roadblocks between one network to the other. And you're going to have to pay for bridging them in a way where you need a quality of service requirement. X number of milliseconds in whatever." 

Mark Cuban: 

And you've got some of those same issues with blockchains. Everybody is in this death war. It's going to be really tough for all of them to succeed. Now, there's early leaders that are doing really well, but it's going to be tough for all of them to succeed. And they're going to try to protect their own interests rather than just operate fairly between each other. Now that's against the crypto ethos. That's not the way it's supposed to work. But if your token is in a death spiral, you act differently than if everything is... It was just at $200 and now it's at 49 cents. Down that curve on the way down, your behavior starts to change. And so when everybody is coming in, and the token prices are typically going up, everybody is happy, and their treasury looks really, really good. Eight months ago, their market cap was 30 million, and now it's three billion, and everybody feels really flush, and they're acting like everybody is best friends. 

Mark Cuban: 

But if that changes it all, then people's behaviors, companies' behaviors will change, foundations' behaviors will change. And so bridging sounds really, really good right now out, and there's certainly a place for it, and there's a lot of smart companies trying to do smart things with it. But longer-term it's challenging because it's just a kludge to try to create interoperability where those blockchains were designed, because they don't want interoperability. 

Tristan Yver: 

Thanks. I appreciate that perspective. I think it does give a dose of realism to a lot of this bull market euphoria we're feeling right now. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah. I mean look at Serum. I mean why is any blockchain created? 

Tristan Yver: 

To capture users and I guess provide a service. 

Mark Cuban: 

And then why did Bitcoin fork the way it did? Why was there the big argument on block sizes? And I forget what they called it, the great, whatever it was- 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. The block wars. 

Mark Cuban: 

... that went into... Yeah. And so now there's all these different cryptocurrencies that were created for a reason because they saw something fallible in Bitcoin or Ethereum that they thought that they could do better. And if you think you're going to do something better, just like you guys at Serum. There's something you think you do better. Cardano, same thing. And now you're seeing layer 2s competing with each other for the same reasons. No one created their business, or their blockchain, or their layer 2 apps, or their DAPS thinking that theirs sucks in every else is better. And they're competing for a reason. And again, when everybody has money, and everybody is at the poker table, and everybody is winning, you got to the final table because you're a winner and everybody is smiling. That's great until somebody else pulls the good cards, and they're taking your money. And so- 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. No. Totally. I want to ask you speaking of this then... Okay. So I know you're working on a project, lazy.com. 

Mark Cuban: 

Yeah.

Tristan Yver: 

And I don't know how involved you are, maybe you can tell me that, but- 

Mark Cuban: 

I created the whole thing. I created [crosstalk 00:42:25], designed it. Yeah. Designed and everything. Yeah. 

Tristan Yver: 

Oh, you created the whole thing. Okay. Holy shit. Awesome. Yeah. So what did you see there that you said, "Okay. Shit. I'm building this, I love this." 

Mark Cuban: 

So here's what it was. This was less than two weeks ago, literally 12 days ago. I went to some of my guys and I said, "Okay. There's no easy way for me to show my collection." Sure. I could go to OpenSea and put together this long link, and do a search for it and everything. But then if I tried to send it to my friend, they're not going to understand what the hell it is, and it's not going to make any sense. So I need something clean and simple that effectively becomes your own personal NFT gallery. Just like an art gallery if you were going to have an art showing. And I want it in a simplified URL in a way that anybody who just bought an NFT, it's so easy that anybody could use it or do it. And so I already owned the URL, lazy.com. And I'm like, "Okay. This is going to be the lazy way to show your NFTs." 

Mark Cuban: 

And so we got a URL shortener and we just put together a very simple signup. And you just connect your wallet, MetaMask or whatever, and it just shows your NFTs. And so if you go to lazy.com/mark... I'm sorry, lazy.com/mcuban you see, for that wallet, I don't show all my wallets, but for that wallet, you see all the junk people sent me, some of the things that I've purchased. And the ones I like the most I pin to the top, because you can pin up to nine different things. And that's how it works. And I put it in my Twitter bio, I put it in my LinkedIn bio. I put it in my Facebook bio. I put it in my Instagram bio. And so now anybody could just click on it. And if I want to sell something I can click through, and if I have it for sale it shows up on OpenSea, and we have... I forget the exact name, but we're an affiliate of OpenSea, and it just clicks through, and you can buy it, or sell it in that particular case. 

Mark Cuban: 

And we'll simplify it so you can do all that on lazy.com. But the whole idea is, all the marketplaces you have to compete for attention. It's never just about you. And you might be featured, you might be trying to take advantage of their traffic to sell something. You might be having an auction, but that's transient. That this is your collection, if you're truly into NFTs and you're buying them, or making them, minting them yourself and just holding them, you want to be able to show them off to your friends. And so, "Hey mom, just click on this link, and you can see all these things called NFTs that I own." And you can see my taste in art or whatever types of collectibles. And it's easy for anybody just to send to anybody. And if your mom, or whoever, a friend who's not into it gets it, they just click on it, and they can say, "Oh, that's cool. That's your art collection?" "Yeah, mom, that's my art collection." And so it just really, really simplifies it. And in less than two weeks, we've had over 120,000 users. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. You know what I love about it personally. I think that... How you were saying you had in your LinkedIn bio, and your Instagram bio, it gives people a really easy way to show a different perspective of themselves. There's only so much put in words or a picture of yourself, but your taste in art, the things that you find beautiful, I think speak pretty deeply to who you are as a person. So when I saw lazy.com and I saw that, that's what I thought. I was like, "Wow, here's a way to really show people maybe a little bit deeper." 

Mark Cuban: 

Exactly. Because most of the coverage on NFTs is about the speculation. How much the money is? Who bought the Beeple for 69 million? Who bought this for millions? But the reality is, 99% of NFTs don't get sold, and 99% of the ones that do aren't expensive, and people buy them because they like them. Like I'll go to Mintable.app, and I'm an investor there to disclose that. But I like to go into their gasless store because that's where people go where you can mint something, and it's free, and it's just held there. And you can find all these undiscovered artists and their stuff. If you go to lazy.com/mcuban, the things I have pinned, except for the liquor bottles breaking are things I bought on... And the punks are things I bought on the Mintable gasless store. Because there are all these undiscovered really, really talented people who just want to get their art seen, and maybe make a little bit of money. 

Mark Cuban: 

And so it's a way to really show part of my personality, like you were saying, and to show the type of art that I like. And if I was an artist, and I wanted to show the things that I created and minted, I could do it as well. And there's other places that allow you like OpenSea, and Foundation, and others, but they're all meant to be social networks. And there's all that element of competition in the social network. How many likes do you have? How many followers do you have? Or even on Rarible if you go in, how many followers does mcuban have on Rarible? And what has he sold? And that's really not what this is about. It's just about your personal presentation of what's important to you and your NFT collection. 

Tristan Yver: 

That's awesome. That's really cool. Yeah. I've made an account and I haven't used it. After this call, I'm going to go pin some stuff up there. 

Mark Cuban: 

You got to. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. Totally. I have a couple more questions for you Mark before you head off. I guess I wanted to ask you something on a more personal level. So two questions, actually. The first one, if you could give some advice to someone that was looking to come into the space as a builder, doesn't have to be a developer per se, but someone that wants to come in and make an impact. What are some words you would leave with them? 

Mark Cuban: 

Got to read. Got to read. And you got to experience it. You got to go, and you don't have to spend a lot of money doing it, but try, not just one wallet, try multiple wallets to see the differences. Buy some tokens and different things. Try to yield farm. Try to stake, and vote in a governance vote just so you can understand all the different elements of all of this. Because it's like a ball of string. When you're first putting together that knowledge ball of string, the first couple of times it's hard because there's no ball yet, and you roll it around your finger. 

Mark Cuban: 

But once you get it going and you start understanding, each new thread is actually really easy to put on because you have a strong base. And it's the same with crypto. You've got to really dig in and experience all these different things. And once you have that foundation, adding one new layer of string or yarn is really easy. And then it's just a matter of putting in the time to keep up with it. Because this stuff is not hard. Yeah. When you talk about derivatives, and perps, and all this stuff, and structured products it can get complicated. But the underpinning of it isn't hard. 

Tristan Yver: 

Yeah. I totally agree. And then my last question for you, Mark. You've lived a very eventful life. I think you've had a lot of fun. You've probably surmounted a ton of challenges that others may have quit and turned around. And I want to ask you for perhaps a lesson, or two lessons, or something that's really stuck with you in life and has allowed you to continue forward in this drive that you have. 

Mark Cuban: 

My dad used to tell me, "Today is the youngest you'll ever be, live like it." So I just try to have fun. I don't do it unless I like it. And it's not to say that I loved everything that I did along the way, or everything was enjoyable. There are certainly lots of the shitty moments. But I understood why I was doing, what I was doing, and what my goal was. And I just try to enjoy it. I just try to not take anything for granted. I just try to enjoy my kids, my family, the moments that I have. I try to look up... When there's a blue sky, I always try to look up and smile, and try to appreciate it. And I've done that my entire life. And try to never take anything for granted, and I think that's worked out well for me. 

Tristan Yver: 

Thanks, man. Thank you so much for taking the time. I really appreciate you coming on. 

Mark Cuban: 

I enjoyed it, Tristan. It was fun. And tell Sam and the crew that I'm pissed at him for working with the Heat instead of the Mavs. He owes me one. 

Tristan Yver: 

I'll tell him. You bet. Thanks, Mark. Take care, man.

Mark Cuban: 

Appreciate, Tristan. Thanks. Great job. 

Wrapping up with Mark Cuban on Crypto and the Digital Transformation

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Mark Cuban – one of the more famous names in the crypto and NFT space. His excitement is a great sign that there is still a lot of room for growth in the digital economy. Blockchain technology and DeFi protocols are just beginning to take shape and should make for some exciting leaps forward in finance and society as a whole. 

For more insights and information about the world of crypto, check out future episodes of the FTX podcast.  

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