Mark Cuban became a billionaire just before the dot-com bubble burst.
In 1995, Cuban and a friend, Todd Wagner, started an internet radio platform called Broadcast.com. Four years later, Broadcast.com was acquired by Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock, making Cuban a very wealthy man. Since then, the “Shark Tank” investor and Dallas Mavericks owner has invested in hundreds of successful companies to date.
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If Cuban were to start a company today, he would also utilize new technology — he would center the business around blockchain technology, smart contracts and NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which reminds him of the early days of the internet.
“If this was 1995 again, coming up with these types of applications, I’d be going nuts,” Cuban told Justin Kan on a recent episode of “The Quest” podcast. “That’s exactly what I’d be doing right now – anything I could make digital.”
NFTs are unique cryptocurrency tokens used to represent assets (like works of digital art, music or movies). NFTs can be bought and sold, like physical assets, but since they run on blockchain, a decentralized digital ledger that documents transactions, ownership and validity of the asset they represent can be tracked.
For example, if a creator puts an NFT-based piece of artwork up for sale, a buyer could purchase a unique token that represents the asset and can then prove authenticity and ownership of the digital art through blockchain.
“This is like the early internet days all over again,” Cuban told Kan. “I think [NFTs and blockchain tech is] going to be huge.”
Cuban has already cashed in on NFTs by auctioning digital goods online, including a Mavs Suns Game Day Experience video. He also owns NFT-based digital assets, including a “Maxi Kleber dunk Moment” card that he considers a collectible and just as valuable as a physical sport card. Although Cuban said he wouldn’t sell his, other digital Maxi Kleber dunk sets have sold for anywhere from $35 to as much as $800 on the NBA Top Shot website, which Cuban describes as a massive innovation.
In addition to collectibles, Cuban predicts that NFTs will disrupt the music and movie industries.
“I think the collectible side of it is going to completely turn the [art], music and movie industry upside down,” Cuban said.
“I’d be going to every musician I know right now. I’d introduce myself, like I did back in the day with Broadcast.com, [to make] anything digital. Same with movies.”
According to Cuban, this industry will grow because, in his opinion, “Gen Z value digital goods more than anything, other than maybe a house, maybe a car [and] their phone. After that, it’s digital. They’re going to respect something that’s digital before they buy something that’s physical.”
Recently, the use of NFTs got a bit more mainstream, as Christie’s announced that it will become the first major auction house to sell a fully digital, NFT-based artwork later this month.
“[I]t may bring traditional art collectors to the digital space,” Cuban told CNBC Make It of the auction.
Growing up, Cuban frequently sold baseball cards and stamps, and the process of doing so has helped him understand why blockchain will become increasingly important, he said.
“Because much of the industry is person to person, there are a variety of other risks and costs introduced… All of these are expensive, time consuming, risk increasing and annoying,” Cuban wrote in a January blog post. But with digital goods and digital marketplaces, “you have all the fun, none of those risks and the value is still set by the same laws of supply and demand,” Cuban wrote.
Though of course, there are risks associated with digital goods, as fintech experts point out, the process of buying and selling will be more efficient through blockchain, Cuban told Kan. “This is the holy grail.”
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Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”