"Stern Tank": Pitching Geopipe to Mark Cuban

Posted by Christopher Mitchell, Ph.D..

This week, we pitched to Mark Cuban at the NYU Stern School of Business. Best known for his role as an investor on the ABC television show Shark Tank, Mr. Cuban graciously visited the school on Tuesday, January 28th for a fireside chat and a miniature "Stern Tank" pitch competition. The event was one of a series of fireside chats organized for the school's Entertainment, Media, and Technology (EMT) class by Professor Greg Coleman, and inarguably the most popular, with a full auditorium of over 500 packed seats.

The fireside chat portion of the evening was presented as an informal conversation between Mr. Cuban and Professor Coleman. Mr. Cuban touched on his early career, including his roots in the Dot-Com boom of the 1990s and his first few companies, MicroSolutions and Broadcast.com, each of which was later acquired. Like many entrepreneurs, Mr. Cuban's inspiration for the latter endeavor came from his own pain point: trying to listen to basketball games from across the country. With now tens of millions of dollars invested in startups, Mr. Cuban has not lost those technologist roots. He discussed keeping up with the latest technology by learning Python and exploring machine learning libraries, all the better to be able to distinguish companies with novel technology with those simply sprinkling buzzwords like "deep learning" and "computer vision" into their pitches.

Our turn at bat came during the "Stern Tank" portion of the evening, where three startups founded by NYU alumni pitched to Mr. Cuban, each presenting their companies before engaging in a few minutes of spirited Q&A. We pitched Geopipe against Emphemeral, a semi-temporary tattoo company that has followed much the same path as Geopipe through the NYU Summer Launchpad program and Techstars NYC, and VisuWall, a company offering landlords the opportunity to turn vacant store windows into revenue-generating advertising space. Mr. Cuban lived up to his reputation, urging Josh Sakhai of Ephemeral to focus on product adoption over refinement, and Kobi Wu of VisuWall to overhaul her business model and avoid a technological component.

For Geopipe, Mr. Cuban had insightful questions about our technology, the speed at which we can generate entire cities, and how we can iterate even faster. He showed his technological chops, diving into where we get our data and how we turn that into semantically labeled 3D worlds. Mr. Cuban ended the Q&A session on a tantalizing note, saying "I’ll negotiate with you because I’m a Shark. But reach out to me, you have my email."

We enjoyed the opportunity to refine our pitch, to meet Mark Cuban and to get his feedback on Geopipe, and we're proud to have presented Geopipe with two other rapidly growing startups. Be sure to keep your eyes on our Twitter, and Facebook profiles to catch our next pitch!