After appearing on Shark Tank (and landing a deal with Mark Cuban!) what’s the number-one question Brian Riley and Kyle Jansen get from Guardian Bike customers and clients, as well as from friends and family?
What’s it like working with Mark Cuban?
“In your mind, you think someone like him wouldn’t have enough time for someone like me,” Kyle says of the billionaire investor, “but you can tell that he actually cares about the companies he’s working with.”
Brian and Kyle stay in close contact with Mark, mostly via email. Each of the Mark Cuban Companies send Mark a weekly email update, along with any questions or concerns they may have. Mark is very responsive, and replies personally.
“One of the things we appreciate most about that is that he cares about learning and being involved,” Kyle says. “He sees so many similar situations that can be applicable to a whole other company. I remember one time Brian emailed him a question after midnight, Mark responded in two minutes, then asked a follow-up question at 6:30 in the morning. Either he didn’t sleep, or he was dreaming about Guardian Bikes!”
This is what seems to surprise people most about working with Mark -- the accessibility.
“We do have direct access to him,” Brian says, “Some people ask, ‘do you actually get to talk to Mark and do you get his direct advice, or do you have to go through people who work for him?’ We email Mark [personally] every week. He wants a weekly update from us to know what’s going on and to stay involved. Usually, that includes things like, ‘hey, this is what’s going on and we’re struggling as to whether we should do this or this,’ and he’ll weigh in with some advice or comments.”
What kind of responses does Mark give?
“He’s just really, really good at email,” Brian says. “His responses aren’t long. He usually gets his point across in a sentence, sometimes a few words. I think the most he’s ever written us was probably like three or four sentences. He’s really efficient with email. So we get direct access to him, which is amazing, and sometimes he gives mind-bending advice that we’ve never even thought of.”
Sometimes he’ll reach out unprompted, with advice, a suggestion or an idea.
“From the very beginning, we wanted to be super respectful of his time,” Brian says, “so we only send him questions that we are really struggling with, like a strategy question of going this way or that way. We keep our emails as concise as we can, without going into the weeds too much. He’s a great strategist -- a great high-level thinker. If he can get email updates from us every week and have a pattern of our condition and what’s going on, it enables him to give really great advice.”
A deal with any Shark would have been sweet, but landing an agreement with Mark had a special meaning for Brian and Kyle.
“We both played basketball our whole lives,” Kyle says. “When you play basketball your whole life and you’re into entrepreneurship, Mark Cuban [owner of the Dallas Mavericks] is the guy. We knew going in that’s who we wanted, but you never know how it’s going to play out. It’s kind of surreal how it worked out.”
“We definitely went in there with Mark as our number-one choice,” Brian adds. “Mark’s been a hero of mine since college. I have his “Sport of Business” essay from his personal blog on my wall. We knew that Mark was interested in what we were doing and we definitely had a feeling that he was going to throw out a deal.”
The Guardian Bike episode of Shark Tank was broadcast on April 14, 2017. Brian and Kyle were seeking $500k for 10 percent of the company.
Mark’s counteroffer: $500k for 15 percent of the company.
Sounds like a plan, but the guys wouldn’t get a dime from Mark until the following contingencies were satisfied:
- Confirmation that Guardian Bikes’ SureStop technology is truly unique
- The guys hit their sales projections for the next 6-12 months.
- Hire an internal PR person to go out there and start telling people the story.
You can probably figure out the results, and how it changed lives.
Guardian Bikes gets further help from the support team at The Mark Cuban Companies, which helps Mark manage his portfolio of investments. Mark’s head of business development is Abe Minkara, who helps the Guardian guys keep their success on a steady, ascending path.
“Abe is incredible,” Brian says. “ He came with us to a major Amazon strategic development meeting. He flew out there, and came with us to the meeting to support us. We talk to him on the phone about strategy. So if we really want to talk things out for an hour or so, we can go talk to Abe or sit down with him and call him whenever we want and really dig into stuff.”
As a result, Brian and Kyle feel like they are a part of Mark’s team as well as having a team of their own. It’s teamwork that results in win-win.
“It did feel like it was an intense game,” Kyle says of the experience, “like a triple overtime game. And finally we came out on top.”
Here's the on screen interview with the guys, including how Mark -- in a Hawaiian shirt! -- randomly met Kyle’s family at a local restaurant.