For years, when Mark Cuban made a deal with a company founder on Shark Tank, Abe Minkara was the person who worked to take the deal over the finish line. He served as Managing Director of Mark Cuban Companies, leading the team that managed Cuban’s Shark Tank and other investments. When the cameras stopped rolling, it was time for Minkara and his team to come in and complete the due diligence required for a formal investment agreement. Then, of course, the real work of growing a startup began.
Minkara explains that out of the 200 or so business owners who get a chance to pitch to the sharks, roughly 100 will get a handshake deal, and about half of those will go on to close. “Each shark takes that investment opportunity back to their team, and each shark has a team that does the due diligence just like any other deal,” says Minkara.
If everything checks out, the deal goes through, and the entrepreneurs start working to scale thanks to their new investment partner.
The role gave Minkara an insider’s view on some of the nation’s most-watched entrepreneurial ventures. Today, he continues to work closely with a wide variety of entrepreneurs, serving as a Founding Partner and the Chief Investment Officer of Legacy Knight, a multifamily office that provides investment advisory services and investment management for high-net worth individuals and families.
Minkara is passionate about advising businesses on their growth strategies and recently sat down with US Direct Selling Association President Joseph N. Mariano to talk about entrepreneurship for DSA’s inaugural video podcast, The Direct Entrepreneur. He shared a behind-the-scenes look at the Shark Tank pitches as well as observations about how successful entrepreneurs navigate growth.
“As much as technology is going to enable and create more efficiencies, we're still going to go back to more community-based transactions. That's why I think that direct selling has worked so successfully in the past, and there is still a lot of potential upside for direct selling strategies.”
Two keys to success, Minkara says, are being passionate and recognizing that entrepreneurship is not a solo pursuit. “An entrepreneur that is successful is also an entrepreneur that understands where their limitations are and surrounds themselves with co-founders or a team that complements them,” he said. “Regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur or not, you’ve got to love what you do and give it everything you’ve got. If you don’t love what you do, you’re not going to give it 100 percent.”
Another key is evaluating emerging trends and market shifts that impact business. Throughout his career, Minkara has had a focus on technology, logistics, and consumer products. He said that while technology continues to transform many consumer transactions, in-person retail is not disappearing. Consumers want to enjoy a retail experience, particularly those that connect them to people in their local community.
One thing that we’ve learned from COVID is that we all really want and need that sense of community," he says. “As much as technology is going to enable and create more efficiencies, we're still going to go back to more community-based transactions. That's why I think that direct selling has worked so successfully in the past, and there is still a lot of potential upside for direct selling strategies.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, Minkara recommends taking a small step toward getting started.
“If you have an opportunity to become an entrepreneur, you can still have a full-time job and experiment with being an entrepreneur on the side,” he says. “You can be part of a direct selling organization or set up an online store on Amazon or Shopify and start experiencing what it’s like to become an entrepreneur. If you have a passion for something, definitely pursue it.”
Minkara recommends to those wishing to become an entrepreneur that they don’t leave their job and take a leap of faith. Instead, take a more structured approach to understand what the business model is. “Try to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and other advisors that can be potential investors. Learn, learn, learn, and experiment,” he says.