Eric Benson’s recent Terrence Malick profile reminded us that the director is a big Zoolander fan, but it turns that Mark Cuban, a fellow headliner at this year’s SXSW conference, also appreciates Ben Stiller’s comedy chops. At an interactive panel late Sunday afternoon called, the Dallas Mavericks owner twice offered the audience his best blue steel. It was warranted, since Cuban had just referred to Donald Trump as “the Zoolander president,” adding that Trump didn’t know how to use Google and hadn’t cracked open a book in thirty years.
At the panel—which tackled the often fraught relationship between innovation in the tech industry and government regulations—Cuban did receive his fair share of questions about his intentions for the next presidential election. But the billionaire was coy, neither confirming nor denying whether or not he’d challenge Trump in 2020. “Someone is going to have to run who looks forward instead of acting like it’s 1975,” he said. But, said Cuban, “I’ve got a lot of time to decide and we’ll see what happens,” adding that “it’s not my lifetime dream to be president. It’s en vogue right now because he won, but I hate the fact that people compare us.”
If he does have presidential aspirations, he could put to use one of the key things that he took away from the 2016 election. “One of the things I learned in the election was that I tried to change people’s minds, and that was a mistake,” admitted Cuban. Instead, he says, he’s now wondering how “get to people in Kentucky and Indiana and make them feel like there’s a future.”
When moderator Michele Skelding asked if there were any cabinet positions he’d accept from President Trump, the billionaire laughed. “Aw, hell no,” he said. Could you see me in a cabinet meeting? Are you f—ing kidding me?”
Outside of the Trump shade, Cuban did have instructive points about the state of the tech world. Silicon Valley, according to Cuban, is only good for one thing: exits. “It’s good for selling your company. It sucks at everything else.” Negging aside, Cuban presented a hopeful vision for the future. He believes we will see more technological innovation in the next ten years than we have seen in the past thirty, and that the world’s first trillionaires will be those well versed in artificial intelligence and its derivative disciplines.
Deregulation is important to Cuban, but he draws a distinction between smart and dumb regulations. Citing laws that made it difficult for him to invest in part of a liquor company and also in a bar, Cuban said he agreed with some of the regulations our current administration is trying to do away with. But he disagreed with many of President Trump’s other initiatives. Cuban defended the Environmental Protection Agency, which many feel will suffer under the current administration, and said that if he had his way there would be a constitutional amendment that made health care for chronic and fatal conditions a right for all American citizens.
Ultimately, when it comes to dealing with government roadblocks, Cuban encouraged aspiring* entrepreneurs not to concern themselves too much with regulation at first. He said sometimes you have to be “ready, fire, aim,” asking for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. He added that these days innovation in tech is even more urgent, since we have an administration that he believes isn’t particularly tech-literate.
An earlier version of this article confused aspiring with inspiring. It’s fixed now.