Mark Cuban offered a fellow ‘geek’ $75,000 on ‘Shark Tank’: ‘I want you to myself’

Mark Cuban and Justin Huang have a mutual love for education — and a mutual hate for killing bugs.

The two hit it off on Friday’s episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” where Huang pitched his product, Cup-a-Bug, to the show’s investor judges. Huang’s handheld device lets you trap bugs without killing them, similar to using a cup and a piece of paper — from a distance.

A self-proclaimed “bug sympathizer,” Huang created the contraption for a simple reason: “I’m just terrified of bugs, even from [childhood]. As I grew up, I just started to feel bad for squishing them,” he said during the episode.

The 35-year-old asked investors for $50,000, in exchange for 10% of his Irvine, California-based business. “We’ve made it more convenient to catch a bug than to kill it. There’s… There’s…,” he said, pausing frequently during his pitch. “Using it is simple. Just place the cup over the bug and pull the handle back … I’m so nervous, I’m so nervous.”

The investors encouraged him to take a minute to gather his thoughts and keep going, with Cuban yelling, “You’re good!”

“It’s OK. Take a breath and then think of it again,” Lori Greiner chimed in.

A passion for lifelong learning

Huang finished strong, telling the investors that he launched the business after raising $28,000 on Kickstarter in March 2022. The contraption retails for $40, including shipping, and had its first production run in June 2023 — bringing in $48,000 by the time of filming, he said.

It also experienced some TikTok virality, with roughly 107,000 followers and 10.6 million likes on the platform, as of Monday.

Cup-a-Bug isn’t Huang’s first entrepreneurial endeavor. The University of California, Irvine graduate and mechanical engineer previously founded a company that made accessories for board games, desk organizers and planters. It was called Solid Factory, according to Huang’s LinkedIn profile.

Even while working on that company, he tried to broaden his engineering repertoire. “Every night, I would just keep studying engineering through online courseware,” he said, adding: “[I’ve made] basically anything that’s under the nerd umbrella.”

“My hero,” Cuban responded, praising Huang’s drive to keep learning in his downtime.

‘Anytime you have an idea, you can run it by me’

Cuban is a fan of lifelong learning, as a concept. He also identified with Huang in another way: They respond similarly to bugs.

“I feel bad when I squish a bug, too,” Cuban said. “That could be an ancestor of mine, for all I know, coming to visit me.”

One in four of Americans share a similar fear, according to Chapman University’s 2016 Survey on American Fears, which found that people in the U.S. are more scared of insects than they are of unemployment, financial fraud or becoming seriously sick.

Cuban made Huang an investment offer — $50,000 for 20% of Cup-a-Bug — citing the engineer’s passion for learning, and the neatness of the invention. “I’ll do the same,” investor Daymond John said.

Cuban quickly upped his offer to $75,000. “I want you to myself,” he told Huang. “Geek to geek.”

Mark Cuban checking out the Cup-a-Bug on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

(Disney/Christopher Willard)

Huang accepted the offer. “We’ll have so much fun,” Cuban said. “I’ll be throwing projects at you left and right. Anytime you have an idea, you can run it by me. Code, hardware, fun stuff.”

The effects of the partnership are already apparent, Huang told CNBC Make It on Monday via email. “I was thinking maybe I’d sell 100 Cup-a-Bugs … turned out to be way more than that,” he wrote. “[I] was not expecting all the orders and kind messages from so many ‘Shark Tank’ fans. And thankfully, my friends volunteered to help fulfill orders.”

He added: “I’m still in the early stages of finalizing the investment agreement, but I can tell [Cuban has] a great team. I know I can learn a lot from them and, hopefully, I can contribute to their success as well.”

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to “Shark Tank.”

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