Latest JungleCents News
Dec 15, 2011
1.4k Mark Cuban wins at many things, especially business and professional basketball. Now the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and film distributor Magnolia Pictures thinks JungleCents — the online deals site he's invested in — will also be a hit. Cuban's involvement with JungleCents reflects the advantages that startups can find in celebrity investors. For example, a contest running through Friday that gives new email subscribers a chance to win a one-on-one lunch with Cuban has triggered an "overwhelming response" from new subscribers, according to company co-founder Sameer Mehta. "His name is a great conversation starter with people," Mehta said. But as JungleCents' sole investor, Cuban says it's much more than just his presence that will make JungleCents' twist on the online deals business a success in an industry riddled by criticism and skepticism . "We aren't trying to be the next Groupon or LivingSocial," he told Mashable in an email. "We aren't financed with $100 million. We are a lean, mean startup that can make money by executing on a business plan. " Similar to the online bargain space's bigger names, JungleCents offers weekly deals to subscribing consumers. But Mehta said two specific differences set JungleCents apart. JungleCents focuses exclusively on deals with national brands, and frequently pairs those brands with specific editorial content on partner sites such as AskMen and Complex . Mehta and Cuban think JungleCents has found a sweet spot that will appeal to consumers and e-commerce sites alike by targeting people searching for information first, rather than simple bargain hunters. Their argument is that the model attracts a higher quality of customer for the advertising brands while not bombarding consumers with a deluge of random deals. While other deal sites "are about creating customers for themselves, JungleCents is about the creating a source of revenue for the sites we partner with," Cuban said. Mehta and co-founder Nadir Hyder started JungleCents while attending Carnegie Mellon University, from which they graduated in 2009. They launched the current iteration of JungleCents last year, and Mehta said attracting Cuban as an investor was key to getting the company off the ground. Ashton Kutcher, Will Ferrell and Kanye West are other celebrities known for giving cash and buzz to ambitious startups. While JungleCents keeps its funding totals undisclosed, the company has reportedly raised some $1.5 million so far with a second round coming soon. More than monetary value, though, Mehta said Cuban's value to the company lies in his business acumen and general popularity. "He really appeals to all sorts of people — business, sports, entrepreneurship," Mehta said. Cuban is famous for selling his website Broadcast.com to Yahoo for more than $5 billion in 1999 and for being the high-profile owner of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks. The win-a-lunch contest ending Friday has shown the leverage of his celebrity in gaining attention for JungleCents, with nearly 1,000 people asking him questions via Twitter as part of the promotion. JungleCents has also collaborated for deal offers with the Mavericks and HDNet , the television channel Cuban helped launch in 2001, and helped out in other ways too. "Aside from his advice, where he chimes in on the focus and direction of the company, his name does help because we are a sales-focused company, so it's easier to get a foot in the door with brands to pitch our products and services," Mehta said. The company currently offers two or three deals per week and partners with five web publishers. In the next few months, Mehta said, JungleCents hopes to scale to three to five weekly offers and expand its publisher network to between 10 and 15 editorial content creators. In striving to meet those goals, you can bet JungleCents will continue leveraging the name, knowledge and influence of Cuban, their big-name investor. What do you think? Can JungleCents carve out a successful niche in the online deals space? How advantageous is a famous backer like Cuban to young startups?