Mark Cuban teams up with UNT student to create social media app

Danielle Abril
Staff Writer- Dallas Business Journal

Mark Cuban has teamed up with a 20-year-old entrepreneur from the University of North Texas to launch a mobile application that helps users manage their digital footprints on social media.

Jesse Stauffer, a computer science major entering his senior year, recently released his app XPIRE for iOS devices on iTunes. But before he was comfortable in turning his idea into a functioning app, he first sought out help from a local technology guru and successful entrepreneur, Mark Cuban.

“I’ve always looked up to him,” Stauffer said. “He’s a key player who would know how to improve the experience.”

So, not expecting much in return, he shot the owner of the Dallas Mavericks an email pitching his initial idea, which was a new social network that made all posts temporary.

“We didn’t really think he was going to email us back,” he said about himself and his brother, who partnered with him for the initial project. “He’s Mark Cuban.”

But to Stauffer’s surprise, Cuban did respond. And he offered much more than a little feedback.

Cuban, who seemed intrigued by the idea, suggested that Stauffer tweak his plan from creating a social network to building an application that would work with existing social networks. Then, via email, he presented Stauffer with a challenge.

“He said, ‘if you can build something, we can start a company,’” Stauffer said.

So Stauffer got to work, sometimes spending 18 hours a day coding during his winter break. Two months later, he had a basic, functioning product. As soon as he finished, he sent it to Cuban.

“He basically told me he’d handle the business side,” said Stauffer, adding that this was the beginning of his partnership with Cuban.

Cuban financed the application and offered suggestions to build the application to offer more robust offerings, such as the search function, which would allow users to search for words in previous tweets and statuses and delete them. Stauffer did all the coding and also played a technology consultant role for some of Cuban’s other startups, including some he financed on the ABC show “Shark Tank.”

The application went hand-in-hand with Cuban’s other big project, Cyber Dust, an app released earlier this year that allows users to send self-destructing messages to each other.

“We really believe shrinking the digital footprint is becoming increasingly important,” Stauffer said. “We just want people to see that that stuff has the potential to come back to haunt them.”

Stauffer and Cuban are such proponents of digital privacy that they communicate mostly via Cyber Dust.

So what’s it like working with a business mogul as active as Cuban?

“Mark’s just a really busy guy, and I don’t know how he manages his time so well,” he said, adding that Cuban often responds to his messages in three seconds on Cyber Dust. “It amazes me how good he is at communicating.”

If Stauffer gets his way, that communication won’t stop any time soon. The college student is planning to spend years working on the application, hoping to generate revenue by the time he graduates.

XPIRE is currently free. But Stauffer is working on developing premium features that would be offered for a fee. The basic application would remain free.

Danielle covers technology, retail, restaurants and hospitality for the Dallas Business Journal.