Mark Cuban music fest designed for schmoozing while grooving

The serial entrepreneur is promoting Recess, a music festival, pitch competition, and student job fair rolled into one. The "Shark Tank" star tells CNET why he's backing it.

A previous Recess concert.Justawesome Brand

Mark Cuban, the entrepreneur of "Shark Tank" fame, has invested in Recess, a music festival that encourages college students to party, brainstorm new ideas, and network with companies all at once.

Two Indiana University graduates started the touring festival last year by turning an existing fest of electronic dance music into a way for students to connect with companies. It lands at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif., (northeast of Silicon Valley) on Friday, before making its way across the country.

On top of musical acts like Diplo and Sage the Gemini, the event incorporates panels, a pitch competition, and networking sessions, featuring industry folks from startups and from more-established companies such as Twitter and Pandora. The pitch competition awards winners with an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas, where they'll be able to pitch their ideas to investors.

Cuban said he invested in Recess because of the festival's integration of speakers and companies into a fun event that attracts young people.

"I believe that kids want a reason to put down their phones and have a great time," he wrote in an email to CNET. "Recess is a recess."

The festival says something about the way some young people currently approach employment. The latest bout of success in the tech industry has sparked a renewed interest in startup culture and thinking creatively in business, all while promoting the work hard, play hard mentality that the world seems to expect from young tech workers.

The festival's founders, Jack Shannon and Deuce Thevenow, approached Cuban in 2012 when they decided to beef up their music festival, Glowfest, with entrepreneurship-focused elements, including a networking event called Playground.

The point, according to Cuban, is "to reach kids in ways they can relate and connect to, and evolve as the world evolves." But does it work? When asked, Cuban deferred to Recess co-founder Thevenow.

"Past festivals have had great feedback and attendance," Thevenow wrote in an email. Past Glowfest concerts attracted over 100,000 students to shows held at more than 20 college campuses, but Recess has had only about 5,000 students participate in its last two events. Its organizers are aiming to grow quickly. They expect that number to jump to 30,000 by the end of this year's two-month tour. While the festival is scheduled for seven campus stops this year, they want to do 50 concerts next year.

"The goal is for students to be able to create meaningful relationships," Thevenow wrote. "We are big believers that networking is the new career fair...The concert is really just a celebration of all of the amazing things that we accomplished during the day, and a chance to blow off some steam."

Does this mean the end of regular ol' job fairs? Doubtful, but Cuban thinks Recess will give companies a more effective way to reach out to prospective candidates.

"Students will go anywhere they think will get them a job or at least a shot at one," Cuban wrote. "As for the companies presenting, they will have a much better connection to the students and a better opportunity to learn more about them in the Recess setting."

 

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