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Mark Cuban says this is Shark Tank’s ‘No. 1 success story’ after start-up sells for $22 million

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All Bruno Francois wanted to do was to make a viral app.

The Atlanta-based entrepreneur did exactly that, and then he sold the resulting start-up — backed by Mark Cuban — to online used car-seller Carvana for $22 million. Now, Cuban says Francois “may be the No. 1 success story” of all the start-ups to ever appear on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”

 

In April 2018, Carvana acquired Car360, the company Francois, 47, launched in 2015 that uses augmented reality technology and 3-D computer vision to allow people to take 360-degree photos of automobiles with a mobile phone. Car360′s goal is to make it easier for online car sellers to showcase their vehicles on the internet, so Phoenix-based Carvana bought the start-up to improve its own 360-degree visuals of the used cars it sells online.

But long before Francois hit on Car360, he was an entrepreneur looking to create the next viral app — a goal that would take him through multiple products. Francois had been watching the success of early viral apps like Foursquare or Angry Birds in the first few years after Apple released the first iPhone in 2008.

“It was the, ‘there is an app for that’ period back then,” Francois says. So, his goal was to prove that “no, there is not an app for [everything] yet.”

Francois, who studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate and later earned a Master’s degree in computer science at the University of Central Florida, tells CNBC Make It that he left a safe, steady job at his family company, where he’d served as president for more than seven years, to scratch an entrepreneurial itch in the tech world and, specifically, to create the next viral app. Francois was 40 years old in 2011, when he took his first leap into the viral app market by founding Egos Ventures and leaving Francois & Co., an Atlanta-based company he ran with his brother that sells home products like stone flooring, countertops and fireplaces.

He gave himself a one-year deadline to achieve that goal with Egos Ventures, liquidating his 401(k) account and taking all of his savings (with everything adding up to about $150,000) to keep himself afloat personally and professionally for that year while he, along with two interns, tried to come up with a winning formula for a viral app.

 

Francois declined to share the exact salary he was leaving behind at Francois & Co., but he says it was “enough to know I was taking a significant financial risk by leaving.”

But Francois was eager to put his computer science background, and his overall passion for technology, to use through his new business venture. In fact, he was so intent on taking the leap that he didn’t even debate the move with his wife or two children.

Francois had “been wanting to follow my passion for a long time and I finally decided to do it,” he says. “It was more ‘pull the trigger’ one day and ‘deal with it’ later. After that my family was very supportive as my passion has been in the tech.”

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