Billionaires accumulate for less 0.0001% of the world’s current population. Mark Cuban, an internet entrepreneur and NBA team owner, is part of that group of about 1000 people. Most people don’t really like Mark Cuban. He was once put on a big screen TV in front of 20,000 fans (from another team of course) who booed him. He’s known for his brash, outspoken attitude. He is a person that’s not afraid to get in your face and challenge you if need be.
I can see why people can see him as a jerk. He constantly yells and screams at the referees, has said some inappropriate things to players, has run onto the basketball court to stop a fight, and has the most fines of any owner in the NBA. But what I see from this man is grit. Yes, he can be dramatic and emotional sometimes, but he’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. He has a do-whatever-it-takes-to-win attitude, and even if he makes other people mad, he still gets the job done.
Sometimes to get what you want, you can’t always be nice, but I don’t think Cuban is purposely mean, it’s just he’s very determined to get what he wants, especially towards his journey of becoming a billionaire.
Growing up as a kid, Mark had started early with a mentality of trying to make the most money that he could. He would get his friends with him and they would try to sell sugarless candy and garbage bags door-to-door to people who would want to buy them from them. Not a lot of people did, but for him, it was an adventure.
As he grew older, he would continue his business endeavors by collecting and selling stamps and coins. One time, when his city newspaper when on strike, he convinced his friends to buy newspapers at a different city for a quarter each and sell them for 50 cents a piece back in his home town in order to make a profit. He said he was making great money for a 16 year old at the time.
After high school, he pursued a business degree in Indiana University. He didn’t have a lot of money at that time and it was the cheapest school he could afford.
“I basically lived off of 20 bucks a week, you know at the most, at the most… and I just hustled – get this loan, and apply for this aid, apply for this grant…”
After college, he decided that it was time to go into the corporate world. He returned to Pittsburg and took a job with Mellon Bank, a financial corporation. He remembers that he went into the job and had the attitude that he was going to do everything his way. The boss came in there and yelled at him so badly that he hasn’t forgotten about that since this day. He was out and left the corporate world.
Without a job, he moved down to Dallas to seek for one, and because he didn’t have enough money to afford his own place, he would move in to live with 5 friends in a 3 bedroom apartment.
“I got the corners, the crevices, I mean I didn’t have my own bed, I didn’t have my own closet.”
Soon Cuban found himself working at a local computer retail store. He sensed a growth in personal computers. He would come in early and stay late. He would teach himself all the stuff he needed to know about that business and just start selling. He had become one of the best salesmen in that store within a short period of time. The only problem he had was he didn’t like being bossed around. The president, who he claimed didn’t do anything, often told him to vacuum after closing hours, but he would refuse. Eventually, the president fired him.
He had learned from this experience that he no longer wanted to work for somebody else. He wanted to be his own boss. So he took matters into his own hands. He remembers a sales client named Martin and proposed a business solution to him. Martin agreed, and together they would launch a computer networking company called MicroSolutions.
In order to fulfill his dream of working for himself, he would pull all nighters trying to teach himself about computers, about networking, about the company, and about how to sell. He would lie in bed all day just reading and re-reading, trying to memorize everything he could possible get his hands on. He was selling by day and learning by night.
“I went seven years, literally, seven years, not a single vacation, didn’t take a day off, didn’t go anywhere, didn’t do squat.”
The seven years without a break would paid off. By year 5, Martin and his company would eventually reach 10 million dollars in sales. 2 years later, they would reach 25 million. By the time 1990 came around, Cuban was 31 years old and a millionaire.
From a millionaire, he wanted to continue to expand what he was capable of accomplishing. A billion dollars is 1000 times more than a million dollars, but he didn’t allow that idea to worry him. One day, back in Dallas, Todd Wagner, his old college friend, approaches him with an idea. He goes up to Cuban and asks him, “What do you think of the idea of using the internet to broadcast sports?” Cuban replies, “That’s a cool idea. You know, it’s 1995 and the internet is brand new. I’ll put in a little bit of money.”
Together they would start a company and split any future earnings 50/50. They began locally and recorded sports radio stations in Dallas, playing them back on their website. Then they used this idea to grow it into something bigger, something where people from all over the country could listen to sports radio or talk shows on the internet.
They began this journey by making their first office, which was located right next to a Mexican restaurant. They basically paid their first employees, about 20 of them, Cokes and soft tacos. Cuban directly told them what he felt about the company.
“Look, I have no idea where this is going to go. But I can guarantee you in 5 years, this thing is going to be worth billions of dollars and you’ll all be millionaires, or we’ll just be out of business and we’ll just be friends. There’s going to be no in-between”.
The employees accepted Cuban’s words and took the risk. They would work for Cuban and his partner, hoping that the business would end up becoming a success. Cuban would do everything he could to make sure didn’t let his company down either. He would push his sales team to the limit.
Within a year, their company AudioNet began to grow, and they started to get positive feedback from people such as, “‘I love you guys!… This is the best site on the Internet!… Amazing! Amazing! My wife thinks I listen too much as it is…’” Their growth came faster. From just having 20 employees at the company, they had about 300 employees, 380 radio stations, 40 TV stations, and 16,000 live events by the time 1998 came. They even changed their name from AudioNet to Broadcast.com.
With the growing success of the company, Wagner and Cuban began to travel to different cities to attract investors. Over the period of 2 weeks, they were making 60 presentations, but the payoff was that investors were placing orders on their stock.
The big day came. It was the morning of July 17, 1998. Wagner and Cuban would stand in front of the NASDAQ floor. Their stock was priced at $18 per share. This was the starting price and the ending price, which would be announced at 1 PM, would be the official price per share. These two men waited anxiously.
“The night before everybody was guessing, you know, what it might go to. People were going as high as 25 or 27. I thought we might run up to 30 or 40 dollars a share. At 1 o’clock, I think it was… we’re thinking okay it’s going to open… and we look… and this is a stock that’s priced 18… 62 and three quarters goes across.”
At 62 ¾ per share, this was a 248% increase in change! Cuban doesn’t remember if he screamed, jumped, twirled or just giving people high fives. Him and Wager had become really wealthy, and 300 of his 334 employees became millionaires.
A year after, Cuban and Wagner sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for stock options worth more than 6 billion dollars.
And ever since Cuban was younger, he was always an avid sports fan, especially in basketball where he would play 7 hours of it a day. Cuban eventually went on to buy the Dallas Mavericks, something that almost every sports fan dreams of.
He took this franchise, and with every ounce of energy and charisma that he had, turned it from a team that hadn’t gone to the playoffs for 10 years to a team that has got to the playoffs every single year since he has owned the Dallas Mavericks or basically, the last 10 years.
This year, the Dallas Mavericks holds one of the highest records in the NBA and has a chance to win the NBA championship. You can bet that Cuban will be there in the stands cheering, yelling, and screaming for his own team to win.
“I want people who are true entrepreneurs that realize that sweat equity goes a lot further than money, and that brains and effort go a whole lot further than connections. That’s what I look for.”