Mark Cuban — The story of SHARK
Born in July 1958 to Russian and Romanian immigrants, Cuban, along with his two younger brothers Brian and Jeff, grew up in a Jewish middle-class household in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania. His mother, Shirley, was a homemaker. His father, Norton, worked in an automobile upholstery store.
When he was 12 years old, he asked his father for money so he could purchase an expensive pair of shoes. His father responded saying, “Those shoes on your feet look like they’re working pretty well. If you want a new pair of sneakers, you need a job and you can go buy them.” That moment inspired Cuban to start his first entrepreneurial endeavour.
Determined to get the shoes he wanted, he began to sell packs of garbage bags to families in his neighborhood. He bought each pack for USD 3 and sold them for USD 6 a piece, thus doubling his money every time someone bought from him. A natural salesperson, Cuban started his pitches off by asking, “Hi, does your family use garbage bags?” He’d follow that with, “Of course you use garbage bags. And I bet you pay more than six cents apiece.”
A few years later Cuban, who was 16 at the time, found another opportunity to make money when workers at the local newspaper company were on strike. He knew that people generally liked to keep abreast of what was going on in the world, so he ordered papers from a company in another city and sold them in his area until the strike was over.
Cuban chose to skip his senior year in high school and instead enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh. After a year there, he transferred to Indiana University where he studied business. His entrepreneurial journey continued throughout his college years. In order to pay for his tuition, Cuban began to offer dance classes on campus for USD 25 an hour. He and his friends then started to rent space from a bar near the college to put on disco parties. They ultimately ended up buying the bar from the owner. Cuban graduated in 1981 with a degree in Business Administration.
Armed with a degree from one of the country’s top undergraduate business schools, Cuban returned to his hometown in Pittsburgh, got a job at Mellon Bank and ultimately quit because he didn’t like the CEO. He also worked for a TV repair franchise Tronics 2000, but that job didn’t work out either. Burdened with college debt and unsatisfied with life in his small community, he and his friends moved to Dallas, Texas to search for a more fulfilling life.
Cuban eventually got a job as a computer software salesman. The gig paid Cuban USD 18,000 a year, but by learning these skills, he was able to add thousands of dollars to his commission and land side jobs helping customers with their tech problems. Cuban ultimately got fired from the sales gig for closing a deal without approval from the CEO. Unemployment nudged him to once again start a business. This time it was a software company called MicroSolutions that fiercely competed with his former employer. After building an impressive client list, Cuban sold the business in 1990 for USD 6 million and decided to go into early retirement.
Cuban’s retirement was short-lived. Around 1995 he started to become restless. As a result, he began to explore various opportunities to get involved in a new business. A man named Christopher Jaeb approached Cuban with the hope of getting him to fund his business idea. It was essentially an online service that streamed various sports events. As Jaeb described it, Cuban was eager to become a part of the project within a few minutes of hearing the pitch. He initially invested USD 10,000 in the company, which was at the time called AudioNet, and ran it along with Todd Wagner, a fellow Indiana University alumni.
Cuban and Wagner eventually bought out most of Jaeb’s share of the business and renamed it Broadcast.com in 1998. That same year, the company had its IPO which was a complete success. Many of the Broadcast.com’s employees became millionaires the day the company was listed. Cuban and Wagner both became billionaires. After just nine months of going public, Yahoo acquired Broadcast for USD 5.7 billion.
Since the sale Cuban has made a series of investments across a very wide range of businesses. In 2000, Cuban paid USD 280 million for the “Dallas Mavericks” basketball team. According to Forbes, the sports franchise is now worth USD 2.4 billion. Other businesses Cuban owns include the theater chain Landmark Theaters, private messaging app Cyber Dust and an apparel company called Three Commas (inspired by the fact that there are three commas in a billion dollars).
Cuban is probably best known for his role as a Shark on the hit reality television show “Shark Tank.” He has invested just under USD 20 million in more than 80 small businesses on the show since joining the program in 2012.
Today, Cuban is worth USD 4.3 billion . . . With a basketball team, a hit TV show, investments in more than 80 companies, a social media platform under development, and a banking app.
The secret to his success — and here’s the big move you can take from Cuban’s story:
There’s a fast way to build seven-figure businesses that sell for tens of millions — and a slow way. The slow way is how most entrepreneurs try to do it, by bootstrapping and wearing all the hats in their business. Through tenacity, long hours, and lots of sleepless nights, they crawl inch by inch toward their million-dollar business.
But the fast way is the owner’s model. This way, as the business owner, it’s one’s vision for business that attracts all the investors, experts, and influencers one need to grow and scale fast. Solopreneurs own 100% of the businesses they build, but that model limits how big you can go. Owners grow businesses so big that even when they share some of the equity, they still come out ahead. That’s a model one can repeat again and again, and it’s how billionaires do it, too.
It doesn’t matter how many times you fail. You only have to be right once and then everyone can tell you that you are an overnight success.
― Mark Cuban