Mark Cuban From Garbage Bags to a Billionaire
His very first job was selling garbage bags door-to-door, and after college, he shared an apartment with five friends where he slept on the stained floor. And today, he is worth more than 4.3 billion. What happened to take Mark Cuban from garbage bags to a billionaire? Entrepreneur Mark Cuban defied all odds and went on to become the public face of successful business with an extensive network of investments and companies that continue to grow.
The early years
Born in 1958 in Pittsburgh, Pa., to a middle-class working family, Mark Cuban’s extraordinary business skill and ambition sharpened at an early age.
When Cuban was 12 years old, he asked his dad for a pair of designer basketball sneakers — even though he already had a perfectly fine pair of sneakers.
“If you want a new pair of sneakers,” his dad said, “you need a job, and you can go buy them.”
As Cuban describes in a Bloomberg interview, one of his father’s friends suggested he try selling garbage bags. And that’s precisely what he did. Cuban went from house to house, knocking on doors and offering his wares at $6 a box, earning a tidy $3 profit on each unit, until he had enough money to buy the sneakers he wanted.
“I learned to fill a need, and I learned to problem-solve,” he says.
And he used those skills to become the star entrepreneur he is today.
College and beyond
A bright and driven student, Cuban skipped his senior year in high school before going on to study business at Indiana University. His college years consisted of odd jobs and careful budgeting. By the time he finished the undergraduate study at IU, Cuban had saved up a precious $15,000. Instead of squirreling this money away, he used the funds to purchase a small pub in Bloomington. With his business savvy, the bar soon turned into the most significant student hotspot.
After college and a short working stint in his hometown, Cuban, then 23, moved to Dallas with just $60 in his pocket and a huge student loan debt to pay off. He roomed with five buddies in a 3-room apartment, where he slept on the beer-stained carpet and ate ketchup and mustard sandwiches because they fit his budget.
Cuban soon found a job at Your Business Software but was fired just nine months later for chasing down a lucrative deal instead of fulfilling his job obligations. He went on to find and lose two more jobs until he’d found his calling in technology.
“I took one computer class and cheated at it,” he says. “But when I got one of my first jobs out of school using technology, it was like, wait, I love this … And that’s when I realized that I can be really, really good at technology.”
In 1983, Cuban’s luck turned when he used his newfound technology skills to launch MicroSolutions. The computer company that he sold to CompuServe seven years later for a staggering $6 million.
The year was 1990, and Cuban was 33 years old. He was sitting on more money than he knew what to do with and decided to take early retirement. He purchased a lifetime pass on American Airlines and flew around the world on a quest to visit as many countries as possible.
But Cuban’s imprint on the world of business was far from over.
In 1995, Cuban’s retirement officially ended. And he started tuning into the basketball games played by his alma mater, Indiana Hoosiers. Along with business partner Todd Wagner, Cuban combined his great love for sports, business management, and technology by launching AudioNet. AudioNet is an online sports broadcasting platform that quickly expanded into broadcasting hundreds of sports channels and radio programs. The website had impeccable timing: It was created right at the start of the dot-com frenzy and later, renamed Broadcast.com, the company stock soared from $18 to $62.75 in a single day.
Broadcast.com, now Altaba, was later acquired by Yahoo! and Cuban took in $5.7 billion in Yahoo! stock. He accurately predicted the burst of the dot-com bubble. Cuban hedged against the risk of a decline in his shares. And he was able to hold onto 90% of their value when it fell from $237 per share to $13.
Net worth and current interests
In 2000, sports-loving Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks National Basketball Association (NBA) team for a staggering $285 million. The basketball team, once considered the worst in the league, thrived under Cuban’s strict management. By 2011, the Mavericks became NBA champions and increased in value to $2.4 billion.
In September 2002, Cuban married Tiffany Stewart. The couple has two daughters, and a son and the family lives in Dallas.
Together with Wagner, Cuban, in 2003, founded 2929 Entertainment, a company that finances, produces and distributes movies and TV shows, all to varying degrees of success.
Today, the boy from Pittsburgh is worth $4.3 billion. And he is best known for his position as manager of the Mavericks. Not to mention, his frequent appearances on “Shark Tank,” which he has invested millions of dollars in successful businesses.
So, now you how Mark Cuban went from garbage bags to a billionaire. He began his adult life with $60 in his pocket and big dreams in his head. Through hard work and determination, he turned himself into one of the most successful investors in today’s business world. Find out about more of our money stars on our Money Smart Blog.