The Virtual Virtuoso: Mark Cuban Is Born

To sports fans across America, Mark Cuban is the well-known outspoken and brash owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA basketball team who wears his heart on his sleeve and, as a result, is prone to many well-publicized outbursts. But, the billionaire Cuban is also an entrepreneur at heart, having created more startups in his early years than most others in a lifetime.

Mark Cuban was born on July 31, 1958 in Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania as the oldest of three boys. His upbringing was middle class, with a housewife for a mother and his father and uncle working in an upholstery shop. He graduated from Mount Lebanon High School in 1976, but not before establishing a reputation as a hustler. Looking back, Cuban guesses that his classmates would have predicted he would either wind up in jail or owning a business. Thankfully, it was the latter that would prove to be correct.

When Cuban was 12 years old, he started his first business selling garbage bags door-to-door. “It was a box of a hundred of these nasty, skinny, you know, probably not very good garbage bags that I sold $6.00 a box,” recalls Cuban. “But who’s going to say no to a 12-year-old?” When he was 16 years old, Cuban became a regular at stamp shows, buying stamps for 50 cents and selling them for $5. To his friends, Cuban was the ultimate hustler.

After graduating from high school, Cuban enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh, but later transferred to Indiana University, which was said to have an excellent business program at a fraction of the cost of other schools. Here, he started up a bar called Motley’s Pub, which thrived until they were caught with minors inside. Although he was an excellent student, Cuban got into trouble with the dean for taking graduate level courses during his freshman year. He graduated with a degree in management but was barred from applying to their graduate program as a result.

Cuban got his first real job selling franchises for a company called Tronics 2000, a TV repair shop. He left after just four months when his idea to branch out into computer repairs was met with rejection. “They just didn’t see a future in computers,” Cuban recalls. Unemployed, Cuban began to ask himself what kind of business he could start on his own. “I saw an ad for somebody selling powdered milk and I thought everybody needs milk like they need garbage bags,” he said. So, Cuban created a company to sell powdered milk but it was a self-admitted disaster.

With four failed businesses under his belt, Cuban was now ready to step it up a notch. He moved to Dallas, Texas in 1982 and found work first as a bartender at Elans and later as a sales assistant with Your Business Software despite never having worked with a PC before. He dedicated his nights to reading as many computer software manuals as he could and was soon thriving in the position and generating a loyal clientele. When he one day decided to close a $10,000 deal instead of open the store, Cuban was fired.

But, he had finally found his niche and getting let go would prove to be the fuel Cuban needed to make it big.

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