People thought I was an idiot
Every great idea is likely to have some detractors at some point. Startups that become multibillion dollar companies are no exception.
Take Broadcast.com, the pioneering audio streaming company that made Mark Cuban a billionaire. When Cuban and his friend Todd Wagner took over the company in 1995, it was one of the first streaming platforms in existence, paving the way for today’s biggest streamers, from Netflix to Spotify.
Being one of the first of its kind meant it faced a level of skepticism in the early days of the internet. “Nobody was doing that. Nobody,” Cuban told CBS’ “Sunday Morning” recently. “People thought I was an idiot.”
In 1995, Cuban was living on about $2 million in proceeds from the sale of his first technology company, MicroSolutions. Together, he and Wagner decided to invest in a broadcasting company called AudioNet — which soon became Broadcast.com — because they wanted to listen to live radio broadcasts of their alma mater’s basketball team over the Internet. Indiana.
The company received its audio content via satellite and digitized it before distributing it online. Eventually, Broadcast.com expanded its offerings to include audio from other live events, such as radio shows and rock concerts.
It took just four years for Cuban and Wagner’s investment to pay off: Yahoo bought the startup for $5.7 billion in stock in 1999. It was a bad time for Yahoo, just before the dot-com bubble burst—and the company eventually went off the air. service after several years.
But it was a good time for Cuban, who sold most of his stock before the market crashed. His current net worth is estimated by Forbes at $4.6 billion.
And despite the service’s eventual demise, the high-profile deal helped put digital streaming on the map. “[It’s] the origin story of the broadcast,” Cuban told CBS.
Looking back, skepticism about the idea of streaming audio and video over the Internet was quite common at the time. In 1995, the same year Cuban was launching his company, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates tried to explain the promise of the Internet on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” only to be ridiculed by the comedian.
“I heard you could watch a baseball game live on the Internet and I thought, ‘Does the radio ring a bell?'” Letterman joked to Gates in the 1995 episode.
Cuban received similar backlash from naysayers in the mid-1990s, who didn’t foresee the huge role the nascent Internet, much less streaming media, would one day play in our daily lives.
“When I was telling people the vision [for the company], they would say, ‘You’re crazy. I’ll just turn on my TV. I’ll just turn on the radio,’ Cuban said on a 2021 episode of the “Starting Greatness” podcast.
“People will laugh at me,” he added. “[But] There was no doubt in my mind” that the idea was “a winner”.
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