Every great idea probably has a few detractors at some point. Startups that become multi-billion dollar companies are no exception.
Take Broadcast.com, the pioneering audio broadcasting 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 was met with some skepticism in the early days of the Internet. “Nobody was doing that. Nobody,” Cuban recently told CBS’ “Sunday Morning.” “People thought I was an idiot.”
In 1995, Cuban was living off the proceeds of nearly $2 million from the sale of his first technology company, MicroSolutions. Together, he and Wagner decided to invest in a streaming company called AudioNet, which soon became Broadcast.com, because they wanted to listen to live radio broadcasts of their alma mater, Indiana University’s college basketball team, online.
The company received its audio content via satellite and digitized it before sharing it online. Eventually, Broadcast.com expanded its offerings to include audio from other live events, such as radio talk shows and rock concerts.
It took only four years for Cuba and Wagner’s investment to be validated; Yahoo acquired 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 great time for Cuban, who sold most of his stock before the market tanked. Forbes estimates his current fortune at $4.6 billion.
And regardless of the eventual loss of service, the high-profile deal helped put digital streaming on the map. “[It’s] the origin story of streaming,” Cuban told CBS.
Looking back, skepticism about the idea of streaming audio and video online was quite common at the time. In 1995, the same year Cuban launched his company, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates famously tried to explain the promise of the Internet on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” only to be mocked by the comedian.
“I heard that you can watch a live baseball game on the Internet, and I said, ‘Hey!’ “Is the radio ringing the bell?” Letterman joked to Gates in a 1995 episode.
Cubans received similar responses in the mid-1990s from naysayers who had no idea the enormous role the fledgling Internet, let alone streaming media, would one day play in our daily lives.
“When I would tell people the vision [for the company], they said. “You are crazy. I’ll just turn on my TV. I’ll just turn on the radio,” Cuban said on a 2021 episode of the “Rookie Greatness” podcast.
“People will laugh at me,” he added. “[But] I had no doubt that the idea was “winning”.
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