Entrepreneurs

How Mark Cuban went from a working-class family in Pittsburgh to a self-made billionaire

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler

Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, didn't come from money. He had to figure out how to make money come to him.

Now 58 and a star investor on ABC's reality show "Shark Tank," Cuban was born and raised in Pittsburgh. His grandparents immigrated from Russia with the last name Chabenisky. Immigration officials at Ellis Island shortened the name to Cuban.

"I grew up in a working class family," Cuban said in an interview on a recent episode of "Shark Tank." His father installed upholstery in cars and his mom worked a rotation of odd jobs.

"People thought I might go work at a mill. My mom wanted me to learn how to lay carpet because she was concerned about my future.

"Nobody had high hopes for me," Cuban said. "But I was a hustler."

"I had quit or been fired from three straight jobs, so I figured it was time to start my own company." -Mark Cuban, entrepreneur

In his teens, Cuban resold baseball cards, stamps and coins. "I have always been selling," he said. "I always had something going on. That was just my nature."

Cuban graduated from Indiana University in 1981. He picked IU's Kelley School of Business without ever seeing the campus because the tuition was the lowest of the 10 most popular business schools at the time, according to the school's website.

He describes himself as a "tech geek." But he said he also had a hard time working for others. Pretty soon, he struck out on his own.

"I had quit or been fired from three straight jobs, so I figured it was time to start my own company," Cuban said.

He launched a systems integration computer company, MicroSolutions, based on his sense that the data-transfer process of taking a disk from one computer to another would soon be replaced by connecting computers together. He sold it to CompuServe in 1990.

Cuban wanted to be able to listen to Indiana University sports from his home in Texas. "In 1995," he said, "streaming didn't exist."

Cuban and his friend Todd Wagner launched AudioNet, which became Broadcast.net. They sold the start-up to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in April 2000.

Cuban bought the Mavericks basketball team in 2000 for $285 million.

"Everybody said, 'You are an idiot because the Mavs suck and that was the largest price ever paid for any sports team ever.' I was like, 'I don't care,'" Cuban said.

"It was just a dream come true. Since then, we have never had a losing record."

In 2011, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship.

Today, Cuban is worth $3.3 billion, according to Forbes, and he's become a spokesperson for entrepreneurship.

"I love entrepreneurship because that's what makes this country grow, and if I can help companies grow, I am creating jobs, I am setting foundations for future generations. It sends the message that the American Dream is alive and well," Cuban said.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."