Self-Made Billionaires Mark Cuban and Charlie Ergen Share Jobs, Startup Stories at Denver Startup Week – The Denver Post


If Dish Network founder Charlie Ergen could go back in time and give his much younger self some advice, it would be 1998. He tells himself to use sandbags to stabilize the trailer that delivered the first giant satellite dish to a Pagosa Springs customer in 1980.

But if he did, no entrepreneur would have a great story to share with Denver Startup Week attendees Tuesday night, when Ergen made a rare public appearance alongside Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Boulder venture capitalist Brad Feld.

“It was 4 o’clock in the morning around Walsenburg, and the wind was blowing and I was like, ‘Oh, (good)!’ I told him. Because the plate is inserted into the media. We only had two meals. I lost half of the company’s assets,” said Ergen, CEO of Satellite TV Services of Douglas County. “It was the first day of the company, and honest to God, that (starting) was the hardest part of the business. I discovered at the time that I had partners living with me even though I was closing the company for bankruptcy. I had partners I trusted, and when you trust the people you work with, you can accomplish a lot.

Easy to laugh about it now, of course. Dish Network is ranked 186th on the Fortune 500 list, and Ergen is Colorado’s richest man, with a fortune of $18.8 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

On Tuesday night, the t-shirt-wearing Cuban, another billionaire, was a stark contrast to those on stage and known for his fiery personality and penchant for toying with President Donald Trump on Twitter. Ergen, dressed in a suit but without a tie, held his own at the event at Eli Caukins Opera House, joking about how the two met (“I was trying out for Mavericks,” Ergen said) and telling some stories as he moved. Feld, who moderated.

“We had no money. The Chinese thought we had money. “We thought it could power satellites, so that was a good match,” Ergen said when he found out he was starting a satellite TV company. “Within 20 minutes, we’ll have a controlled explosion with a 50 percent chance of success. And it really worked. “

For Cuban, who starred on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and sold his Internet radio company to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999, his startup story began with being fired for not showing up to clean floors and opening the computer store. He had good reason: he thought the boss would forgive him and instead made a $15,000 sale to the customer. He was still fired. So he started calling everyone he knew and convinced an architectural lighting company to float him the money to buy and install software on the company’s computers. One referral led to another—and seven years later, MicroSolutions was earning $30 million in annual revenue before being sold to Compuserve in 1990.

He also credits the people and vendors who helped keep the company going, especially after a receptionist withdrew $82,000 of the $84,000 in the company’s bank account.

“We were two years into MicroSolutions and I got a call from the bank and they said, ‘Mark, we have to tell you something,'” Cuban recalled. The bank explained that after cashing several company checks, a woman blanked out the payee’s name and entered her own. You didn’t spend money on them, did you? “Yes, we did.”

The bank would not take responsibility, and Cuba realized it had to move on.

“We had great supplier partners and great people in the office. We didn’t have a choice. We couldn’t get mad, we had to go back to work and solve the problem,” he said.

Cuban went on to start Audionet in 1995 because listening to his alma mater’s basketball games on speakerphone was annoying. A friend in Bloomington, Ind., puts a phone receiver in front of a radio broadcasting an Indiana University game so Cuban and his friends in Dallas can listen.

He worked with Dallas sports-talk radio stations to make audio recordings of their broadcasts, digitally encode them and then put the WAV files online so anyone in the world could listen to Dallas sports radio programs. Later renamed Broadcast.com, the company began live streaming audio — and later video — of major sports games before Yahoo took over in 1999.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained to someone that a device connects to the Internet and we store audio and video and you can watch anything. You want it when you want it. ‘ That’s so stupid. That never works. I have a TV,” Cuban said of people’s reactions. “When we had 1 million users, that’s when we started to take off.”

The two entrepreneurs first met when Cuban was setting up another company, HDNet, a channel they co-founded in 2001 to broadcast high-definition shows.

“When we started high definition, everyone was looking at these big TVs and saying, ‘That’s a $25,000 TV. Nobody pays $25,000 for a TV.’ I said, “Just wait.” It follows the same price performance curves as PCs. High definition is going to work everywhere,” Cuban said. “Charlie was like, ‘Let’s run with it.’ Dish was our second (client).”

Ergen piped in, “If you still don’t have a subscription, we have HDNet, 1-800-333-DISH.

To which Cuba replied, “It’s called AXS TV now, but yeah.”

The camaraderie between the self-made billionaires, who both started with almost nothing, seemed genuine, giving the audience an insight into how entrepreneurship is done.

“If I can say something good about Mark, he’s going to run for president of the United States,” Ergen said, adding that it’s a privilege to meet someone with such a diverse perspective as Cuba. “And it’s very important if you have the opportunity to not make the same mistakes.”



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