Remembering Mark Cuban's Days As A VAR

Back before he bought the Dallas Mavericks or ever Danced with the Stars, it's interesting to recall how technology billionaire Mark Cuban toiled in the VAR channel as a lowly solution provider. Back in the 1990s Cuban was the founder of MicroSolutions, which he later sold to CompuServe for six million bucks.

Even then, Cuban was always good for a controversial quote or two when deadlines beckoned. By the late 1990s, he thought it would be a cool idea to figure out how to somehow broadcast college sports over the Internet. Most of us reporters thought that was interesting, but a bit eccentric and probably doomed to commercial failure. Cuban somehow turned the idea into a $5.6 billion business he sold to Yahoo, proving I guess that you should never underestimate a tech wonk's personal obsessions.

After that, Cuban left the VAR world far behind, morphing into a full-fledged American celebrity, with all the excess that implies. He seemed to thrive on the attention. But Cuban never appeared to appreciate the fickleness of the mass-media culture which exalts one day, only to rip asunder the next. So now Cuban has been accused of insider trading by the SEC, a charge he denies. At issue is an estimated $750,000 saving of a potential stock loss, basically chump change to Cuban. Even so, any potential criminal offense is a serious matter.

I'm sure the legalities will be fought over forever by teams of lawyers. The key takeaway for me, however, is that unlike the dozens of other tech industry and channel executives who have quietly accummulated fortunes over the past few decades. Cuban has steadfastly refused to keep a low profile and stay out of the limelight. Fact is, he craves the limelight, which probably more than anything is responsible for landing him in legal hot water. Cuban is arguably the most financially successful solution provider in the history of the channel, so there's not any pleasure in watching his latest adventure unfold.

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