In 1983, Howard Schultz, then the 30-year-old head of marketing at Starbucks, was attending a trade show in Milan when he stopped at Caffe Camparino for a coffee, says John Arlidge in The Sunday Times. At the time Starbucks only sold coffee beans and coffee-making equipment in and around Seattle. Taken with the romance of Italian café culture, Schultz sketched out a business plan to open a chain of coffee shops in America and pitched it to Starbucks’ founder, Jerry Baldwin.
Baldwin wasn’t convinced, but in 1987 he offered to sell the company to Schultz for $3.8m (Schultz had left Starbucks in 1985 to open his own coffee shop, Il Giornale). Schultz had 60 days to raise the money – cut to 30 when one of Schultz’s investors went behind his back and straight to Baldwin with a cash offer. Schultz had raised just half the money. “I was crushed,” says Schultz. “My dream was about to be stolen from me.” He told a friend, a young attorney, who took him to the firm’s senior partner – one of Seattle’s top lawyers, and the father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Bill Gates Snr stands 6ft 7in tall. He went across the road, and stood over the desk of Schultz’s former investor. “Here’s what’s going to happen,” Gates Snr told him. “You’re going to stand down. Howard is going to buy the company. We are never going to hear from you again. You should be ashamed of yourself.” Schultz bought the company with help from Gates Snr and expanded Starbucks, which is today worth $71bn, netting Schultz $2.8bn. This week, it opened its Reserve Roastery outlet in Milan.
The basketball billionaire
“My priority was to be wealthy,” Mark Cuban, the 60-year-old owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team, tells the BBC’s Kieron Johnson. He had been born into a working-class family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and dreamed of becoming rich. With a degree in management, Cuban moved to Dallas, Texas, where he became a salesman for a software company. It was when he was sacked in 1983 for securing a five-figure deal without authorisation that he decided to set up on his own. He founded computer business MicroSolutions, selling it for $6m seven years later in 1992.
Cuban had achieved his goal of becoming rich by the age of 32. But it was audio- and video-streaming website Broadcast.com, which Cuban co-founded in 1995, that would make him a billionaire. After four years he sold it to internet giant Yahoo for $5.7bn. After the deal, Cuban was reported to have bought a private jet for $40m, followed by a majority stake in the Dallas Mavericks for $280m. Meanwhile, Yahoo made a hash of Broadcast.com, and it was quietly discontinued in 2002. By then, Cuban was at the helm of the basketball side, which won its first National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in 2011. Today the team has annual revenues of $233m, and Forbes values the franchise at $1.9bn, the ninth richest in the 30-team league.
Cuban is also credited with bringing extra razzamatazz to the sport. “Prior to me buying the Mavs, NBA teams thought that they were in the basketball business,” he says. “I knew we were in the experience business.” Besides basketball, Cuban is also the co-owner of media group 2929 Entertainment, and chairman of US cable and satellite television firm AXS. In 2013, he published the self-help guide How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It.
A novel way to sell beauty products
Having worked as an assistant at Teen Vogue magazine, Emily Weiss, 33, started beauty blog “Into the Gloss” in 2010, writing about beauty products, say Janine Wolf and Kim Bhasin on Bloomberg. Then, in 2013, she raised $2m in seed capital to sell her own.
Everything Glossier (as the business is now called) sells is packaged prettily. It releases a new product every six to eight weeks and hypes items on social media. In February, the New York-based outfit raised a further $52m to embark on what Weiss (pictured) terms “phase two” – to create “a social-selling” platform where shoppers have access to feedback from other users to find products that are right for them. Glossier says it tripled its annual revenue last year.
Crypto-mining for good causes
You may spend a lot of your time in front of your computer, but for most of the time, the machine is effectively idle, says Alison Coleman for Forbes. Matt Hawkins became aware of this wasted computing power while at C4L, the data-centre network business he founded, and determined to put it to good use. “I really wanted to do something good with this, and actually won an HSBC Business Thinking competition for entrepreneurs around the ideas I had for it,” says Hawkins, “but the technology back in 2011 just wasn’t available so it became a long-term goal.”
In 2013, he dabbled in cryptocurrency, and then decided to combine both ideas. The result was Cudo Miner, a program that allows users to use their computers’ spare capacity to mine for (ie, create) cryptocurrency in return for a fee. Hawkins has also recently launched Cudo Donate, which people can use to donate their cryptocurrency to good causes. Run on a not-for-profit basis, Cudo Donate charges a commission to cover the costs of running the service and for buying the carbon credits that make the service 100% carbon neutral. It aims to raise £1bn.