AudioNet, which they eventually renamed to Broadcast.com, went public in 1998 and was sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999. It made Wagner and Cuban billionaires.
Becoming an overnight billionaire compelled Wagner to contribute some of his wealth to those less fortunate. “I had grown up in Gary, Indiana. I’d seen a steel mill, blue-collar kind of town and the decay that that can create,” Wagner told CNBC at the Iconic conference in Boston in September.
“I wanted the opportunity for me to try to give back, to try to figure out a way to maybe use some of this treasure, some of, hopefully, my talents and time to figure out how to make a difference,” said Wagner. His first efforts were all focused on empowering disadvantaged kids, especially through his namesake foundation. Early on, he would swoop in and write checks.
Then he got to a point where he determined that charity was operating less efficiently than it could or should. If he could use some of his technology background to help charities, they would be able to raise significantly more money.
“The entrepreneur rises again,” said Wagner. He told himself, “I’m going to put something together that helps transition these companies from a very analog way of doing things to a digital way of doing things. So all of the platforms we’ve built are to do just that — to take them just like we hopefully did for streaming media, like Amazon did for retail, I’m trying to do the same thing for charities.”
And he did just that. Wagner is the founder and CEO of the Charity Network, which is the umbrella for three tech-driven fundraising platforms. Charitybuzz is an online auction for experiences and meetings with celebrities to benefit charity. Prizeo is an online sweepstakes to benefit charity. And Chideo bills itself as YouTube for charity. Online content from celebrities and industry insiders is made available for a fee to benefit charity. Together, the three online charity platforms have raised over $200 million.
Large image: Charity Network
Small image: CNBC