All About Alumni / Winter 2010
60 Seconds with Robert Herjavec

Advice from the Dragon’s Den judge: don’t be cutthroat, but don’t be a pushover, either.


Photo courtesy of CBCHe’s a man who loves his Lamborghinis, owns a private island and believes in karma. Robert Herjavec (BA 1984 New College) worked his way to the heights of business success with his own network security company, and now has two reality-TV gigs: he is a judge on CBC’s Gemini-nominated Dragons’ Den and the new ABC show Shark Tank. In both, budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of fiery judges, who are also the investors. Lisa Bryn Rundle pitches her questions to Herjavec.

What’s the appeal of business for you?
I wanted to do something that would result in a pretty good living, and business seemed the route to go.

Why did you want to become a TV personality, too?
Because somebody lied to me and told me there’s lots of money in it.

Lots of money at the CBC?
Really, it wasn’t by choice…. Somebody called. I’m on TV. Four years later, I’m still on TV.

Now you’re on more TV. Which is better – being a dragon or a shark?
On Dragons’ Den it’s like being with a bunch of friends you get along really well with but don’t see that often. And I enjoy being a shark because it’s very high stakes. And Robert Downey Jr. was filming the new Iron Man next to us. That’s pretty cool.

But in terms of the beasts…
I loved the entire dragon imagery until I saw an interview with Mark Burnett, who produces Shark Tank. They asked him, “Who would win in a fight, a dragon or a shark?” And he basically said, in this incredulous tone, “Duh. Dragons aren’t real.” Up until then I loved the dragon thing.

Dragons do have a strong place in our cultural imagination.
I think a mystical creature works for the Canadian market. But a shark is a mean, real, predatory animal, and that’s definitely more U.S. television. We don’t want sharks here. In fact, in Canada I’m surprised it’s not called the puppy tank. Or the puppy farm.

Or the bunny ranch.
Oh no, that’s totally different. That’s a whole different show.

Is there a difference between the American and the Canadian contestants?
I would have thought the Americans would be more aggressive and driven, but nope.

Is the real business world as dramatic as the shows make it seem?
Ninety-eight per cent of the people I work with in business are good people. But you can’t be a pushover.

So I shouldn’t ask you about your most cutthroat move?
I’m always careful about how I treat others, because you never know. It’s just bad karma. The hardest thing you have to learn is not to be cutthroat, but to say no.

It must be easier when the pitches are bad.
Well, except when you’re on TV it’s more like, No! No! No! No!

Watch a clip of Robert Herjavec on the premiere episode of Shark Tank


Reader Comments

# 1
Posted by Drew Hunt on September 3rd, 2010 @ 4:13 pm

Good interview. I believe Robert has his own way of making deals with small entrepreneurs. It’s good to know that he really believes in Karma. That’s the good thing about him. But there is something going on in Dragons’ Den, eventually they will lead you into losing your own company. Check out our blog post and learn why Dragons’ Den is the quickest way to lose your company.
http://www.inboundsales.net/blog/bid/29395/DRAGON-S-DEN-The-Quickest-Way-to-Lose-Your-Company

# 2
Posted by Dawn RPN%201998 on January 21st, 2012 @ 10:58 am

Good interview. I have recently watched Shark Tank and noticed some bad vibes between Robert and Cuban. I have no idea who Cuban is, but he sure is arrogant! It takes away from the whole show when one shark feels that he is more important than the rest.

# 3
Posted by Dr. Bob M on February 7th, 2012 @ 5:03 am

Unfortunately I must admit that I do not primarily like ANY reality shows, and added to that I feel Canada still has such a wretched budget for the CBC. It’s almost unattainable for any Canadian show, of any type, to be entertaining and flourishing. With Robert Herjavec, I find both his reality shows to be laden with GOLD (most undoubtedly…pun intended). He is a genius.

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