At the age of eight, Robert and his family moved from Croatia to Canada in order to escape Josip Broz Tito’s communist regime. Robert’s family eventually moved to Toronto where both his parents worked minimum wage jobs and tried to learn English. In 1984, in an attempt to support his family, Robert graduated the University of Toronto with a degree in English literature and political science and began his career. Upon graduation Robert convinced a company called Logiquest, who sell IBM mainframe emulation boards, to give him an entry level position by working the first 6 months for free. In 1990, after climbing the ranks to General Manager of Logiquest, Robert was fired so he started his first company called BRAK Systems (a Canadian integrator of Internet security software) (Ernest and Young, 2013). BRAK was sold to AT&T in 2000 for $30.2 million and is worth over $100 million today (Kopun, 2010). After taking a couple years off to raise his children and spend time with his wife at the time, Diane, Robert started another company after himself called The Herjavec Group (THG), another Internet security solutions integrator (Mielach, 2012). According to Branham Group, a Toronto based Technology Consulting firm, THG is Canada’s largest IT security providers and between 2007-2012 grew at a rate of 643% to $125 million in sales and150 employees (Branham, 2012). Today, Robert is still the CEO of THG and because of his successful business career, Robert may be seen on TV as either the “nice dragon” on Dragons Den or dancing with Kym Johnson on Dancing with the Stars.
After reading Robert’s book as well as an interview that he had done in 2012 with Business News Daily, Herjavec does not talk about every aspect that we have covered in class such as funding and managing growth, but it is evident that Robert exemplifies a lot of the other concepts that we have talked about in class. From week one after watching Sam Altmans video on “How to Start up a Start up”, Altman stressed you should never start a start up just because you want to. Robert stresses this point with his interview with Mielach: "The best advice I would give to somebody is, don’t ever start a business that you are not incredibly and deeply passionate about…It is hell, and you will spend more hours with your business than you will with your family and friends. You will have horrible days that will make you want to quit and question everything you have ever learned. Along that journey, if you don’t absolutely love what you do there is no way you will survive." Robert acknowledges that he may not societies “required” education to start up his own business, but he loved and had a interest in the technology industry and very quickly became a expert in his field: "I don’t have an MBA, or a business degree, and I wasn’t very good at accounting. I remember when I wanted to start a business; everybody said to me, 'you can't do it.' Fundamentally, I owe my success in business to the fact that I really love what I do". Altman also mentioned that you should never start a start up purely based on the goal to make money because it becomes way more than money down the road and Robert also talks about this during the same interview: "One of the biggest mistakes I see people do is they start a business to make money…the problem with that is on those cold days, money doesn’t keep you warm at night. For me, it is impossible to expend the effort required to start a great business because you want to make more money”.
Sticking to Robert’s main startup, The Herjavec Group, he is the founder and CEO with two other Co-Founders: George Rempond, SVP of Sales and Sean Higgins, CTO. Like we talked about in class, most start ups succeed with 2-3 founders and very rarely by themselves. More specifically, the Herjavec Group almost perfectly follows the criteria for “the Talent Triangle”. Although it could be argued that Robert has attributes of all aspects of the triangle, business acumen, operational experience and domain knowledge, he most definitely has surrounded himself with the right co-founders in order to succeed. Robert himself I would argue is the business acumen as he is the CEO and is responsible for making top-level decisions that allow THG to grow. He is focused on management, investor relations and overall development of the company. Next, Sean Higgins, I would argue brings operational experience to the table. Higgins has worked in the information technology field for over 30 years, specifically within Internet security and even delivers “check point” courses across Canada regarding firewall security. Higgins is THG’s CTO and is responsible for product development, inventory management and researching and managing outsourced partners. Lastly, George Rempond brings domain knowledge to THG. Rempond is the VP of sales and isresponsible to make sure the products that are offered meet and exceed the need of the customers. Rempond followed Herjavec after selling BRAK solutions to AT&T and thus has an immense amount of experience within the IT security industry.
When Robert is not smack talking fellow dragon, Kevil O’leary, in the first part of his book, Driven, he mentions some very interesting things about why pitches go wrong and how it is essential to put your self in the investor’s shoes. Just like we talked in class about elevator pitches, business plans and understanding the investor, Robert talks about the importance in his book of a good pitch and how it is critical when addressing investors. In Driven, Robert mentions a couple things that people do well when pitching a deal: 1. Engage investors quickly 2. Bring us a great idea 3. Make a good presentation with solid facts 4. Have recorded sales with a realistic plan. These are all things that we saw in class about what makes a successful pitch. On the other hand Robert also draws from his experience as a dragon to what people do badly when pitching a deal: 1. Fail to be honest 2. Don’t know their market 3. Have no recorded sales 4. Are unrealistic about growth 5. Become rude or use sex to sell. These are all things that Robert has seen in his experience that immediately make him out of the deal… and yes even the last one.
After conducting more research and diving into the details about Robert Herjavec’s business ventures I would have to say that the strategies he has implemented were definitely effective. After learning the fundamentals to entrepreneurship in class I am surprised to see how Robert’s startups followed the theory to entrepreneurship almost perfectly. Robert first started out a company because he saw something that the market really needed at the time during the .com bubble. Furthermore, Robert choose to bring 2 co-founders along with him when he started THG, which ultimately made the company better as he made the best talent triangle possible for his company. Overall, Robert’s successful rags to riches story came true because he is a smart, hardworking and innovative entrepreneurship who had an eye for emerging markets and took full advantage of his entrepreneurial nature. Robert’s company today has grossed over $500 million in revenue, which speaks to how successful he is as an entrepreneur.
"Exceptional Magazine: Americas Edition, July 2013 - The Herjavec Group."– Ernest and Young. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.
Herjavec, Robert. Driven: How to Succeed in Business and in Life. Toronto: HarperCollins Canada, 2010. Print.
Mielach, David."'Shark Tank' Judge Herjavec on Living the American Dream." February 2012. Business News Daily. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.
Kopun, Francine. "Robert Herjavec: The Nice Dragon, March 2010 - Toronto Star."Thestar.com. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.
"Top 10 Canadian ICT Security Companies."www.branham300.com. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.