;Robert Herjavec proves that nice guys can ;nish ;rst
WITH HIS FLOOD PANTS, thick-rimmed
glasses and what he describes as “oddly
shaped hair,” Robert Herjavec was an easy target for the bullies in elementary school. It
didn’t help that, as a new immigrant, he knew
little English and spoke with an accent.
“Kids beat me up; they made fun of me,”
recalls Herjavec, who was 8 years old when he
and his family came to Canada from what was
then the Yugoslav republic of Croatia, where
his father had been imprisoned numerous
times for speaking out against the government.
He found this success in the technology
industry. Fresh out of university and unemployed, Herjavec applied for work with a
company that sold IBM mainframes. When
the owner refused to hire him because he
didn’t have enough sales experience and had
no knowledge of computers, Herjavec o;ered
to work for free and was eventually hired.
growing companies for three straight years.
;is past quarter, it reported a record growth
of 82 per cent over the same period in 2009.
“We started six years ago with three
A new chapter
employees and sales of $450,000,” says
Herjavec, whose journey to tycoon-dom
included brief stints as a waiter, collections
agent and salesman for high-end men’s fash-
ion retailer Harry Rosen. “Now we have over
100 employees and we’re going to ;nish this
year with close to $70 million in sales.”
“A;erwards I used to always say, ‘One day
I’m going to make it, and you’ll see,’ ” he tells
He was as good as his word. Today, at the
age of 47, Herjavec (pronounced “her-ya-vets”)
is a successful multimillionaire and TV personality who appears regularly as one of the
judges and potential investors on CBC-TV’s
Dragons’ Den and ABC Network’s Shark Tank,
both reality shows about entrepreneurs making a pitch for venture capital.
Herjavec recently added one more item
to his list of accomplishments: He has taken
his personal, business and on-air experiences
and distilled them into a book, Driven: How
to Succeed in Business and in Life. Published
by HarperCollins Canada Ltd., Driven is
essentially a compilation of tried-and-true
wisdom for entrepreneurs, woven into anecdotes from Dragons’ Den and Shark Tank, and
from Herjavec’s life.
Herjavec lives in a 4,600-square-metre
( 50,000-square-foot) mansion, with his wife
and three kids, in Toronto’s prestigious Bridle
Path neighbourhood, where he has a garage
full of cars, including pricey and testosterone-laden brands such as Lamborghini, Ferrari
Herjavec describes his life as an “
immigrant makes good” tale. ;e family’s lack of
money—and the way they were sometimes
treated because of it—fuelled his desire to
succeed in life.
In 1990, Herjavec started his own company, BRAK Systems Inc., which provided
Internet security solutions. Ten years later, he
sold the company to AT&T. (Various media
reports have pegged the sale price at either
$30 or $100 million, and Herjavec has neither
con;rmed nor disputed these ;gures).
Sitting in his corner o;ce in Mississauga,
Ontario, where ;e Herjavec Group recently
set up a second base of operations—the other
office is located in downtown Toronto—
Herjavec is unabashedly enthusiastic about
Driven. Dressed in a navy blue pinstripe Tom
Ford suit, a white shirt with wide, light blue
stripes and a periwinkle tie with pastel speckles right out of a Seurat canvas, Herjavec is
impeccable but not imposing.
Today Herjavec is at the helm of a rap-
idly growing company, ;e Herjavec Group,
which provides IT security solutions and has
been on the Pro;t 100 list of Canada’s fastest-
“I’m really excited about the book because
I think it’s a chance for people to meet me
on a wide scale and hear what I have to say,”
Herjavec says. CONTINUED ON PAGE 24
MEDIA BAKERY/COURTESY OF CBC
Herjavec on the set of the TV show Dragon’s Den, where he’s known as the nice guy. Before deciding
which entrepreneurs he’ll back financially, Herjavec tries out the products they’re pitching.