Robert Herjavec was born on September 14, 1962, in Yugoslavia, which is now Croatia. When he was eight, the family left Yugoslavia and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. One of the reasons for the move was his father’s disdain for communism. The Herjavec’s soon moved to Toronto, to stay with a family friend while they transitioned to their new country of Canada.
Robert had a difficult time getting used to Canada. For one thing, he spoke no English and his family had very little money compared to his new Canadian neighbors.
Things started to look up for the family when Vladimir Herjavec, Robert’s father, started a factory job, making $76 a week. Little by little, Robert began learning English, making friends, and working his way through school.
In 1984, Robert Herjavec graduated from the University of Toronto with English literature and political science degrees.
During this time, Herjavec held several low-paying jobs to help his family make ends meet. These included delivering papers, a salesperson, a waiter, and a debt collector.
Finding His Career Calling
Like many young people just starting post-college life, Herjavec wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life or career. For a while in the 1980’s, he worked as an assistant director on several movies and TV shows, like The Return of Billy Jack and the coverage of the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo.
While this was an interesting and fun job for the young man, he was always looking for the next production, which left him out of work for periods of time.
He finally accepted a job that he had no qualifications for, selling IBM mainframe boards for technology company Logiquest. He felt he could be successful at this job and only got it because he worked for free for six months to show his bosses that he had what it took. During this period, he waited tables to make money.
He rose through the ranks at Logiquest until he became the General Manager of the organization. In 1990, he started his own company, BRAK Systems.
His first solo venture offered internet security software; his first office was in his basement. The company became a great success and after 10 years, he sold it to AT&T Canada for $30.2 million.
After a couple of other high-profile jobs, Herjavec decided it was time to start a new business venture and started The Herjavec Group in 2003. The company offered a variety of security solutions and quickly became one of Canada’s fastest-growing tech firms and the largest IT security provider.
The company quickly grew from three employees and $400,000 in sales to over $200 million in revenue. His business acumen led him to receive several awards, including the 2012 Ernst & Young Ontario Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Technology and the 2012 Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Outstanding Service to Canada.
TV Opportunities Come Calling
By now, Herjavec was a well-known and highly-respected entrepreneur. This led to his first TV stint on the Canadian TV show, Dragons’ Den, where he was an investor during seasons one through six. This led to him being chosen for the U.S. version of the show, named Shark Tank.
Shark Tank had a format that Herjavec found attractive. He and a panel of other potential investors would hear business pitches by aspiring entrepreneurs. After listening to the pitch and asking pertinent questions about the business, the investors, known as sharks, had the option to invest in the business or not.
Success as a Shark
Robert Herjavec is one of six “sharks” that have the opportunity to invest in the companies they hear pitches about during the show. According to Sharkalytics, Herjavec has invested a lot of money during his tenure as a shark.
At on point, Herjavec had made 57 deals, and a total of over $16 million in business deals. His biggest deal was a $5 million investment for 50% of the Zero Pollution Motors Company.
This deal took place in 2015 and was attractive to Herjavek because the company created an eco-friendly vehicle that runs on compressed air. The company asked for the investment so they could develop an assembly plant to produce the vehicles in Hawaii.
Since then Robert has made many more investments into Shark Tank products and services.
Some of his other investments include:
- Tipsy Elves Sweater Company
- Drain Strain
- Buttercloth Shirts
- Bad Birdie
- Sand Cloud and many others
While he has worked hard to become a successful entrepreneur, he also believes in a work/life balance. In his free time, Herjavec is passionate about auto racing. The Herjavec Group Racing Team regularly competes in the North American Ferrari Challenge.
In 2011, he won Rookie of the year and he has gone on to win several races including the Laguna Seca Race and the Lime Rock Race. He is also a collector of rare cars.
Herjavec also believes in giving back and is a major donor of the Union Gospel Mission homeless shelter in Seattle, Washington.
The Importance of Dancing with the Stars
In 2015, it was announced that Robert Herjavec was going to be a contestant during season 20 of Dancing with the Stars, the popular TV show that pairs entertainment stars with professional dancers. Robert was paired with professional dancer Kym Johnson. While they were eliminated and finished in sixth place, Kym and Robert have gone the distance.
Robert and Kym became engaged and married in 2016. In 2018, the couple had twins, one boy, and one girl.
Today the couple make their home in Bridle Path, Toronto, while not traveling to their several vacation homes.