There’s a reason why ABC’s Shark Tank has been on the air since 2009 and is still going strong. It delivers everything we have come to love about good reality television: genuine emotions, knee-jerk comments, zingy one-liners and entertaining, unrehearsed human interaction. The show’s premise revolves around passionate and dedicated entrepreneurs seeking investments for their fledgling companies and it encapsulates the essence of the American spirit – working hard, following dreams and attaining success from one’s dedicated efforts.
Even with all these attractive facets in play, Shark Tank wouldn’t be anywhere without its sharks – the wealthy tycoons that hold court while these entrepreneurs with sweaty palms pitch their products and inventions to them. So who exactly are these sharks and who made them all-knowing, omnipotent business deities? They are quite an impressive bunch as you’ll see below.
Mr. John can easily be described as the smooth and debonair member of the Shark Tank collective. The 44-yr-old entrepreneur was born in Hollis, Queens in NYC, and he made his millions via the apparel industry. In the early 90’s, just when Hip-Hop music was starting to make a major impact on American urban culture, he realized that all the different facets of Hip-Hop (most specifically, the style and fashion) would be lucrative markets as well. He started small making knit hats at home with the help of his mother, and then selling them for $10 each, making substantial profits. Next, he teamed up with friends who shared the vision and created the brand FUBU – meaning “For Us By Us.” Always the savvy marketer, he was able to convince Hip-Hop celebrity, LL Cool. J, another native of Hollis, Queens to be the face of his new brand. That ended up being the stroke of magic he needed to make the brand a global force. At the peak of its success, FUBU was bringing in an annual revenue of $300 million. The mega-popularity of FUBU has since faded, but due to his marketing savvy and keen business mind, Daymond John has continued to amass wealth through lucrative licensing deals, book deals and successful motivational speaking engagements.
Mark Cuban has been a determined hustler from day one. There are some people who need to be pushed, coaxed and motivated to develop a passionate entrepreneurial spirit – Mark Cuban is not one of them. Born in Pittsburgh, even as a child he was all about the dollar, selling magazine subscriptions door to door. Even while he attended college at the University of Indiana, he owned and operated a night club by the name of Motleys. After graduating, he began working at Mellon Bank and quickly learnt the ins and outs of computer technology. Always willing to strike out on his own, he quit his job, moved to Dallas and started a computer firm that he sold for $6 million in 1992. In the 1990’s, at the height of internet boom, he went on to co-found another successful venture called Broadcast.com which he later sold to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock. Perhaps the crowning achievement of his career was buying the Dallas Mavericks NBA team in 2000 for $280 million. This is where America came to know Cuban as the hands-on, unpredictable, loud-mouthed owner who competed for the limelight with his own star players.
Born in New Jersey in 1948, Barbara Cocoran is one of the two females who make up the cast on Shark Tank. She graduated from college in 1971 and got a job as a teacher, a position she held for a year before she decided to pursue something more fulfilling and challenging. She borrowed a $1000 from her boyfriend at the time, and used that to start a real estate business called the Corcoran group. This group was well known in the 70’s for putting out detailed bulletins called The Corcoran Reports, about development data in the Real Estate Industry. With the culmination of hard work, innate entrepreneurial skills and a never-say-die attitude, she went on to grow the Corcoran group into a real estate juggernaut and sold it for $60 million dollars to the NRT group in 2001. Barbara Corcoran is presently deemed as one of the most knowledgeable and respected names in Real Estate. She regularly appears on MSNBC, is a property expert for NBC Today and is highly sought after for public appearances and speeches.
Kevin O’Leary and fellow cast member Robert Herjavec have both appeared on the Canadian version of the show “Dragon’s Den”. Never a serious or focused student growing up, he recounts a life-changing moment during a summer job as a teen, when he was asked to scrape gum off the floor. He refused and was fired immediately. That’s when he decided it was always better to be an employer rather than an employee. He founded a computer software company called SoftKey with investment seed money from his mother. He steadily grew the company and eventually bought out The Learning Company (TLC). After this significant purchase, he moved his base of operations to Boston. From 1995 to 1999, he went on to purchase all the other competitors in his field and ultimately sold the company for 3.7 billion dollars to Mattel.
Presently, he is the chairman of O’Leary funds, the founding partner of Stream Global (an international business outsourcing company) and he sits on the executive board of the Richard Ivey School of Business.
What makes Robert Hervajec’s story extremely impressive are the odds he had to overcome very early in life. His father escaped jail in communist Croatia and fled with his family to Halifax, Canada – Hervajec was just 8-years-old. In Canada, his family stayed in a friend’s basement for 18 months while they figured out ways to make ends meet. Hervajec worked odd jobs as a waiter and newspaper delivery boy, until he transitioned into the technology field with an upstart company. He only got the job by convincing the owner to let him work for free. Hervajec learned the ropes, ascended the ranks and used the knowledge to form his first company BRAK systems which he later sold to AT&T. Following that success, he started another IT business that eventually was bought by Nokia for $225 million. in 2003 Hervajec founded the Hervajec Group which he describes as a “Mini IBM.” This new company excels in computer security and information appropriation for large enterprises and government.
The reigning fashion queen of the Shark Tank can also be described as the most creative of the bunch. She is known as the “Queen of QVC” and has made millions of dollars in sales from the inventive products she creates. She is popular for making some of the most functional jewelry and cosmetic organizers for women. She has also had a show on QVC called Clever & Unique Creations for Lori Greiner for over 15 years.
At the start of her career, Lori found her light bulb moment when she realized that women didn’t really have a good way of organizing their earrings. Necessity is the mother of invention, and she designed an earring organizer where all the jewelry was hanging and could be seen in plain view. The organizer was a hit in local retailers and with dedication and persistence, she landed a lucrative deal with JC Penney. This led to a coveted spot on QVC where she sold over 2000 of her units in five minutes. That’s when she knew she was really on her way. She presently oversees a multi-million dollar company with over 350 products, a lot of which she invented herself. She is also a highly respected expert on patenting and her entrepreneurial spirit is second to none.