Shark Tank host Robert Herjavec has been running around in circles.
When he's not taking care of day-to-day operations at his cybersecurity firm, the Herjavec Group, or filming the Shark Tank companion show, Beyond the Tank, Herjavec can be found cutting a rug on ABC's Dancing With the Stars.
Despite all this multitasking, Herjavec hasn't shown any signs of burning out. And if the number of entrepreneurs competing for a chance to pitch the sharks is any indication, he's going to need that energy for many more seasons to come.
"We had 45,000 people apply to be on the show last year," he says.
In an interview with Inc., Herjavec talked about the state of entrepreneurship in the U.S., how his investment philosophy differs from Mark Cuban's, and which of his businesses he thinks have a shot at being home runs.
Has it been a challenge for the Herjavec Group to keep up with the growing demand for cybersecurity services?
This is the best time in history to be in our business. You have the growth of the internet in terms of bandwidth, and internet access and the speed of internet access are at an all-time high. You also have the amount of cyberthreats growing, so we don't need to sell people on the idea they should be secure. People get that.
Does that make cybersecurity a promising industry for new entrants?
This is a great time to be in our business, but I wouldn't want to be starting out. Even though infrastructure costs are very low today with cloud computing and so on, the cost for talent and the cost for running the business is formidable.
On Shark Tank, you sometimes invest in companies that all of the other sharks pass on. How does your investment philosophy differ from those of the other sharks?
We all have a different view on our money and our investments. I'm more of an operator than I am a pure investor. Mark [Cuban] is more of an investor, so he takes a more traditional "some are going to work and some are not going to work" kind of approach.
Cuban has frequently called out entrepreneurs who come on the show just to get exposure for their company. Does Shark Tank still have that problem?
As Mark says, people have figured out Shark Tank. We get a lot of gold diggers who just come on for the publicity, but I think we're getting better at spotting the people who are so obvious about it.
How are the companies you've invested in performing?
All the companies I've invested in are doing anywhere from OK to really well. We don't have one that's lost money. We feel a lot of responsibility to help and operate the businesses.
Are there any companies you've invested in that you're particularly excited about?
One of the ones I'm really excited about continues to be a company called Tipsy Elves, which makes ugly Christmas sweaters. One of the hardest things to do is to break out of your core market into an ancillary one, and what we've done with them is gone away from just a Christmas sweater market to college markets. We just signed a deal to sell college-themed sweaters and also a St. Patrick's Day T-shirt and stuff like that, so if we can make a successful transition from a Christmas sweater company to a clothing and branding company, it'll be a much bigger market, obviously.
What common mistake do people still make when pitching you on the show?
People don't get our attention. They don't realize that the number-one thing you have to do is sell yourself, and then sell the business. We're there 12 hours a day, so if you don't get our attention, we're not going to listen to you.
What has your time on the show taught you about investing in companies?
I think people have lots of great ideas and dreams, which is very encouraging, but execution is very difficult. What we've all figured out is, if you can invest in a product that hits with the consumer, you're going to do well. The business of America isn't so much business as it is consumerism.
Why is it that many of the deals made on the show don't end up closing?
It's really our own money, and so we go through that due diligence period and find out what's real. At the beginning, if a deal didn't close, it was because we didn't close it. Now it's the complete opposite. A lot of people come on and then change their mind. They get the publicity from the show and then don't want to close. I would say 90 percent of the time now, it's the entrepreneur [who backs out].
What can we expect from ABC's upcoming show Beyond the Tank?
It's a much more realistic view of what happens in terms of running the businesses. It just looks at what happens over that longer period of time. The updates on Shark Tank are typically quick, and they're always positive. Sometimes life is positive and the businesses are great, but sometimes it's not. Where Shark Tank ends, Beyond the Tank begins.