Ido Leffler, serial entrepreneur and founder of Yoobi, a school supplies company that donates items to children in need, never dreamed he'd star on a TV series.
"Watching television as a child, I used to think: 'There is no way on earth that a person called Ido, spelled I-d-o, would ever, ever appear on television, in Australia or anywhere else for that matter,'" said Leffler, referring to his immigrant upbringing in Sydney (his family is originally from Israel.)
This week, however, he's proving his doubts wrong. Starting Wednesday at 10pm EST on Oxygen, Leffler will appear as one of four lead investors on the new docu-series Quit Your Day Job, alongside tech mogul Randi Zuckerberg, the former CMO of Facebook, Sarah Prevette, the founder of Sprouter and BetaKit, and Lauren Maillian, the founder and CEO of Luxury Market Branding, and the former COO of Sugarleaf Vineyards, making it the only African-American owned and operated winery in Virginia.
In each hour-long episode of Quit Your Day Job--there will be eight episodes total in the first season--the investors will meet with three unsuspecting entrepreneurs, who get the opportunity to pitch their companies on the spot. Based on these interactions, investors will decide which two startups will advance to the final round, and which one will ultimately score some funding. The caveat: The final decision has to be unanimous.
Of course, not all contestants have what it takes to make it in business.
"There are some people who've been told their entire lives that they're great singers -- and they suck," Leffler admits, drawing a parallel to the reality TV series American Idol, which has aired for 15 consecutive seasons on Fox. "The same thing goes for entrepreneurs."
Quit Your Day Job, it's worth noting, is conceptually similar to the hit ABC series Shark Tank, which stars celebrity investors Mark Cuban, Lori Grener, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary and Robert Herjavec. One difference, though, is that Leffler and team will be cutting smaller checks; anywhere between "a few thousand dollars," and "tens of thousands of dollars," he says. Contestants also don't need to be generating any revenues; some have little more than a promising idea.
While there's no single recipe for a successful startup, Leffler outlines some of the major mistakes he looks out for, such as failing to show up for a meeting on time, or when the entrepreneur doesn't know his or her own financials.
"To put a number on a piece of paper is one thing," says Leffler. "You need to know not only how your numbers are going to affect your overall business, but how your numbers are going to affect your investors." A couple of questions for which to have answers prepared: "How is the next round going to happen? What is the burn rate?"
"The other thing that really ticks off an investor is when someone is arrogant," Leffler continues. "It's important to be confident, but there's a very fine line between confident and arrogant."
Significantly, Leffler says it's important not to judge a book by its cover. On the show, there were multiple occasions where the producers thought they knew which entrepreneur would make the final cut -- and were dead wrong. "Very often, the producers had to scramble to figure out what to do next," he laughs.
Of course, having the heart to see your idea through is crucial. Leffler, for one, grew up relatively poor; He used to collect shopping carts at a local super market for pocket money, and later on, he worked for a Greek immigrant family that owned a deli and charcoal chicken shop, called Psycho Chicken.
"This person [the owner of Psycho Chicken] treated this store like it was their Taj Mahal," Leffler recalls fondly. "I hope to honor that past by treating the walls of our businesses with the same level of respect."