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From Poor Immigrant Family Roots to Building a Successful IT Firm, How Robert Herjavec Made it Big

Herjavecis is also known for being one of the founding sharks on ABC's Shark Tank, where he is often seen showing great business advice. 
PUBLISHED 6 DAYS AGO
Cover Image Source: Robert Herjavec | Getty Images | Photo by Rodin Eckenroth
Cover Image Source: Robert Herjavec | Getty Images | Photo by Rodin Eckenroth

Robert Herjavec, the Canadian entrepreneur, is one the most recognizable faces in North America's business world. Herjavec, who left his country when he was just eight, is the founder of Herjavec Group, a Toronto-based IT security firm with estimated annual revenues of $103.3 million annually. Herjavecis is also known for being one of the founding sharks on ABC's Shark Tank, where he is often seen showing great business advice.



Robert Herjavec and his family arrived in Canada in the 1970s on a small boat from the part of the former Yugoslavia now known as Croatia. He started from there, where his family had only $20 in their pockets and a single suitcase containing their few assets. However, much later in life when he went to college, he realized that he came from no money. "I didn’t know I was poor until I went to school in Canada and other kids said to me, ‘You’re poor,’” he tells The CEO Magazine in an exclusive interview.

Herjavec talks about not having the "relativity of rich or poor or underprivileged or privileged because he came from a dirty little village where everybody was in the same situation, so that was hard." In the interview, he also talks about how dreaming big can push your boundaries and take you to heights of success. He begins by saying how he did not know that he was going to make it big. "[It] took me a long time to break out of my view of the world because of my background."

“If I had to do it again, I would have dreamed bigger," he says. The life of an immigrant was difficult back in the day, but Herjavec was determined to pull his family out of poverty. "I think a lot of immigrants and people who are underprivileged don’t believe they can become the CEO of a company or start and run a company," he told the CEO Magazine.

Getty Images | Photo by Chris Weeks
Robert Herjavec | Getty Images | Photo by Chris Weeks

Having grown up on a farm and raised by his grandmother among neighbors who didn't speak much English, Harvejec was not familiar with the lingo in his childhood and had to pick up the language way later in life, which proved to be a challenge for him.

Herjavec began by getting a degree in English literature and political science from New College at the University of Toronto. He later took minimum wage jobs to support his family until he stumbled on showbiz. In the early '80s, he started working as a third assistant director and was part of productions like "Cain and Abel" and "The Return of Billy Jack."

Wanting to work for production houses, he later applied for a position at Logiquest selling IBM mainframe emulation boards. While he did not qualify for the position, he managed to convince the company to give it to him by offering to work there for free for six months. As time passed, he became the president of the company before getting fired in 1990.

After this, he started working in hopes to buy a house. “I was in my 20s and I started thinking about buying a house one day," he says, only to realize that there was no reasonable scenario under which he was going to be able to save enough money for the down payment. "I had a choice to make: either I live like my parents, who eventually paid off their house in their 60s, or I have to go out and get capital."



In the years to come, he created and sold many companies which eventually got him the capital he wanted. "You’ve got to be realistic about your situation. I think the biggest lies in life we tell are the ones we tell ourselves," he says.

Lastly, he talked about how every entrepreneur goes through peaks and troughs as they overcome obstacles, and urges everybody to make sure that insecurity and inhibition don't hold somebody back. He believes that to achieve great heights of success, one needs to be willing to risk more than the average person.

Herjavec's varied career trajectory serves as an example of grit and determination. It was through a series of selling and buying of businesses that Herjavec is now worth a whopping $300 million as of 2024, per Celebrity Net Worth.

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