Dragon’s Den host talks high-stakes entrepreneurism and judges new student ventures at Sauder


RRobert Herjavec-Dragons Den

Robert Herjavec, a host of the popular CBC television series Dragon’s Den, engaged an audience of more than 400 students last night with his rags-to-riches story of entrepreneurism. Along the way he described the moment when he discovered business is about more than money – when his neighbour beat him in a contest for the most Ferraris – and ran down his top 10 tips for budding entrepreneurs.

Now owner of a leading Canadian cyber security company, Herjavec painted a vivid picture of the tough but rewarding road ahead for those launching their own enterprises.

“When you start out, there is no work-life balance,” says Herjavec. “I’m not successful because I’m smarter or have better ideas. I just have the ability to be beaten down and keep going. Success is about being able to take a beating and getting right back at it the very next day.”

After his lecture, Herjavec put his skills as a Dragon’s Den judge to work presiding over five student presentations in the class New Venture Design. This two-term BCom course pairs commerce and engineering students together to invent products, file patents, develop working prototypes and seek out funding for new start-ups.

Not one to mince his words, Herjavec gave fair criticism and compliments to all of the groups presenting new products, including a yoga mat cleaning machine, a location-based social media platform for universities, a sport shoe with interchangeable soles, a sun-tracking office blind that harnesses natural light, and an eco-friendly mop bucket.

He also provided advice to five groups of alumni from the New Venture Design class who have gone on to start businesses together. The grads were on hand as the first recipients of Dobson Foundation Grants, which provide funding to Sauder alumni in the initial stages of launching new ventures.

The worthy alums’ start-ups included an innovative new water desalination system, wireless medical sensors that can provide real-time information to doctors, a tape that can be applied to patients to improve accuracy in surgery, a social media integrated photo booth, and an online booking system for dental clinics.

Students interested in taking New Venture Design can learn more at an open house on April 12 at 5:30 p.m. in room 2020 of UBC’s Fred Kaiser Building, located at 2332 Main Mall.  Teams from the current class will give 10 to 15 minute presentations on their new ventures and will be available to talk about the experience.