Robert Herjavec on Entrepreneurship, Dealing with Inventive Kids and Bringing Prototypes alive

Last March, I acquired the chance to speak to Robert Herjavec about his involvement as a mentor with the first Frito-Lay Dreamvention competition and the advice he has for inspiring young entrepreneurs. Since that time, thousands of kids beneath the age of 15 submitted ideas they wished to see become more active. From the masses, five finalists were selected and so are competing head-to-head for chance to win $250,000. Herjavec has continued his involvement with the project.

Then, the other day, I got to speak to Herjavec again to share with you his experiences with the youngsters, the Dreamvention competition and his advice for all entrepreneurs in terms of bringing an idea alive. His joy for dealing with the youngsters and his excitement in relaying the experiences of seeing each child’s idea manifest right into a physical prototype were palpable.

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"With most entrepreneurs you should push them to believe big. But, with kids, there’s no problem with that," Herjavec says.

Part of his involvement in the project involves mentoring the youngsters and providing insights from his years as a Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank. One of the primary takeaways he hopes the youngsters remember is that the procedure pays to and a learning experience, even if it generally does not create a "win."

"Whenever we would push the youngsters and have them if their idea could take action, they rarely said ‘no.’ ‘No’ is a learned response," Herjavec says. "As adults, we say it all too often. They [the kids] are in early stages enough that their instinct is to find it out rather than shut it down. The essential thing is we are experiencing fun. There is joy along the way."

You’ll want to remember that if you are an inventor and also have great ideas, you will need greater than a good prototype to market. Herjavec says that humans sell, not prototypes, so if you are not enjoying the procedure it’ll translate to your potential investors and customers.

"People don’t want to cope with miserable people. [Laughing] After all look at Kevin [O’Leary]. For this reason he never gets deals on Shark Tank! All joking aside, the best thing about kids is that they are always happy; they haven’t learned how exactly to be miserable yet."

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With regards to contestants on Shark Tank, Herjavec says, they often times fit into 1 of 2 categories:

  1. The ones that don’t have an excellent prototype, but who’ve talked to actual live paying customers and may communicate and improve on that experience
  2. Anyone who has a perfect prototype, but nonetheless don’t think it’s sufficient to put out in to the world to check it so they continue steadily to make an effort to perfect the prototype.

"People overspend the thought of a prototype," Herjavec says, "Don’t do this."

Instead, he recommends getting something functional and setting it up out there. Proof concept is a very important factor. Proof usage and market viability is another. Because in the event that you prove to yourself that you can do it once, you’re much more likely to repeat and improve.

Through the Dreamvention competition, the finalists developed some pretty wacky, but useful, inventions! Including an noisy alarms that wakes you up by tickling you with feathers, to a slanted toaster that prevents you from burning your fingers getting toasted bread, to a shoe attachment which allows you to draw with chalk on sidewalks together with your feet, to a shoe-attached purse to greatly help hold jewelry during soccer practice, to the best, as a small-town Kansas girl myself: a Bluetooth-enabled head shelter to filter scary thunderstorms.

"The very best motivation is success. Get your prototype to the stage where it’s enough to provide somebody the vision, nonetheless it does not have to be perfect. It’s called a prototype for grounds. It isn’t a finished product!"

And how does Herjavec believe this reflects the broader business environment?

"I really like this process dealing with kids. If you can inspire kids to be inventors, to be entrepreneurs, it certainly makes me feel great about the state of business in the us. People say it’s hard and a hard climate, but look at just how many kids want to invent something and also have these big dreams because of their lives, it’s so inspiring."

To start to see the finalists and place your vote, visit MyDreamvention.com before November 27th. One winner will be crowned in December and collect the $250,000 prize.

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