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Robert Herjavec Croatian-born Canadian entrepreneur, businessman and TV star
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  01/15/2010 | Companies , Business , People | Unrated
Founder of The Herjavec Group, a fast-growing security software company

Mr. Robert Herjavec is happily married with Diane Plese, a Croatian born in Toronto. Her parents arrived to Canada in 1959. Diane and Robert married in Croatian church in Mississauga, a Canadian city near Toronto.  The parents of Mr. Herjavec are from the city of Varaždin, the beautiful baroque city on Croatian north. His father was constantly complaining against the Yugoslav state and communism, due to which he was imprisoned. After jail he could not get employment in Varaždin, and he decided to emigrate from the state with his wife and young Robert.

Joan Rivers, left, with Robert Herjavec and his wife, Diane Plese, on a tour of their mansion in Toronto. Photo from

Robert studied the English Literature and Political Sciences. In 1990 he founded his BRAK Systems. The name of BRAK is of Croatian origin, and its meaning in Croatian is MARRIAGE.

Robert Herjavec is a Croatian-born Canadian entrepreneur and businessman. He stars in the Canadian television series, Dragons' Den which airs on both the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and CBC Newsworld. He was also selected by Mark Burnett to appear on Shark Tank, the U.S. version of Dragons' Den.

Herjavec began his career with IBM mainframe sales but in 1990 founded BRAK Systems which soon became Canada's top provider of Internet security software. BRAK Systems was sold to AT&T in 2000 for $100 million.

Subsequently Herjavec founded and runs The Herjavec Group, a fast-growing security software company. He is also a venture capitalist.

PROFIT magazine interviewed Herjavec, Arlene Dickinson and Kevin O'Leary for an economic round table discussion that was published in September 2009.


Robert Herjavec began his career with IBM mainframe sales but founded his own business in 1990 - BRAK Systems Inc. - one of North America´s first and foremost security integrators. BRAK was responsible for bringing technologies such as Checkpoint and ISS to Canada; it quickly grew into the largest security integrator in Canada and ranked on the Profit 100 as one of the country´s fastest growing companies.

BRAK was eventually sold to AT&T where Mr. Herjavec stayed for a period of time as VP of Internet based security. Mr. Herjavec was then brought on as Worldwide VP of Sales for publicly held (NASDAQ) RAMP Networks - one of the early developers of VPN technology. RAMP was acquired by Nokia in an all cash $225 million transaction.

After a three year hiatus, Mr. Herjavec went on to found The Herjavec Group (THG) which has in five short years become the country's largest security integrator - ranked by Branham as one of the country's top security companies, and Profit as one of the country´s fastest growing companies (two years in row). THG continues to expand with offices in Montreal, Quebec City, Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary. The company has recently expanded into the U.S. with an acquisition in New York.


On the Town with Robert Herjavec

By Ben Kaplan, National Post

There are red felt snooker tables and men in bow ties at the lounge in the Granite Club, but Robert Herjavec, joined by his two daughters, will dine on plain green garden salads in the club’s informal downstairs dining hall.

"I love eating down here with my kids because even if you're on TV, you're still just a dad," says Herjavec, a judge on CBC's Dragons' Den. "Of course, people might know you're a dad with a jet, but still - you're only a dad."

The 46-year-old is clean-shaven and dressed down in blue jeans and a fitted blue-collar shirt. He's coming from a meeting he hosted on-site at the tony club, and is excited to hit the gym. Business, he says, is booming, and meetings have become an unavoidable downside of success.

"We went from $6-million to $16-million to, this year, $35-million, and with that kind of growth, you need to bring senior people together to yell at them," says Herjavec, who speaks and moves quickly as he slides through the club's ornate hallways en route to the garage where he's grabbing the gym clothes he has in his car. Today, he's left the Lamborghini at his Bridal Path home.

"My wife thinks I'm nuts, but I think this is so cool," he says, popping the trunk of his baby-blue limited-edition Smart car. "She thinks this will only keep me interested for four or five days - today is day three, maybe she's right!"

Herjavec is training for the New York City marathon at the end of the month and, in addition to his daily runs - anything under 10 miles he can do while typing on his BlackBerry - he likes to ride the bicycle at the Granite Club while his daughters swim in the pool.

"I’ve lost 15 pounds since July," Herjavec admits as he doffs his blue jeans in favour of a pair of black Nike running shorts. "I was a 34-waist, now I’m a 31. And I've discovered something that costs more than crack cocaine: Tom Ford suits at Harry Rosen. I used to say, 'What idiot would pay seven grand for a suit?' Now I own five."

Keeping his gold Rolex on as he hits the newfangled Schwinn bicycle, Herjavec increases the resistance with each kilometre he spins. Barely breaking a sweat, he says, "My wife has a cycling team and she rides for Princess Margaret [Hospital], but she won't let me join. She's afraid I'll take over the team."

Taking things over is something Herjavec has been comfortable doing ever since he went from being a waiter in Yorkville to selling his Internet security company to AT&T for $100-million. Today, he not only stars on Dragons' Den, but also on Shark Tank, the U.S. version of the rollicking game show.

However, despite the glamour of being on TV, when 6:30 p.m. rolls around and Caprice, 11, and Skye, 13, are done with swim class, Herjavec eschews the club's posh environs to take the kids out for chicken fingers and chocolate milk.

Grabbing a tray and waiting in line, Herjavec says, "Everyone thinks my life is glamorous, but this is it - my girls, the cars and the gym." Dragons' Den airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBC.



From Friday's Globe and Mail

The BIG white house

Web millionaire will open his stunning home for the season's biggest charity soirée

Giving directions to a newcomer to his High Point Road residence, Robert Herjavec says to look for the big white house on the right. And then he pauses. "I mean, the really big white house." And he's not exaggerating.

Built on a three-acre lot in the prestigious Toronto enclave known as The Bridle Path, the 50,000-square-foot house that was custombuilt by developer Shane Baghai is grand in every sense of the word.

The ceilings are about as high as the Sistine Chapel's, the wrought-iron gate, imported from France, could dwarf a giraffe. There is a teahouse in the backyard bigger than most Toronto bungalows. Even the slabs of emerald travertine marble in the majestic circular foyer -- crowned by an elevated rotunda with a crown-like balcony - are as large as elephant foot prints.

In the case of this house, built in the manner of a French chateau, size does matter.

It's what is enabling Mr. Herjavec, his wife, Diane Pelse, and their small children to accommodate the 500 guests expected to descend on their lavish property this coming Wednesday for a gala fundraiser to benefit Princess Margaret Hospital.

For $1,000 a ticket, patrons will listen to Grammy Award winning vocalist Michael Bublé sing to them from a stage being erected on the sprawling back

The yard has tennis courts, a gazebo and a neo-classical statue of a Greek goddess who often finds herself face down in the grass after a heavy gust of wind.

Guests will also be treated to a fashion show on a specially built outdoor catwalk that will feature the latest designs by Hugo Boss, one of the evening's sponsors.

The night is a highlight of the Toronto spring social calendar. But it will also have significant resonance for Mr. Herjavec whose involvement in the charity stems from the recent passing of his mother, who spent her final days at Princess Margaret, "extraordinarily well-cared for," says her son and only child.

Thinking of her, Mr. Herjavec, 43, who emigrated to Canada with his parents from his native Croatia in 1970, recalls that when she first saw the house, she thought it was a museum, not his.

Her reaction is understandable. So much in the house is of museum quality, from the cascading crystal chandeliers bought at auction in Italy to the 24 imported antique French fireplaces with their coloured marble surrounds and hand-painted gilt putti dancing as if it were still 1789. "It's beautiful," says Mr. Herjavec with a sigh.

Almost six years to the day that he bought the house for $10-million -- a price tag that was front page news because it made it, at the time, "the most expensive residential home in Canada" -- he is still over-the-moon about a property, which for him was a case of love at first sight. (Even with annual property taxes of $100,000 / ouch!) Thirty-seven at the time, he had just sold his internet security business to AT&T Canada for a reported $100-million. Until that sale, he had been a struggling entrepreneur, sometimes waiting on tables at night to make ends meet.

His wife, meanwhile, an optometrist who grew up in Parkdale (looking at the house she can honestly say, "I think we've moved up in life") kept wondering when their old car would fail them. Now there are eight in the four-door garage.

Rich beyond his dreams, he wanted a house that would symbolize his Cinderella-like transformation from struggling immigrant to mogul. He asked real estate agent Elise Kalles to find him a house with a "wow" factor. She opened the door in the magnificent entrance, with its spiralling staircase fit for a king, and Mr. Herjavec said it: "Wow!" He bought it the next day, he says, "mainly because I could."

The wow reaction is seemingly universal. Mr. Herjavec and his family typically spend their summers outside Toronto at their Fisher Island property in Florida. During their absence, the house is rented out to visiting luminaries.

Among them is kittenish actress Nastassja Kinski, who adored her prolonged stay in the house a couple of years ago while shooting a film.

Showing off the indoor swimming pool with its glass doors opening on to a secluded patio for al fresco entertaining, the boyish and good-humored Mr. Herjavec still marvels that the starlet once photographed by Helmut Newton with a python coiled around her got wet in his house.

But his wife trumps that one. Walking into an adjacent ivory-coloured guestroom, just down from an apartment-size walk-in closet and a main floor bathroom with a Jacuzzi flanked by marble columns, Ms. Pelse points to the canopied bed and declares, "This is the bed Mick Jagger slept in."

Women visitors to her house, she adds with an impish smile, always beg her to let them see it. It is, admittedly, a conversation stopper.

The hip swiveling rock-and-roller stayed at the High Point residence two tours ago with a small entourage of about 17 people -- four kids, a significant other, three nannies and an assortment of techies and bodyguards.

Mr. Herjavec says that Mr. Jagger's kids used his children's computers, and when they returned, they could see their e-mail messages: "Oh mummy, we're living in such a wonderful house, a castle in Toronto!"

But the real kicker for Mr. Herjavec was what Mr. Jagger said. Even surrounded by so many hangers-on, he felt entirely at peace at High Point. " 'I never saw anybody,' " Mr. Herjavec reports him as saying.

That is the charm of the house - big but intimate at the same time, a warm family home.

Observes Mr. Herjavec: "I always knew my house was big. But when Mick said that, that he didn't see anyone the whole time he was here, well then I knew just how big. Let's just say you'll never ever hear us complain about a shortage of storage."


Robert Herjavec with the Governor General of Canada Her Excellency Michaëlle Jean during a cultural event held at Rideau Hall. Source

Toronto Star Wheels editor Mark Richardson gets a close look at Robert Herjavec's extensive car collection

Robert Herjavec in the village of Zbjeg in Croatia where he grew up, with his daughter Caprice: The harder I work, the luckier I am. Source

Robert Herjavec in the village of Zbjeg in Croatia where he grew up. Source The meaning of the name of Zbjeg is "Refugees' camp". The village is on the North of Croatia, 8km from the town of Brod, and its name is pronounced as "Sbyegh". The name of Herjavec is pronounced in Croatian language as "Heryavets".

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Nenad Bach)

    I saw Mr. Herjavec yesterday on ABC TV and he was very impressive. I liked his thinking and his style. Bravo!
  • Comment #2 (Posted by dj)

    He is what Canada is all about
  • Comment #3 (Posted by Faederholdt)

    Congratulations Robert. You have achieved and have come a long way.
    My story is somewhat similar to yours. I, too had emigrated from Europe
    to Canada, at the age of 8, and now live in the United States of America.

  • Comment #4 (Posted by stella)

    Cula sam za ime Herjavec ali danas sama ostala zabezeknuta vidjevsi mladog Herjavca na tv - koliko energije u tom covjeku. Inspirativno i za mene koja sam na zalasku zivota, uz grozne bolove kao posljedica frakture...Cestitke Herjavcu i grupi oko tog posebno uspjesnog covjeka!!!
  • Comment #5 (Posted by stella)

    Robert, you are one of the kind!!!
    One proud Croat who turned into celebrity - admiring your energy and zest, I congratulate you wishing I could meet you sometimes.
  • Comment #6 (Posted by Loiw)

  • Comment #7 (Posted by Bernie Keller)

    Mr. Herjavec,
    You are the Greatest, congratulations, you deserve the Best.
    Mrs. Bernie Keller from Calgary AB, immigrant from Switzerland.
  • Comment #8 (Posted by Lesley green)

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