Shark Tank is a show where audiences can witness entrepreneurial dreams come true. For over 11 seasons, a panel of investors has given their own money to entrepreneurs and businesses in hopes of making a sizable return on their investment. All while millions of viewers watch the drama unfold on their television.
While the show is hugely recognizable now, in 2009, the concept was foreign to many American viewers. Many don’t know that the cast of Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, and Lori Greiner were not the original cast of the show.
In fact, a few of the names I just mentioned were close to never being on the show. In this article, we’ll take a look at the original Shark Tank cast and how they were chosen to be on the show.
Kevin Harrington is often hailed as the pioneer of the infomercial and was one of the original “sharks” on the hit TV show “Shark Tank.” Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1956, Kevin displayed entrepreneurial instincts from a young age. His father was an entrepreneur who ran an Irish Pub. Growing up, Harrington worked for his father starting at age 11. Harrington worked in all parts of the business and his father taught him all of the operations of the restaurant. His father saw his drive and said, “You need to be an entrepreneur”.
In high school, he embarked on his first business venture, a driveway sealing business. However, when he started college, he found a gold mine when he started an HVAC business. His business was bringing in over a million dollars a year and had hired 25 employees. This success led Harrington to drop out of college to be a full-time entrepreneur.
His defining moment, however, came in the early 1980s when he leveraged the potential of infomercials. Observing unused airtime on cable channels, Kevin conceptualized infomercials to occupy these slots. This led to the inception of his company, Quantum International. This venture soon morphed into a billion-dollar enterprise.
Over his illustrious career, Kevin has launched over 20 businesses, generating more than $5 billion in direct-to-consumer sales globally.
How Harrington Was Selected to Be on Shark Tank
Not surprisingly, Harrington’s success with marketing various types of products through infomercials made him a key person of influence throughout different sectors. He would often visit trade shows around the country looking for the next big product. Television producer Mark Burnett would also visit these trade shows. Burnett is probably best known as the producer for the wildly popular reality TV show called Survivor.
While visiting, he would run into Harrington on several occasions. Burnett started to realize how much influence Harrington had since he had television infomercials on so many different products. The producer eventually reached out to Harrington to ask him if he would consider being on his new show called Shark Tank. Burnett explained that, on the show, investors would have entrepreneurs seeking investment pitch their ideas within 3 minutes. From there, the investors would need to decide if they wanted to invest in the idea or business.
Harrington explained that it is similar to what he does every day. The rest is history. Harrington was the very first shark Burnett approached about being on the show.
Kevin O’Leary, endearingly termed “Mr. Wonderful” on “Shark Tank,” possesses a multifaceted entrepreneurial and investment background. Born in Montreal, Canada, in 1954, Kevin’s first major venture was O’Leary Funds, a mutual fund company. However, Kevin O’Leary got rich after the sale of The Learning Company, his software firm. He sold his company to Mattel for an astounding $3.7 billion in 1999.
Kevin’s astute business insights and straightforward investment approach have rendered him a stalwart in the finance world. Beyond “Shark Tank,” Kevin is a valued contributor to several financial news networks and an author, sharing his unique investment philosophy and strategies with the world.
How O’Leary Was Selected to Be on Shark Tank
By 2009, O’Leary was already familiar with a format similar to Shark Tank due to his involvement in Dragon’s Den. At the time, he was a regular investor on Dragon’s Den, a similar business pitch reality show based in Canada. One day he got a call asking if he would like to be a regular investor in the new U.S. version of the show. O’Leary accepted and has been on the panel ever since.
Daymond John’s journey from humble beginnings to a multi-million dollar empire is a testament to passion and perseverance. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1969, Daymond’s entrepreneurial odyssey began in the 1990s with the launch of the hip-hop clothing brand, FUBU (“For Us By Us”). Initially a collection of handmade hats, FUBU quickly became emblematic of the urban fashion scene. Key to its meteoric rise was Daymond’s strategy to collaborate with hip-hop artists, elevating the brand to iconic status.
Today, with global sales surpassing $6 billion, FUBU stands as a paragon of urban fashion. Daymond’s prowess with FUBU paved the way to “Shark Tank,” where he not only invests, but also mentors aspirants, drawing from his vast brand-building experience.
How He Was Selected to Be on the Show
John’s journey to Shark Tank is an interesting one. In 2007, due to his influence in the fashion industry, he was hired for a new role. He became responsible for integrating product placement on the new E! television show, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” At the time, most people had never heard of the show. And as a result, most designers and fashion entrepreneurs didn’t want to be a part of the project. John, however, saw it as an opportunity to get more exposure to his brand FUBU. Part of his deal with the show was that he was to appear on camera in multiple episodes.
In 2008, John was approached by the producers of Shark Tank asking if he would like to be a part of the show. However, John turned it down. Around that time, the world was entering into a major recession that threatened just about every industry in countries around the world. John began to worry as all of his business holdings were in the fashion industry. He began to realize that he should be diversifying his business portfolio. He reasoned that a show where he could find other businesses to invest in would help him do just that.
Fired by Khloe Kardashian
His plan seemed like a good one. However, there was one problem, Shark Tank appeared on ABC which was a different network than the one Keeping Up With The Kardashians appeared on. Daymond was told by ABC that he could only do one show and could not be a part of both. When Khloe Kardashian heard about the conflict she essentially fired him. “She said she would never get in my way”, John said about their conversation.
From there, John accepted the offer from ABC to appear on the show. It turned out to be a great decision as he has been on the show for 11 seasons.
— Daymond John (@TheSharkDaymond) January 6, 2020
Born in 1949 in Edgewater, New Jersey, Barbara Corcoran’s narrative is punctuated by resilience and audacity. From her days as a New York waitress, Barbara ascended to become one of the city’s eminent real estate magnates. A modest $1,000 loan was the seed for The Corcoran Group, which burgeoned into one of New York City’s leading real estate agencies.
In 2001, Barbara astutely sold the firm for a staggering $66 million. On “Shark Tank,” Barbara’s vast real estate acumen and her flair for identifying lucrative ventures make her a revered figure. Additionally, as an author, consultant, and speaker, Barbara continues to inspire, providing invaluable insights into entrepreneurship and real estate.
How Barbara Corcoran Was Selected
When Corcoran got a call from Mark Burnett’s assistant asking if she would like to be on a new show called Shark Tank, Corcoran replied “I don’t fish.” However, after hearing the premise of the show, the investor jumped at the opportunity. So much so that she signed the contract 2 days later without even reading it.
Unfortunately, a few days later they called the real estate mogul back and informed her they had changed their minds and decided to give her spot to another woman. At that point, Corcoran emailed Burnett directly and wrote,
“Dear Mark, I understand you’ve asked another girl to dance instead of me. Although I appreciate being reserved as a fallback—which wasn’t true—I’m much more accustomed to coming in first.”
“I think you should consider inviting both women to LA to compete for the seat.”
Burnett took her up on her challenge and agreed to let the two women compete for the spot. Eventually, Corcoran won the seat.
Robert Herjavec’s narrative, originating from his birth in 1962 in Zbjeg, Croatia, is underlined by determination and ambition. Fleeing political unrest, Robert and his family settled in Canada, starting afresh with limited resources. Robert’s unwavering work ethic steered him through the tech industry, culminating in the foundation of BRAK Systems, a cybersecurity entity. This venture was later acquired by AT&T for a commendable $30.2 million. Subsequently, Robert instituted The Herjavec Group, another cybersecurity specialist firm, now acclaimed as a frontrunner in the industry.
Robert’s journey from hardships to being an esteemed figure on “Shark Tank” is nothing short of inspirational. Besides his business pursuits, Robert’s philanthropic endeavors, coupled with his participation in motor racing competitions, showcase his multifaceted personality.
How Herjavec Ended Up on the Show
Similar to O’Leary, Herjavec was also a regular investor on Dragon’s Den. Around the time the show’s producers invited O’Leary to appear on the show, they also reached out to Herjavec who agreed to be a regular shark.
Shark Tank continues to be a source of entertainment and inspiration for entrepreneurs and fans of captivating television alike. The show has gone on to add two other captivating personalities Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner. However, this original cast first introduced Americans to a show that has helped many entrepreneurial dreams come true.