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Alumni: Giving U of T more reasons to be proud

Alumni Portraits
Robert Herjavec
Current Industry: Business, Law
Bachelor of Arts (BA) 1984, New College

When Herjavec graduated from U of T in 1984 with a degree in English Literature from New College, few people expected he would become a high-tech entrepreneur. Yet he was able to parlay his skills as an effective communicator into success in multiple arenas.

Herjavec arrived in Canada in 1971 after escaping from the former Yugoslavia. He had only a suitcase, $20 and no understanding of English. But he had ambition.

This ambition led him to the University of Toronto and after graduation he built and sold several companies including a computer security company to AT&T and a technology company to Nokia.

"I loved the University of Toronto. The only regret I have is not spending enough time getting to know the facility and services. I was a little too driven to succeed."

And succeed he has. After a short retirement, he launched the Herjavec Group, now acknowledged as Canada’s fastest-growing technology company.

Herjavec is best known for his starring roles in the CBC’s Dragons’ Den and the American show Shark Tank.  He also wrote a best-selling book, Driven, and is a motor-racing aficionado, an avid golfer and fitness devotee.

Given his background, Herjavec has gone out of his way to help young people get their start in business. When his family was in the former Yugoslavia, they lived very hard lives. “I don’t know how you could come from that background and not have empathy for people. I’m not a product just of myself; I’m a product of those who were kind enough to guide me along the way. And that’s a service you owe to others – sometimes it’s in the form of money, sometimes it’s your time, but you have to be a guide for others.”

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