Sunday, December 10, 2023
Homeshark tankKevin O’Leary: I’m ‘slightly right of Attila the Hun’

Kevin O’Leary: I’m ‘slightly right of Attila the Hun’

Big time investor Kevin O'Leary is the "Shark Tank" panelist entrepreneurs pitching their businesses on the show usually find the most intimidating. A longtime venture capitalist, he's been sarcastically dubbed "Mr. Wonderful," and he told that he lives by a simple creed—he likes to work with entrepreneurs, he likes to own their businesses and he likes money.

"I'm a capitalist," he said. "I'm hard core right wing, slightly right of Attila the Hun, and I believe that money solves a lot of problems in life."

In his years as an investor, he's heard it all and he's seen it all, including a pitch from a woman seeking capital for her love and wealth elixirs. But he's not as concerned with the product as he is with the three attributes of a successful pitch, and without those, he's not interested.

"Number one, they are able to articulate the idea in 90 seconds or less," he said. "Then they were able to say how they were the right team or person to execute the business plan. … Third, this is in 100 percent of the cases, they knew their numbers. … If you don't know your numbers, get somebody that does, or you deserve the punishment I'm going to give you."

If all three of those criteria are met, entrepreneurs are more likely than not to earn O'Leary's interest. But if a deal is struck and he finds a partner, there's still the small matter of the successful running of the business. So he has one very simple metric that he uses to see if his investment has been worth it.

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Kevin O'Leary

"If it's not making free cash flow in three years, I shoot it," he said. "If you have to fire your mother to keep your cash flow positive, you've got to fire your mother. … No emotions, no crying about the friend you have to fire, none of that matters. When I find an entrepreneur that understands that, I've found a partner."

Despite this unsentimental view, O'Leary has never adopted a Machiavellian approach toward others, so he doesn't believe in stabbing people in the back to get ahead. In fact, he said that entrepreneurs and investors who operate without conscience are almost certain to fail.

"I believe in karma," he said. "If you screw people, you're going to fail at business, because it comes back to bite you. I really believe that now, having been an investor in hundreds of companies."

Still, at the end of the day, O'Leary is an investor first, and he doesn't mind partnering with people he doesn't like personally. As long as the pitch is successful and the cash flows, he and the entrepreneur can do business together.

"I'm not trying to make friends. I'm trying to make money," he said. "I've made a lot of money with a lot of a–holes. But the point was, I made money, and that's what matters."

Tuesdays have more bite with back-to-back episodes of "Shark Tank" on CNBC every Tuesday night.


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