Shark Tank's Kevin Harrington Opens Up About His Biggest Flops (Video)
Part of being an investor and an entrepreneur is losing money. No matter how good you are.
Case in point: Kevin Harrington, one of the original "shark" investors on the ABC hit reality television show Shark Tank, has invested in 500 inventions. Some partnerships, like with fitness enthusiast Tony Little, have been massively successful. Harrington has worked with Little on more than a dozen products, including the popular Gazelle fitness machine, and the two have done over a billion dollars in sales together, says Harrington.
Other ventures have been, well, less successful for Harrington.
"As an inventor, the only one [product] that I invented cost me a half a million dollars. I lost it, you know, and it was a bad deal," says Harrington. As a former cigar aficionado, Harrington invented a lighter in the shape of a cigar. "I thought it was really cool and I put all this money and time and advertising, and because I was so passionate about it, I just kept going and going and going."
Harrington says that because he was so enthusiastic about his own product, he was not as discerning about the product as he should have been. "If someone walked in with that, I would have never put the money into it that I did," he says. "At a point, if it is not working, you cut it and you move on. And that’s what I do as an investor. Being an inventor has not been good for me," he says.
Meanwhile, Harrington has a much more impressive batting average as an investor than he does as an inventor. Even still, he has funded some real doozies.
Harrington says he should have known better when entertainer Chubby Checker came to him with a fitness product called the Twistisizer. Harrington was hesitant but agreed to invest money into the gadget provided that Chubby Checker would tone up his midsection before the infomercial was to be shot. "By the time the shoot came along, he was still just a little chubby in the belly there. I should have known to invest a half a million dollars into a fitness product with a man named Chubby was probably not a good idea. So, that bombed," says Harrington.
The wins and the losses are part of the game. Taken together, being both an investor and an entrepreneur gives Harrington a leg up on both sides of the fence. He understands the passion and excitement that comes along with being an inventor. And he also understands that investors need reassurance as to how and when they are going to get their money back.
Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.