Kevin O'Leary: If a 'Shark Tank' entrepreneur can't take aggressive criticism, they're not ready to run a business

Kevin o'learyREUTERS/ Gus Ruelas‘Shark Tank’ investor Kevin O’Leary never refrains from yelling at or mocking an entrepreneur pitching to him.

In a recent episode of “Shark Tank,” Kevin O’Leary holds a Bev Boy, a floatable drink koozie, and tells its inventor Kevin Waltermire that it’s “poo poo on a stick.”

“Your name is Kevin; my name is Kevin,” O’Leary tells Waltermire. “I’m officially stripping you of your name because this idea is so bad. It is so bad. You do not deserve the name Kevin — you are now called Zonk. Now I’m sorry, man, but I’m out. This sucks.”

O’Leary’s demeaning comments to entrepreneurs provide some of the most entertaining moments on the show, and he’s fully embraced the role of the mean, sarcastic guy, a staple of many competitive reality shows.

But O’Leary tells Business Insider that he stopped noticing the cameras years ago. He says he strategically adds venom to some of his critiques:

I’m trying to test the mettle of those entrepreneurs, because if they think it’s tough in the “Shark Tank,” wait until they get out in the real world. If they can’t take a guy like me, then they’re not ready.

Maybe people think I’m bullying them. That’s not true. I’m the only guy there who tells the truth all the time. I don’t care about your feelings; I care about your money.

I look at business as binary: either you make money or you lose money.

Fellow Shark Barbara Corcoran is by no means a pushover when it comes to investing, but she usually prefers to cushion her critiques, unless she feels wronged by entrepreneurs (or unless they’re “rich kids”). O’Leary, on the other hand, says being polite gives false hope to failing entrepreneurs, which could actually be meaner than compelling them to give up or shape up.

“I say to Barbara all the time, ‘Why are you so worried about their feelings? Who cares? If the business has no merit and it’s a bankrupt idea, they’re going to fail anyways. You’re doing them a huge favour if you’re telling them the truth,'” O’Leary says.

And if he insults an entrepreneur and is objectively wrong about his assessment, he explains, he wants them to debate him and tell him why he’s wrong.

He also says there’s a difference between times he’s aggressive and when he’s genuinely angry. He saves his anger for the “Shark Tank” business owners who are arrogant yet ignorant about major flaws in their companies or products.

“It frustrates me miserably because they have just wasted my time and they wasted the opportunity in the “Shark Tank” that somebody else would have begged to have had,” O’Leary says. “I’m extremely harsh on people like that. And for good reason in my view.”

Any time O’Leary calls an entrepreneur a “cockroach” or says their product “sucks,” he’s making great television. But he’s also just acting on his business philosophy, he says.

“I’m not trying to make friends. I’m trying to make money. It’s that simple.”

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