The trajectory of Ben and Eric Kusin’s pitch in the sixth season of “Shark Tank” changed significantly after they told the investors that their father was the successful co-founder of GameStop and had invested $US2 million in their business.
“I feel very badly saying this to you, but I, as a matter of principle, don’t invest in rich kids’ businesses,” Barbara Corcoran told the brothers.
Lori Greiner and some of the other Sharks disagreed with Corcoran, and the Kusins walked away with a $US150,000 deal with Greiner for a 15% stake in their fabric freshener company Reviver.
In a recent interview with Corcoran, she told Business Insider that she thinks entrepreneurs from a privileged background don’t have the need to have their business succeed, and that can make all the difference when their back is against the wall.
Eric Kusin saw her explanation and explained to us that he respectfully disagrees. “I think there’s a huge difference between being rich and being spoiled,” he says. He says he can’t emphasise enough that he finds people who feel entitled to success to be “just gross.”
Shark Greiner tells us that on an individual basis, children of wealthy parents “may need to prove themselves even more” than those who weren’t.
Eric agrees. “I think to get out of a shadow is a huge motivator for me and Ben. And we say that with incredible respect for our dad,” he says.
To Greiner, what matters more than anything to someone’s upbringing is the values they’re taught, whether their parents were blue-collar workers or powerful executives.
Ben left a career in the video game industry to begin developing Reviver, and Eric left a job as a buyer for Neiman Marcus to join his brother in 2011. They both grew up with their father, who is self-made, instilling in them a strong work ethic, Eric said. “We constantly heard, ‘Money skips a generation,” he says, referring to their father’s determination to not let his children spend all of his money without trying to make their own.
The way Eric explains it, that $US2 million investment from their father paid for research and development necessary to make Reviver a competitive premium product, but even though it was the result of privilege, it doesn’t define their business or who they are.
Corcoran tells us that even though not every entrepreneur from a wealthy family is spoiled and that her bias could keep her from investing in a profitable business, she’s going to stick by it. Ultimately, she says, “the poor kid still has the advantage over the privileged kid” because when you don’t need your business to succeed to keep you from going hungry or homeless, “you get cheated out of thinking of those spur-of-the-moment, very needy ideas that get you through.”
Even if Corcoran personally cannot identify with an entrepreneur with a safety net enough to invest in them, Eric says that it’s a dangerous bias. “I think it’s very important that we as a country don’t forget that we’re founded on this idea of being a marketplace of ideas,” he says. “We want Reviver to sink or swim based on its functionality as a product and to not be representative of a life of privilege.”
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