From Texas Tech to Shark Tank Success
By: Nicole Lundberg
The doors swing open, and his fate hangs in the balance. The responses of five people on the other side of the doors will make or break the company he has risked everything to create.
Many entrepreneurs dream of breaking a deal on "Shark Tank," ABC's Emmy award- winning reality show. For Junior Desinor, a Texas Tech alumnus, this dream became a reality.
In 2016, Desinor forged a deal with sharks Barbara Cocoran and Kevin O'Leary for his technology, Toor. The technology allows potential homebuyers to tour a property without a real estate agent, simplifying the home buying process.
Desinor said the technology meets a need he recognized through his work as a real estate agent and broker in Dallas.
"I am always looking for ways to give better service to my customers," he said. "People want things now, and in real estate there was a huge gap between wanting to see a property now and when you could actually tour a place. I came up with a way to do that."
As the technology developed, Desinor recognized an opportunity to make the emerging company famous: "Shark Tank."
"As a founder, part of your job is to raise money and awareness," he said. "There is no greater land for that than 'Shark Tank.'"
In August 2016, Desinor took his product to an open audition for the eighth season of "Shark Tank." Thirty days later, he was pitching his product to the sharks.
"Going on 'Shark Tank' is a really make-or-break, risky proposition," he said. "If you go on 'Shark Tank,' and you aren't received well, it could be risky for a successful business. The public really values the sharks' opinions."
Fortunately for Desinor, the risk was worthwhile. After contentious debate among the sharks, Barbara Cocoran and Kevin O'Leary offered Desinor, who they described as "the best salesman they have ever met," $200,000 for a 10 percent stake in the company.
With this success in hand, Desinor returned to his alma mater in April 2017 to judge Texas Tech's miniature version of "Shark Tank," the iLaunch Competition. This pitch competition pits teams of students, faulty members and local entrepreneurs against one another in hopes of winning $10,000.
Desinor will also mentor aspiring entrepreneurs through the Innovate Texas Tech Mentor Program (iTTU). The program, an initiative of the Innovation Hub at Research Park, pairs experienced entrepreneurs with startups. Desinor is joining a cohort of 34 experts who meet with business owners on a monthly basis, said Taysha Williams, a program director.
Desinor said he hopes to help those he mentors avoid pitfalls by sharing lessons he has learned throughout his career. He also hopes to help people realize that they have potential to be like the businessmen they admire, a lesson he started learning as a member of the Real Estate Organization at Texas Tech.
"The sharks you see on TV and the businessmen you idolize, at the end of the day, they are all human," he said. "The sooner these students see that...that is going to give them the most confidence. Not only can they be like that, but they can be better."
Although he wants to help aspiring entrepreneurs believe in themselves, he also wants them to be aware of the risks associated with starting a company.
"An entrepreneur is willing to get all the rewards or all the defeat," he said. "Being an entrepreneur takes going all in several times in your career. That is the underlying difference between someone who is an entrepreneur and somebody who is not."
Just because an individual is unwilling to risk everything for a new idea does not mean that he or she cannot be involved in a startup. Desinor said many of the people who played critical roles in his many startup ventures have not been entrepreneurs themselves.
Desinor said he is particularly interested in helping students realize their potential because his personal journey as an entrepreneur began while he was a student at Texas Tech. His very first business venture stemmed out of his hobby – throwing parties.
He and a friend started a party supply company, which rented décor to student organizations for events. With that money, he started flipping houses. After he graduated, Desinor said he moved to Dallas where he continued to develop his interest in real estate.
"I am not a book smart guy. I'm not an incredible athlete. I'm not a creative mind, but I am really good at executing," he said. "When I have an idea, there is nobody who is faster than me at executing that idea. I found that in myself at Texas Tech, and I have built my whole career off that."