An interview with Shark Tank entrepreneur Daymond John : The Indicator from Planet Money Daymond John and what he thinks is overrated and what's underrated

Daymond John Plays Overrated Or Underrated

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This is THE INDICATOR FROM PLANET MONEY. I'm Stacey Vanek Smith.


And I'm Cardiff Garcia.

Daymond John is known as one of the sharpest-dressed investors on ABC's "Shark Tank," a business reality show that gives entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their product in front of high-profile investors.

VANEK SMITH: I would argue the sharpest dressed of all the sharks, who are all very sharply dressed, I might add. As a shark on the show, John has helped businesses of all kinds make millions of dollars. There was a sock business, barbecue business.


DAYMOND JOHN: I'll give you 50,000 for 30% if my Bombas guys agree. You OK with that?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Come on, of course.

JOHN: Well, look at that.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Thank you so much. You will not be...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: We just needed somebody to see our vision. And fortunately, at the last moment, Daymond saw it.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: And that's what we wanted anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: We really wanted Daymond.

VANEK SMITH: I will fund your business. Woo.

GARCIA: John talked with us in a previous episode about what it's like to be a shark and about his entrepreneurial journey with his clothing line, FUBU, and about the lowdown on his new book, "Power Shift."

VANEK SMITH: And today we are bringing him back to play one of our favorite games, Overrated or Underrated.

GARCIA: Hat tip to economist Tyler Cowen always.

VANEK SMITH: Yes. We love you, Tyler. Thank you very much for letting us steal your idea.

GARCIA: Yeah. Overrated/Underrated is the game where we ask our guests about something in the news or something that's on our mind - about anything, really - and then the guest gets to tell us if that thing is overrated or underrated by society. It's a kind of rapid-fire game, so they have to answer totally authentically.

VANEK SMITH: Yes, or at least mostly. So today on the show, Daymond John on what he considers to be overrated and what he considers to be underrated, from the expensive perfume your boyfriend gives you to how being a billionaire might not really be all that it's chalked up to be.


VANEK SMITH: So on "Shark Tank," one of the things that makes it such a fun show to watch but I've always wondered about is sort of the theatrics of the pitch. Like, people come out in costumes. Or they'll light something on fire. Like, Overrated/Underrated the show versus the actual, like, numbers and fundamentals of the business?

JOHN: Underrated.


JOHN: Yeah because, you know, people love a story. And they want to relate to you. And an investor wants to say, I've had that problem too, or my wife or my husbands have that problem. I can see it. I mean, we see it all the time on infomercials. Are you tired of doing this? There's got to be a better way. Wait. There's more. And when you come out and you have the costumes and telling the story of how you've gotten to this point, there's a reason why some of these things work.

VANEK SMITH: So one of the things that I have always noticed on "Shark Tank," it seems like you're always the best dressed of the sharks. Like, you have the most style. So Overrated/Underrated how you dress.

JOHN: Underrated.


JOHN: Because you have to dress - people are judging you. We're judging people in the first 30 seconds of seeing them. I like to use an example. You know, you walk into a bank and you have a lot of flashy jewelry on and various other things and you don't have a lot of the things you may need. The bank or the financial institution's going to think you're probably loose with your money as well, right? If you come over to my house or over come to my office and you say you're a coder, unless I ask you to wear a suit, you better not be in a suit because that doesn't look like you're going to be coding in the dark room in your pajamas for three days straight in a suit. I just don't believe you.

VANEK SMITH: So in your early days of raising money, like, how would you dress?

JOHN: Well, first of all, in my early days of raising money, I would go to the place wherever I'm going, and I would not park my car anywhere near it because my car would probably blow up.

VANEK SMITH: (Laughter).

JOHN: So when they see me roll up in that bad boy, they were going to be like, I don't want to give him any money. He's going buy whatever - another car. I would have probably about five pieces that I can afford in my closet, you know, a navy suit, a black suit. And then I would have a white shirt, a black shirt. And then I would have 10 different cheap ties. And I would just mix and match those things. And I would - I knew how to sew, so I would tailor them a little bit so they wouldn't seem too baggy. But however, when I walk in the room as the FUBU guy, I was wearing my own clothes. How can I sell you clothes that I don't even want to wear myself? So when I was walking into clubs at night to talk to rappers, I was wearing FUBU.

VANEK SMITH: Overrated/Underrated writing a book.

JOHN: Underrated.


JOHN: Because when you write a book, you have to open yourself up. So I'll give you an example. You know, my first book, and I said, you know, my father left when I was 10 years old. And I never saw him again. You can't just make that statement. The writer - my ghostwriter with me said, so how did you feel? And I go, oh, yeah, I was OK. So how did you really feel? And after a while, I'm like, daddy, you know? 'Cause you have to dig into yourself, right? Because you're laying yourself out. And unlike making a statement here or there, you may - I may slip a statement by you and you may not ask me any further. But in a book, it's there. And it's there forever.

VANEK SMITH: Overrated/Underrated a ghostwriter.

JOHN: Underrated. I think a ghostwriter is more like a body snatcher. They got to get into your body and speak for you and make it flow and make it make sense the way that you would speak it.

VANEK SMITH: And people are buying the book because they want to hear your voice, your story.

JOHN: My voice, a hundred percent, yeah. And again, I have to go back-and-forth with my ghostwriter over and over and over again. But my book started to talk like - and my supporters really know me. They would say, this is not Daymond.

VANEK SMITH: So I sort of have always felt like maybe there's - like, some people have an entrepreneurial spirit, some people don't. Like, I've never wanted to start a business. But maybe it's - I don't know if it's like a natural, innate thing or if it's just something that, like, you learn and develop an affinity for. So Overrated/Underrated the entrepreneurial spirit.

JOHN: Underrated because I couldn't do it alone. And if the people that I have, if they didn't have my back and they didn't think like entrepreneurs, then I'm the only person thinking like that. I think it's underrated the thought process of being an entrepreneur?

VANEK SMITH: Overrated/Underrated angel investors.

JOHN: Angel investors? Appropriate. Listen. Anybody who is an investor, you just need to know what they really want. People always think it's only, again, transactional. But somebody may want to be an investor with you because they believe in your cause or they want to educate themselves so they're going to invest in the business. And I think it's appropriate.

VANEK SMITH: Launching a fragrance.

JOHN: Overrated.

VANEK SMITH: Really? It always seems - I mean, it seems so glamorous.

JOHN: It seems so glamorous. It is overrated. The shelves are stocked with a bunch of fragrances that never sell. I mean, launching a fragrance is a very challenging business, you know, because the juice, the fragrance only costs a dollar. But to pay for all the blow-in cards that you see in the magazine, to pay for all the people who are waving the scents when you walk through Macy's and all that other stuff and the billboards, that rolls out to be about $3 million. And you probably could do something better with the money.

VANEK SMITH: Whoa. It's only a dollar for the actual...

JOHN: Juice.


JOHN: Yeah. That's why bottle cost about 80 or a hundred. If you're wearing a fragrance right now, I can't tell. When you're walking down the street, I can't tell what it is. I can tell what a Mercedes Benz is. I can tell what Apple computer is. So you have to break people's habits of the fragrance that they're the currently wearing. I've been wearing Obsession for 20 years. Why do I want this new fragrance? So fragrance and liquors are very, very hard to put out.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, it's interesting that so much of it is packaging and and branding. But I guess that makes - I mean, that's the case with a lot of things, but I guess especially maybe fragrance.

JOHN: A hundred percent.

VANEK SMITH: Overrated/Underrated having money. I guess having a substantial amount of money.

JOHN: Overrated. Overrated.

VANEK SMITH: Oh, really? How so?

JOHN: Because it can't buy you happiness. Do I believe that you should be able to have the money when, God forbid, something happens to your family, you have the resources to take care of yourselves? Absolutely. But a billion dollars? I have no idea what I would do with it.

VANEK SMITH: Me neither. Me neither. Oh, my gosh. I don't know. I guess I would buy property. That's the only thing I can even think to do with a billion dollars.

JOHN: Yeah. And the only way I'd buy property with a billion dollars is so that when I go, I can put it into the forestry department so that it's not turned into a mall.

VANEK SMITH: That actually seems like a pretty good use of a billion dollars. I think those are actually all my questions for Overrated/Underrated. Thank you for - thanks for joining.

JOHN: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you so much.

VANEK SMITH: This episode of THE INDICATOR was produced by Auda Barnes (ph), Brittany Cronin and Jamila Huxtable. Our editor is Paddy Hirsch. And THE INDICATOR is a production of NPR.


TYLER COWEN: I'm Tyler Cowen, and I approve of this of Underrated versus Overrated.

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