Mark Byrne, president and CEO of ProteoSense, makes his pitch to judges at the PMA’s THRIVE Fresh Summit challenge Oct. 18 in Anaheim, Calif. The company’s successful presentation on a rapid pathogen test earned $100,000 for the company. ( Tom Burfield )

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Robert Herjavec of TV’s “Shark Tank” talked about growing up on a farm in Croatia, offered suggestions on adapting to changing technology and helped select the winner of a $100,000 investment from SVG Ventures at the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit on Oct. 17.

Herjavec, founder and CEO of Herjavec Group, a global cybersecurity firm, said there are a lot of similarities between his industry and the produce industry.

“A lot of challenges in your industry around food safety are relatively new and getting more complex,” he said. “There are so many touch points.”
“For my industry – cybersecurity – it’s the same thing.”

The world is becoming more interconnected, Herjavec said, with an estimated five billion people connected to the Internet by 2025, and 300 trillion IP addresses.
Cybersecurity and produce are both highly disruptive fields, he said, and companies must be able to adapt to changing technology.

“Everything changes in three years,” Herjavec said. “We’ve seen technology come and go.”

He then brought up a discussion he had with “Shark Tank” co-star Barbara Corcoran about how successful people confront adversity.

Everyone has bad days, but successful people don’t “wallow in misery.”

Responding to a question from moderator Vonnie Estes, PMA’s vice president of technology, Herjavec said the most common leadership mistake is letting egos cloud decisions.

Herjavec said his is the largest private company in cybersecurity and competes against larger companies like IBM.

“Part of our culture has always been, ‘we’re the underdog,’” he said, and that has helped make the company a success.

He encouraged companies to empower employees “to do the things that they are great at.”

During the second part of the program, presented in a “Shark Tank” format, four startup finalists pitched innovative solutions for the produce and floral industries in the THRIVE Fresh Summit Challenge.

Herjavec was joined by three other panelists, Ted Taylor, head of new ventures and business development at Taylor Farms; Jennifer Maloney, food stakeholder manager at Bayer; and John Hartnett, CEO at SVG Ventures THRIVE.

President and CEO Mark Byrne of ProteoSense ( made the winning presentation for the Ohio-based startup’s RapidScan, a portable system that can detect foodborne pathogens within 90 minutes, avoiding a lengthy incubation period. Through Byrne’s successful presentation, ProteoSense receives a spot in the THRIVE VI Accelerator Program to further develop the technology.