According to the University of Michigan, between five and 10 percent of people have dyslexia, but the number may be as high as 17 percent. On the Shark Tank panel, that number is fully 50 percent: three of the six investors — Daymond John, Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary — all have dyslexia. It turns out, one of John’s Shark Tank success stories, Titin’s Patrick Whaley, has also been diagnosed with the reading challenge.
Whaley told the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity that he would learn quickly in school until time came for reading. His sixth-grade teacher thought his symptoms were similar to her own son’s, who also has dyslexia. She provided him with individual tutoring and new ways to learn.
“Mrs. Bennewitz gave me confidence in myself, in my own judgment, to latch on to what’s interesting and muscle through the rest of it. It took me twice as long, but I never gave up. She gave me huge insight into how my brain operates.”
Patrick went on to study at Georgia Tech, where he further developed his idea for weighted compression gear that moves with the body. That would become Titin, a product that would bring him into the Shark Tank. According to the Yale interview, Whaley used Titin to help in his recovery from a gunshot wound. Whaley told The Post Game that he suffered the injury during a robbery attempt.
In addition to clothing for athletes and fitness buffs, Titin has a line of compression clothing for children with sensory issues. He is also on the board of an Atlanta-based school helping children with dyslexia.
— TITIN (@TITINtech) June 3, 2016
Although John agreed to invest in Titin at a valuation of $2.5 million — $500,000 for 20 percent — the FUBU founder revealed on Friday’s Beyond the Tank that after Shark Tank aired that he revised his offer. The deal between Whaley and John was revised to $1 million for 50 percent of the company. As the episode showed, Titin has a place in John’s New York City offices, having transitioned from its Atlanta location.
— Derren (@MyTrainerDEvans) February 7, 2016
Patrick Whaley has not been held back by dyslexia. As Entrepreneur discovered, the sharks have also found value in their learning difference. Kevin O’Leary wrote in his book Cold Hard Truth that his therapists told him to think of his diagnosis as a kind of super power.
“You have the ability to read backwards, read in a mirror, read upside down. Can any of your classmates do that? And that actually got me back the only thing I really needed, which was my confidence.”
Corcoran also speaks highly of what she learned throughout her school years. The real estate mogul has said many times that she was a “straight-D” student, but was still immensely successful in business.
“It made me more creative, more social and more competitive. There’s a great freedom to being dyslexic… if you can avoid labeling yourself as a loser in a school system that measures people by As and Bs.”
“And what an advantage this so-called weakness is. Dyslexia and its insecurities… It sure is challenging mentally, but it sure can keep you motivated, make you money and get you places nobody else is going to get.”
Interestingly, according to the Yale Center, John did not get a diagnosis of dyslexia until he was an adult, many years into his career as a successful entrepreneur. Growing up, he’d always received As and Bs in Math and Science and quickly picked up concepts. But in Language Arts, he spent far more time studying but would only achieve Cs and Ds. He chose to enter a co-op program in high school that allowed him to work as he completed classes.
A professional did diagnose him with a learning issue, but his mother knew he was brilliant and felt he just needed to apply himself. Many years later, at the age of 30, John was experiencing difficulties with modern text-based communications. A friend pointed out that John would often read hotel room signs and car navigation systems incorrectly, going in the opposite direction. That’s when the pieces came together.
Shark Tank airs on ABC and CNBC.
[Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images]