“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.” So said American statesman Colin Powell. Every word of this quote rings true, especially in the context of the new wave of startups that are disrupting industries and established conglomerates the world over.
But sweat, determination, and hard work are not enough to take an idea to fruition. Neither are they enough to make the Sharks bite (read, investors, invest in your idea), as many wannabe/trying-to-be entrepreneurs discover along the way.
Unless an idea is backed by pragmatism, novelty, and the potential to scale, it ’s not going to cut any ice with potential investors looking to put their money in innovative ideas. The last one — the potential to scale — is the most important, the proverbial hook that can reel in investors.
Across the globe, startups are where the action is, with the US leading the way and India at number 3, housing over 20,000 startups. With Shark Tank — a reality show in which aspiring entrepreneurs try to sell their ideas to a tough panel comprising billionaires and innovators called “Sharks” so they invest in their ventures and help make them successful — the startup-investor action has moved to the small screen.
The multi-Emmy Award-winning reality series, which has seen Sharks invest a total of more than $100 Mn in the tank to help realise many entrepreneur’s dreams, has seen even more sweat, blood, and tears being crushed under the tough love of the Sharks.
The popular show was launched on Colors Infinity on May 17, 2018, with its all-new Season 9. This season features several celebrity guest Sharks, including Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, Rohan Oza, Lori Greiner, TV personality Bethenny Frankel, Barbara Corcoran, former MLB star Alex Rodriguez, Robert Herjavec and more. Get ready for some bright sparks, some duds, and loads of excitement and drama!
“Shark Tank is the most revered business-entertainment reality show on television not only in the US but also internationally. With India’s expansive start-up culture and deep-rooted business mindset, Shark Tank has become one of the most-watched shows on the channel, since the season 1 premiere on COLORS INFINITY,” expressed, Hashim D’souza– Head of Programming, English Entertainment, Viacom18.
Episodes 1 and 2 of the new season saw passionate entrepreneurs trying to sell their entrepreneurial ideas to the Sharks.
Here’s a look at the startups that made their pitch in the first two episodes of Shark Tank Season 9
The show started off in true American style with 11-year-old Carson Kropfl arriving on a skateboard — his company Locker Board makes skateboards from recyclable boards — to sell his idea to the Sharks. He was seeking a sum of $60,000 for a 15% stake in Locker Board. Most of the investors loved Carson’s passionate pitch as well as his idea. The young entrepreneur seemed to have done his homework very well, answering almost all the questions to the satisfaction of the Sharks.
Some of the Sharks didn’t invest in Locker Board simply because they thought the business could grow without giving out a substantial stake at such an early stage. Mark was the first to make an offer to Carson, quickly highlighting how he would help his company. When Sir Richard made him a better offer, Carson asked the multi-billionaire how he would help his company grow apart from putting in the seed capital. The Sharks were amused as well as impressed by the boy’s maturity. In the end, Carson accepted Sir Richard’s offer. Carson, who had come with his mother, was on cloud nine after his successful pitch.
The next presenter, Aaron Wypyszynski, founder of Wyp Aviation, went a step ahead and came to the show with his wingboard, which holds the promise of revolutionising aviational recreation. The video of a robot wingboarding in the sky got the Sharks excited. So much so that Sir Richard, famous for his love of adventure sports, wasted no time in hopping on the board to get a first-hand feel of it and go for a ride. The Sharks looked like they had smelt blood and were eager to know more about Aaron’s revenue model.
But their excitement deflated quickly when they got to know that the wingboarding was supposed to be conducted indoors at a single location and would require a huge investment of $5 Mn with a 20% stake. Daymond pointed out that the idea was going to require a huge investment over a long period of time; Mark said no to the idea for a simple reason — his fear of heights.
Although visibly disappointed that his idea evinced no real interest from the Sharks, Aaron continues to believe that this is the next big thing in adventure sports and not the last we have seen of him or his super-cool flying wingboard.
Richard and Julie Rhett from Sierra Madre Research (SMR) pitched for a $175K investment with a 15% stake in their company. The pitch started with the founders emerging from their product — a hammock tent — that promises the perfect camping experience. As always, Sir Richard entered the hammock in a jiffy to check it out, followed by the other Sharks. What really impressed the Sharks was how durable, spacious, and comfortable the tent was — it held as many as three of them with ease. Although there are similar products in the market, the SMR founders claimed that their tent was superior in quality and much easier to set up than other such products.
The Sharks seemed to appreciate the fact that SMR intends to give away a part of its profit to charity. However, all the judges except Sir Richard backed out citing tough competition, limited market size, and other factors. To the surprise of all the other Sharks, Sir Richard decided to invest the amount SMR had asked for and declared that all his profits from the investment would go to charity.
He also expressed his desire to put up a whole lot of tents on Necker Island, which he owns. Looks like SMR is on its way to something big and exciting.
Yunha Kim made a pitch for a $600K investment for a 5% stake in her app Simple Habit, which helps people meditate to be able to cope with stressful situations in the midst of a busy life. According to her, instead of spending hundreds of dollars to go to meditation centres and retreats for something so simple, one can tap on the various options available on the app and meditate when they want and where they want.
Mark did not feel kindly towards Yunha and said that she was looking for free publicity on Shark Tank as Simple Habit already had a lot of money in the bank. The accusation set Sir Richard off, who threw a glass of water at Mark, who threw a glass of water right back at him!
Robert Herjavec and Richard made an offer that valued Yunha’s company at one-third the amount quoted by the founder. She respectfully declined it citing it wouldn’t be fair to the other investors who were already in at the quoted valuation.
This episode stirred a debate between the Sharks over who deserves to be in the tank and in the end, they laughed that they probably needed Yunha’s app to cool off from the tension the episode had sparked off.
Episode 2 started with an earthquake simulation which quickly had the desired effect its creators wanted — it grabbed the attention of the Sharks. Christian Schauf and Mike Escamilla, founders of the Uncharted Supply Co, then unveiled their product — The Seventy2 — a disaster kit that they call “the ultimate survival system”. The kit comprises 35 essential tools and accessories that can help one survive all kinds of disasters including earthquakes, torrential downpours, animal infiltration, etc.
The Sharks checked out samples of the kit and look impressed. Uncharted Supply Co had sold The Seventy2 kits worth an impressive $750k in just six months and also cut the cost of manufacturing by almost 35%. The founders were looking for a $100k investment against a 5% stake in their company.
Barbara wanted to buy a kit for her husband right away but bowed out of the bid to invest. Robert Herjavec offered double the money and asked for at a 10% valuation on the condition that founders accepted or rejected the deal right then without hearing what the remaining Sharks had to say. His condition left the other Sharks surprised and the founders in a quandary. After some intense thinking, Christian gave in and accepted the deal. Lori did not seem too happy about this. Well, there is a reason all the investors are called Sharks on this show!
Megan and Scott Reamer of Jackson’s Honest brought to the show the bittersweet story of their snack business, which had started in their kitchen in a bid to help their son, Jackson, who suffered from a rare and incurable autoimmune disease. They came up with a fat-centered diet with an emphasis on coconut oil for him and realised that it alleviated many of his symptoms. That is when they decided to take it to the world.
The Reamers, who since lost Jack to the disease, are on a mission to disrupt the snack industry, which, according to them, is a $20 Bn market. They came to the show looking for $1.25 Mn for a 5% stake in their company. They sell all-natural potato and tortilla chips cooked in coconut oil, which has numerous health benefits.
The Sharks agreed that the food business was a difficult proposition with a lot of competition and thin margins. Although everyone loved the quality of the snacks, the packaging, and the founder’s passion and story, all the sharks except Rohan pulled out of the race.
Rohan, a veteran in the packaged food industry who has helped multiple companies achieve their true potential and scale at a breakneck pace, finally offered the money at one-fourth the valuation, which resulted in a round of haggling. Finally, the founders saw the value Rohan could bring to the table and settled for $1.25 Mn for a 15% stake
Qball is no ordinary ball. It has a built-in wireless microphone which can be connected to any audio device in a room. Shane Cox, founder of PEEQ, made an interesting pitch on the Qball and had everyone instantly hooked to the idea. Shane wanted $200k for a 15% stake in his company.
His primary market was schools till then, but Rohan and Laurie saw a much bigger opportunity in corporate clients. Shane wanted to use most of the money to maintain a bigger inventory as the Qball keeps flying off the shelves. Excited by the Qball, the Sharks wanted to hunt in a herd. Lori, Mark, and Rohan offer a combined bid of $300k for a 30% stake in Q ball!
Although this meant he would lose a lot more equity, Shane agreed to have the three renowned investors on board his company.
Ryan Diew walked into the tank with his Trippie, an app to help people navigate airports. We’ve all been to mammoth airports with confusing layouts and had a tough time finding our way around them. Ryan, who wanted $100k for a 10% stake in his company, said Trippie was the answer to the airport navigation problem.
But the Sharks didn’t think so. They agreed that the problem existed but they felt that the solution wasn’t just ready yet. The number of downloads and active users were minuscule and Ryan seemed confused about the possible applications or ways he would tackle competition from Google and iOS maps.
They felt Trippie was half ready and not clear in its scope. The result: A frustrated Ryan, leading to a frustrated Mark, leading to an even more frustrated Ryan saying he didn’t have “a rich uncle or connections to do certain things.” At this point, the Sharks showed him some tough love, and Ryan broke, crying and leaving the tank.
Even as he was walking out, he turned around and made one last desperate plea telling the Sharks how hard he had worked to get the prototype ready. Mark gave him a quick reality check saying that blood, sweat, and tears are part of the grind and something that each entrepreneur goes through.
Some emotional drama this!
And these are just the first two episodes. We at Inc42 will be covering all the episodes from Shark Tank Season 9. Watch this space for more as this season has all it takes to keep viewers hooked and justifies their prime time TV viewing!