How do Shark Tank producers select fresh bait? Vv Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Nicki Laborie, sits down with two former contestants to test the waters.
If you’re an entrepreneur – even if you’re not – you likely PVR Shark Tank and/or Dragon’s Den to watch entrepreneurs go into the tank to try and talk an investor into buying into their concept. Both shows are entertaining, but let’s be real, the investors on Shark Tank have much sharper teeth. Week after week I watch and wonder what it would be like, because candidly, Mark and Kevin scare the devil out of me.
But being scared is an entrepreneur’s fuel for success, isn’t it? Shark Tank has been responsible for so many success stories, even for those who didn’t get a deal. The exposure and opportunity to showcase your brand to such a large audience and to potentially be noticed by someone just watching the show can change someone’s life. However, it’s not a walk in the park and just as easily as you can look like a brilliant entrepreneur, you can look like an idiot.
If you’re anything like me, an addict of these shows, you likely remember the Jersey boy who pitched the incredible Scrub Daddy. While early in the episode he wanted to tell Kevin O’Leary “no deal,” the sharks ended up battling it out and Aaron Krause left with the exact valuation he came in with, double the money, the shark he wanted and a big fat smile on his face.
Fast-forward two years, and his company has made 50 million dollars. Krause is the first one to say, “The tank changed my life.” Not new to success, Krause is an inventor who created Scrub Daddy almost by accident when he had a previous business manufacturing buffing pads for polishing cars. Through that business he began looking for a product that would quickly clean his hands after working in the factory so he could easily get to business meetings with clean hands. He thought it worked so well, he marketed it to the mechanics industry.
He may have been ahead of his time; the scrubby didn’t sell. So he boxed up the product and went on with his company.
A few years later, his wife asked him to clean the patio furniture. Naturally, he pulled out the box of scrubbies. To his delight the foam he had discovered was miraculous, as it got hard and rigid in the cold spring weather, yet soft and bendy under hot water. He quickly realized this was more than a scrubby – his invention had the power to clean just about anything. Bingo, the idea was re-born.
After selling to a few retailers and getting onto QVC (and killing it), the time came to call Shark Tank. But it wasn’t easy.
“There’s a lot of contracts to sign to get on Shark Tank – I’m surprised they didn’t ask for my first-born. You have to make a business decision when you sign because when going on national TV to talk about your business, you can easily misrepresent yourself.”
The process is not simple. Krause explains he had to go through several phone interviews each week for over two and half months. One day he finally got the call to fly to LA for the “real” interview, which he calls the most terrifying part of the entire process. This is where they decide if you go on the tank or go home. He passed.
For another start up, Coffee Meets Bagel, a dating app with a unique algorithm that sends members one match (or bagel) per day based on age, education level, religious and ethnicity preferences, interests as well as their friends on social media, the Shark Tank experience was slightly different. Founder Dawoon Kang tells me they never applied to the tank because her and her two partners (and sisters) felt their company was much bigger than most of the companies that are usually called to go on the tank. But when the producers called them, they decided to give it a go.
“We have a tremendous respect for the sharks so we thought why not? It would be really great to get one of the sharks on board,” Kang said.
Interestingly enough, they received a 30 million dollar offer from Mark Cuban, the biggest Shark Tank offer in the history of the tank, and turned it down. Their product is smart, so it’s not surprising that they’re confidence almost comes off as arrogance.
“We observed that in the online dating space there really wasn’t a product that we thought understood how women want to date. So we created an app that is very easy to use and is all about quality, privacy and safety which are three things that women look for when online dating.”
Mark Cuban clearly agreed when he offered the three sisters 30 million dollars for the entire company, something that has never been done in the tank. I couldn’t help but ask if this was a tactic for free publicity.
“The reason why we didn’t take Mark’s offer is not because we planned it ahead, it was because we didn’t want to sell our company. We have so many things we want to do in the next couple of years so there was no way we were going to give up ownership.”
Good thing they didn’t because less than one year later, they received 7.8 million dollars in financing and the company has grown tremendously in the US and continues to expand internationally – especially since airing last January. Recently launched in Toronto, Kang tells me that over 10,000 users subscribed within 24 hours of their launch. Not surprising considering Toronto is chock full of singles.
For both these companies, Shark Tank has helped push their companies to a level that may not have been as easily attained. However, both entrepreneurs have the same advice: preparation is key.
“Preparation is everything. You have to have the energy level, you should practice in front of a camera, you should know everything about the sharks, you should have answers prepared, you should know your numbers,” says Krause. “If you’re not prepared, you’re the bait.”
What do you think of Scrub Daddy’s success? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.