Shark Tank Season 10 Premiere-aired October 7, 2018

Jamie Siminoff from Ring joined the Shark Tank panel for the Premiere episode of Season 10.

The back story on Jamie…. he appeared on Shark Tank in 2014 with his product, Doorbot (later renamed Ring). He didn’t get a deal but went on to sell his company to Amazon for $1 Billion in 2018.

I gave Jamie a Sharky Award in 2014 for giving one of the best presentations that didn’t get a deal. Here was my original write-up on Jamie.

“I was very impressed by Jamie from Doorbot. His product could best be described as a video doorbell for smart phones. With a million dollars in sales over a recent 9 month period, his valuation of $7 million was a bit rich. I believe he will be very successful, but only Mr. Wonderful made an offer. He wanted a 10% royalty plus some equity. Jamie was smart enough to know that when you’re growing, you can’t afford to give up that much cash. He rejected the offer.”

Back to the Premiere of Season 10…………….

First into the tank was Brad from BoxLock, a smart padlock that protects home deliveries. Brad had invested over $500K in Research and Development to bring his product to market. It is designed to reduce the theft of packages delivered by UPS, FEDEX, etc. It’s a great concept and a slick looking product that can help solve a real problem.

One downside of this product is it requires people to buy the lock and a box. Together they can cost over $200. Secondly, it requires a massive effort to train and support the delivery companies on how to use the lock and have them change the way they do business today. The Sharks thought it would be very costly to educate the public and the delivery companies so they will actually use the product and a new process.

Shark Lori made an offer (a million dollar loan with an equity kicker) and wanted Guest Shark Jamie (from Ring) to go in on the deal with her but he refused, stating that although his product and Brad’s product had some similarities, Jamie had entered the tank with a sales run rate of $3 million per year and Brad had very little traction so the deal was simply too risky.

Next into the tank was 12 year-old Tripp from Le-Glue accompanied by his Dad and sister. He was a dynamic presenter whose product was a non-permanent glue that kids can safely use to temporarily hold lego’s and other building blocks togeher. He had sold $125K of his product since the initial product launch a couple of years ago.

The “kid-friendly” Mr. Wonderful ended up making a deal with Tripp calling for him to license the product to building block manufacturers to include with their offerings. Mr. Wonderful will fund the company with $80K and take a very healthy royalty (starting at 50% until he gets his money back and then going to 20%). I will certainly nominate Tripp for the Season 10 Sharky Award for the Best Presentation-Youth Division.

Shark Tank Season 10

Alli, Tripp, and Lee from Le-Glue

Emma and Miles from Final Straw were next into the tank. They gave a great visual presentation of the number of plastic straws that are used every second of every day. They dropped six thousand straws from the ceiling of the Shark Tank studio to make their point…..how plastic straws are bad for the environment.

Despite impressive credentials (Emma went to Harvard), raising $1.9 million on Kickstarter prior to their appearance on Shark Tank, and a very clever product design of  their portable, collapsible, re-usable straw, they didn’t make a deal with the Sharks.

Mark Cuban cited too much competition as the reason he went out. The $20 price tag was also a factor. My opinion is that people wouldn’t want to carry the straw everywhere they went. I can’t imagine having to remember and carry a wallet, a phone, keys, (and a straw) everywhere I went.

Heidi and Cory from Bear Minimum were the final entrepreneurs on this episode. They invented a paper-based replacement for pots and pans when camping. The paper pots/pans (Bear Bowls) have a special coating that allows them to withstand up to 500 degrees Faranheit. The Bear Bowls are re-usable.

They told a heart breaking story of  a business consultant/middleman who stole all of their money in 2008. Heidi broke down while telling the story. Crying can be a very risky thing to do during a business presentation. Some people may come to the conclusion that you’re weak and emotional, others may conclude that you can “take a punch and still get up off the mat and keep fighting”, Shark Jamie thought the latter and agreed to invest $100K for 25% equity.

                         OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE……………………….B

 

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How to Fix Shark Tank

The recently completed Season 9 of Shark Tank was disappointing and uninspiring.  There were a number of problems with Season 9, but I think each one of them can be fixed. This will lead to a more meaningful and successful Season 10.

Problem #1– The most obvious problem was the new time slot…..Sunday at 9pm and/or 10pm. Of course it’s always challenging when changing the day/time of any show, but late Sunday night. REALLY? The viewing audience was cut in half in this new time slot.

Shark Tank is a great family show with many young folks tuning in. Many families watch the show together.  It needs to have an earlier starting time so families can watch before kids have to go to bed to get ready for school. Friday at 8pm or 9pm seemed to work well because Saturday is not a school day.

The competition on Friday is also not as fierce. On Sunday, the show was going up against top shows from HBO, Showtime, Sunday night football, etc.

Problem #2– I was disappointed with the quality of the entrepreneurs and the size of their businesses. There were just too many businesses with little or no actual revenue.

After each episode I recognize outstanding entrepreneurs with my Sharky Award. In Season Eight I gave 14 Sharky Awards for entrepreneurial excellence. In Season Nine, I gave just 7 Sharky Awards (or Best Deal Awards). Again, a 50% reduction.

It seems to me the producers are opting for TV entertainment over business quality and meaningful entrepreneurial content. Previous seasons had a great blend of both.

Problem #3– Season 9 had fewer Theme Shows than in previous seasons. These are episodes that focus on a particular topic or business type. For example, previous seasons featured episodes exclusively with veterans, young entrepreneurs, technology companies, etc. Those were great episodes! I could suggest  some new themes…….women owned businesses, civil servant owned businesses, minority owned businesses, immigrant owned businesses, mobile phone app and accessory businesses, Senior Citizen businesses, entrepreneurs who failed with their first businesses, serial entrepreneur businesses, etc. There are many possibilities.

Problem #4– The Guest Sharks……… there were too many!  I recognize there are regular Shark availability issues, egos, and contracts to consider, but PLEASE cut the number of Guest Sharks!

First let me say, I think Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, and Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary) need to be on EVERY episode. If any one of them is missing, the show lacks something. Mr. Wonderful missed a couple of episodes toward the end of Season  9 and it adversely impacted the show. He provides humor, insight, and structure. In a sense, he acts as a moderator and referee. Over the years, he has been transformed from a mean-spirited, curmudgeon into the “glue” that holds the show together.

As far as the Guest Sharks go, the best of all time was Chris Sacca, and he never appeared once in Season 9! He added so much to any technology discussion and had an entertaining “rivalry” with Mark. Please bring him back!

By far the worst guest Shark performance was given by Richard Branson of  Virgin Atlantic fame. With all due respect to his significant entrepreneurial accomplishments, he was nothing but a distraction on the first episode. For some inexplicable reason, he threw a glass of water in Mark Cuban’s face. Too much silly slapstick!

I liked guest Sharks Rohan Oza and A-ROD (Alex Rodriguez)…….they both offered meaningful advice to the entrepreneurs. Sara from Spanx is an inspirational entrepreneur, but she added very little when appearing on the show.

I think Bethenny Frankel is more accustomed to unscripted, unstructured reality shows where drama is critical. I love her products (especially the vodka!), but she created too much unnecessary drama.

Summary.…… I sincerely hope Shark Tank is renewed for a Tenth Season. It makes a great contribution to current and future entrepreneurs. With a few changes, Shark Tank can survive and thrive for a long time.

 

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Shark Tank episode 24-aired February 25, 2018

This was one of the weaker episodes. For the Season 9 finale, I would have expected better. Instead, the Sharks stabbed each other in the back, were annoying and obnoxious, and basically hijacked the show. I think the absence of Mr. Wonderful led to an episode in disarray.

Uki from Bermies was first up. He made and sold men’s swim suits. He had sales in excess of $300K and had 25,000 instagram followers. Uki had boundless energy,  but lacked a strategic plan. Guest Shark Bethenny Frankel asked him, “So what’s the plan”. Unfortunately Uki didn’t have one (or couldn’t articulate one). He may succeed based on his energy and passion, but he received no offers from the Sharks.

Mariella and Anita from Lace Your Face made sheet masks to improve skin quality. Based on their backgrounds they had credibility and they had sold over $1.3 million of their product. They showed steady growth with annual sales of $150K, $450K, and $750K…..something investors love to see.

Bethenny was interested and made an offer of $350K for 30% equity. Mariella and Anita countered with $350K for 15%. Shark Lori swooped in and aced Bethany by shouting “I’ll take that deal” before Bethenny could respond. Lori’s offer was accepted and Bethenny had been kicked to the curb.

Alfonso from OA Foods had two product lines. The first product, Palmini, was a pasta substitute made of hearts of palm. He had only been selling this product for 3 months  (sales of $50K). The second was Quinoa which had been sold for a longer period of time and had annual sales of $400K.

Shark Lori and Mark Cuban were super excited by Alfonso and his products and teamed up to make an offer of $300K for 30% equity. Alfonso got them down to 25% and accepted the offer. After it was over, Alfonso admitted he was thrilled to have these two as partners and would have taken their original offer of 30% equity. Well played!

Brooks from Thrive+ recently graduated from Princeton. His product reduces the negative after-effects of drinking alcoholic beverages. It is essentially a “multi-vitamin for drinkers”.  Mark Cuban is always very suspicious of supplements, and this was no exception. Mark “hijacked” the presentation (Shark Robert’s words) and spent a lot of time asking very detailed questions about the science behind Thrive+. Once the discussion turned to nano particles, the other Sharks became board and lost interest. No deal here.

Sparks flew among the Sharks after the presentation concluded. First Bethenny and Mark went at it. Bethhenny said that Mark kept interrupting her whenever she had a question for Brooks. Then Shark Robert voiced his displeasure with Mark and how he asked too many questions on the science behind Thrive+.  Robert wanted more discussion on the business and less on the science.

It was a disappointing ending to a mostly uninspiring Season 9.

                        OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE…………….C-

 

 

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Shark Tank episode 23-aired February 18, 2018

This was a highly entertaining, fun episode that included bunny costumes, electric cars, and a 100% purchase of a business.

First into the tank was Curtis and Scott from Egg Mazing. They set the Shark Tank record for the most puns used in a presentation…..I counted seven. They actually did a shell of a good job presenting their egg decorating device…..did I just say that? Make that eight puns!

One of the most impressive parts of their presentation was the Purchase Orders they had received from retailers. They were “one way orders”, meaning no returns were permitted. This dramatically reduces the risk for the entrepreneur and potential investors.

Shark Lori ended up making a deal that called for a $2 per unit royalty until she got her $350K investment back. The Sharks debated the wisdom of paying a royalty, but Curtis and Scott were willing to go along just to get Lori as their partner.

Sisters Lauri and Katherine from Hugo’s Amazing Tape were very entertaining. As Mr. Wonderful put it,” This was the best bad theatre in the history of Shark Tank. It was good bad theatre!”

Their tape was truly amazing. It didn’t stick to anything  other than itself! They were only asking for $50K for 50% of the company. With no patent (it expired) and no sales records (their father, Hugo was the inventor and he recently passed away), it would have been tough to ask for more.

Shark Lori and Mark Cuban shocked the world when they offered to buy the entire company for 100%! They think they can “blow it up” in very short order by being first to market.  They seemed certain that someone would develop a competitive product very quickly. I would think a company like 3M would be very interested in buying the company from them. Could be a Homerun!

Tony from Coolpeds was a very cool guy who was very passionate about his products……an electric scooter with an attached suitcase that sold for $399 and an electric car that will sell for something less than $10,000 when it becomes available (it’s just a prototype now).

The fact that there were two such radically different products was confusing to the Sharks. The products represented two very different price points, target markets, distribution strategies, etc. Mark Cuban said Tony was trying to “sell cool”, and that was one of the most difficult things to do in  business. No offers here.

Jeff from CoinOut was not a very likeable character, but I think he may be on to something with his “loose change replacement business”. His technology allows merchants to minimize (or eliminate) the need to give coins as change when a customer buys something. This would allow the merchant to reduce their costs, get customers into a customer loyalty program, and provide options to the customer such as donating to charity or accumulating store credits.

Two problems here. When Jeff was offered a deal by Barbara that included a contingency that required him to get his system into X number of locations (he had already said he planned on getting into that same number of locations) he tersely proclaimed, “No contingency deal is acceptable”. This was not well received by the Sharks.

The second problem, as Mark Cuban pointed out, was that Jeff had to convince both the merchant AND the customer to use his service. This will be difficult and expensive.

Despite those two issues, Shark Robert made an offer for $250K for 15% equity contingent on a successful pilot with a large merchant, and Jeff begrudgingly accepted. This deal will probably not get past due diligence.

                          OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE…………………A-

 

 

 

 

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Shark Tank episode 22-aired February 11, 2018

The four businesses featured in this episode had two things in common…..very bright entrepreneurs and each of their products appeals primarily to millennials. And so I’m probably not a great person to evaluate their products, but I do have some thoughts on their presentations and business models.

Joe from Gunnar Optiks said after his pitch that he was nervous, but you never would have known it. He appeared cool and calm throughout, and did an excellent job presenting the benefits of his eyewear for people who stare at computer screens for  extended periods of time. Joe had a career at Oakley before starting the company, so he had great knowledge of the industry.

Joe had a couple of things working against him, however. His sales had been flat at approximately $7 million for each of the past three years. Investors are looking for growth and not steady sales. Second, Joe had raised $9 million prior to his appearance on Shark Tank and owned just 20% of the company. His debt level was a little over $1 million.

So the Sharks sized this up as a cash sucking company that hasn’t been able to grow and quickly bowed out……except for Shark Lori. She had previous experience with a similar company and helped them sell $30 million of their product. Lori saw potential to do the same thing with Joe and ended up investing $750K for 5% equity. Never bet against Lori!

Alessandro from Avocaderia came to the U.S. from Italy and had recently opened a restaurant in Brooklyn that featured affordable Mediterranean food that emphasized avocados. His plan was to open 20 restaurants in the NYC area and then expand to Texas and California. Eventually, he would sell franchises. Alessandro was a very likeable guy who seemed to have a good handle on his business and business plan.

He ended up getting a deal with Shark Barbara (who had invested in the mega-successful Tom+Chee restaurants). and Mark Cuban, who each put in $200K for a 10% share.

The weirdest, high-risk deal of the night followed when Mark Cuban invested $500K for 4% (plus a board seat) in a company called Solsource started by Dr. Catlin Powers.  She  is a scientist who invented a solar-powered grill that she developed and was delivered by Yak to the people of  Himalaya (who had no money) while she was on a trip to Himalaya . Wait, What?

I said it was weird. Four of the Sharks said it just didn’t add up. It became a little clearer when the Sharks discussed using her solar-powered technology to generate power for other applications. Mark asked her if she could help put Elon Musk (Tesla) out of business. Dr. Catlin said yes, and that’s all Mark needed to hear. He quickly made the deal. This will either be the biggest, best deal in Shark Tank history or will go up in flames (pardon the pun) in short order.

Jordan, Jake, and Jimmy from Sunniva Super Coffee had created a “healthy coffee” and have targeted millennials as potential customers. One of the biggest hurdles they had to overcome is that all of the Sharks HATED the taste of their coffee. When Shark Robert asked why they thought he hated it, they responded, “that’s because you’re not a millennial!”

These three brothers believed in their product and may just “will it to happen” (and become wildly successful) despite not getting a deal from these five “old farts”.

                       OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE………………………….A

 

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Shark Tank episode 21-aired January 27, 2018

Three small bootstrapped companies and one Venture Capital-backed company were featured in this episode. Tree sap soda, campfire in a tin, vitamin enhanced dog treats, and healthy food for everyone were the eclectic products that were featured in this episode.

First up was Chad and Nikita from Sap! Their tree sap beverages are made from Vermont trees and sell for $1.99 per can.  I don’t care for the name of their product…..there is a large software company that is named SAP, and Sap! may get called for trademark infringement. I would prefer a name like Vermont Natural Beverages….much more descriptive and appetizing!

The Sharks were not excited about this opportunity….too much of a niche market. No deal.

Brent and Bryan from Radiate have created a “campfire in a tin” that burns for six hours and costs $25. It has the added benefit of repelling mosquitos. They got a deal from Shark Robert for $100K for 25% equity.

Julie and Ryan from Petrol Fuel for Dogs started their company over 10 years ago and was then put on the shelf for a decade before re-launching it. The Sharks were spooked by the long delay before re-starting the business. This is a red flag for investors……it can reflect poorly on the entrepreneur and have investors question the demand for the product. No deal here.

Sam and  David from Everytable have raised over $5 million from “Wall Street Sources” before entering the tank. They have used the money to build a number of restaurants in the LA area. They have a very unique pricing strategy for their healthy food restaurants……restaurants in poorer areas have prices that are significantly lower than prices in more upscale areas. The idea is to make healthy food accessible to everyone, regardless of their economic condition.

The Sharks “got it” and liked the mission. On the other hand, they thought Sam and David lacked passion and the Sharks were not in love with their Wall Street/hedge fund background. Guest Shark Rohan ended up making a deal for $1 million for 10% equity, putting the company valuation at $10 million…….pretty rich for a company with $2.6 million in revenue this year.

                             OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE…………..C

 

 

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Shark Tank episode 20-aired January 27, 2018

Some great one-liners from the Sharks in this episode. Great advice for all entrepreneurs! Here are three of my favorites:

” I like entrepreneurs with PHD’s………Poor, Hungry, Driven”~ AROD (Alex Rodriguez)

” Think like a millionaire, hustle like you’re broke”~ Shark Lori

“Execution trumps talent all day long”~ Shark Robert

Each of the businesses featured was bootstrapped, and the Sharks love businesses that come to the tank without outside investment. It shows resourcefulness, determination, and creativity to get a business off the ground. This is not always the case when starting a business with other people’s money.

The Sharky Award for this episode, which is  given for entrepreneurial excellence,  goes to Ondrea and Marquez from The Dough Bar.  This husband and wife team makes great tasting, healthy donuts with less than 200 calories each. They gave a flawless presentation which included a professional body builder breaking thru a “brick wall”. They had sold $1.2 million of these donuts online in their first two years of operation.

Shark Tank

Sharky Award-The Dough Bar

They use  a co-packer to make and package the donuts so they can concentrate on building a great online presence using social media. They knew their costs and knew what they had to do to increase their sales volume (increase shelf life and reduce shipping costs). I also like the way they have structured their product. They ship plain donuts with toppings packaged separately. This reduces the number of SKU’s they need to manufacture and track, and gives the customer more flexibility.

Three of the Sharks were very interested and Ondrea and Marquez ended up taking Shark Barbara’s offer of  $300K for 20% equity. I could second guess their choice of Barbara (she was up against the team of Lori and AROD who had offered $400K  for 30%), but Barbara REALLY wanted this deal and she convinced them that she could help them thrive.

Jason, Wale, and Wendall from ShowerPill are former football players from Cal who have created a wet wipe-like product that can be used instead of  showering after practice. They were very likeable and passionate about their product, but they committed the cardinal sin for entrepreneurs on Shark Tank.

They didn’t have a good handle on the numbers. They got confused explaining their sales forecasts, gross margins, net margins, and profitability.  The Sharks asked very straight forward questions and they couldn’t answer with any certainty or confidence. No deal here.

Dan and Nick from Changed have an admirable mission…..to help people pay down their student debt from college. They do this by rounding-up credit card purchases to the nearest dollar and then paying down that person’s debt when the “round-ups” reach $100. It costs $1 per month to use their service. The Sharks loved Dan and Nick but thought the business was not easily scaled, and may run into competition from banks.

Despite the concerns and the  limited sales history, Mark Cuban invested $250K for 25% equity. Could there be some political value to Mark down the road? Reducing student debt may be an important issue in the 2020 election.

Mark from SnapClips is a 19-year-old who will be nominated for my Season-End Best Presentation-Youth Division. He has created a patented product that replaces free weight collars in the gym. His demonstration clearly showed why his product is better than traditional collars. His cost to make a pair is $8.50 and he sells them for $29.99….great margins.

The Sharks envisioned a much wider application of his product around the house and in industry. AROD, Lori, and Mark Cuban offered $150K for 30% and Mark accepted.

                 OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE………………A-

 

 

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