Shark Tank episode aired April 22, 2016

On a surface level, this could be considered a weak episode. The grand total invested by the Sharks was $50K….no Sharky Awards tonite. There were, however, many thought-provoking subjects that can help all entrepreneurs avoid the many pitfalls of starting and running a business.

Instead of my usual contestant-by-contestant analysis, I want to highlight a few of the  teachable moments on this episode.

Product Improvements……Even though 14 year olds, Oliver and Sam from The Drip Drop, got a $50K investment from Shark Barbara, the deal is contingent upon them improving their product….the edible ring that catches the melted ice cream that drips from an ice cream cone. The Sharks said they need to make it taste better and make it more visually appealing. The young men need to make these improvements in order to have a chance of succeeding. They were open to these product improvement suggestions.

Risk vs. Reward Analysis……….Jarrett and Raja from Jarrett and Raja Productions have developed a music and magic show for a Vegas venue (TBD).  The show needs to be fully funded before a Vegas property will give them a venue on their property. This requires $750K  to cover all the costs of promoting and performing the show. When asked, Jarrett said there were currently 11 magic shows in Vegas. They had no idea how many magic shows in Vegas actually make money. They also appeared to have little marketing and business expertise. The Sharks saw this as too much risk and not enough potential reward. That’s the analysis most investors make before writing a check.

“Perfection is the enemy of profitability”……Mark Cuban said this in reference to Will from Kid Runner who had taken over three years to design a prototype of his hands-free baby stroller for parents who are runners. Will tried to pitch this as a “go to market investment opportunity”, but the Sharks pegged him as a procrastinating perfectionist who hadn’t received any real customer orders in three years. In addition to Mark Cuban’s words of wisdom, I would add two of my favorites…..when deciding how much time to take developing a product, err on the side of selling it before it is perfect or “Go ugly early”. Then understand that “Progressive improvement beats the hell out of postponed perfection”.  You can always improve your product while selling it to real customers.

Retail vs. Online Sales…….Brenda from Inchbug started her company in 2004 and has sold over $15 million of her first product, “Orbit Labels”, all online. She has a vision of selling her second product, “MyDrinky” (a kids’ drink holder) thru big box retail channels. The Sharks repeatedly warned Brenda that retail is a whole different ball game with many headaches and complexities that she isn’t equipped to deal with. Also, she’s giving up a big chunk of her margins to go retail instead of selling online. Mark pointed out that going retail doesn’t play to her core competencies or experience. Brenda said she was in negotiations with a big box retailer and if the deal comes to fruition, it could generate $1 million in sales in the first year. I think Brenda should have waited until she had the order in-hand before she came on Shark Tank. Up until now she’s only sold $50K of MyDrinky.

OVERALL EPISODE RATING………..B

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Shark Tank episode aired April 15, 2016

Ashton Kutcher returned to Shark Tank on the heels of his appearance on the cover of the April 19, 2016 edition of Forbes Magazine. Ashton has turned $30 million in investments into $250 million! Uber and Airbnb are just two of his many investments.

Ashton didn’t show any interest in Stephen from Petnostics, but Mr. Wonderful and Shark Lori teamed up with Stephen to make a deal. Stephen was the clear winner of this week’s Sharky Award given to contestants who display entrepreneurial excellence.

Why did Stephen win the Sharky? Four reasons……First, I  like his educational background (I.E. and Harvard MBA). Second,  I love the name Petnostics…it tells you what the business is all about, health diagnostics for pets. Third, I liked the smart phone app he developed to test a pet’s urine to see if there is a health issue that needs to be addressed by a vet. Fourth, I love the pet industry. Most pet owners would do anything for the pets. Naturally, this necessitates spending lots of money to keep their pets happy and healthy.

The Best of the Rest……Angela and Steve from Slyde Handboards used all of their wedding  funds to finance their growing business making handboards for surfer dudes. That shows real commitment and determination. As they said, failure is not an option. The thing I didn’t like about the business is that lots of education will be required to make a sale, and that means long, expensive sales cycles. None-the-less, they got a nice deal from Mark Cuban and Ashton after some good negotiating.

Sheen and Keir from Friends Headphones sell fashion headphones for women. Their products looked great but they had racked up over $9 million in losses. They had a very optimistic forecast based on the introduction of a brand new untested product that is a neckless that plays music. No deal here.

Yashar from popSLATE didn’t get any offers for his product that adds a second screen to an iPhone. The Sharks thought he would face too much competition from “wearables”.

In the Update segment, Shark Barbara was featured meeting with several of her portfolio companies from past seasons of Shark Tank. I was glad to see Tom + Chee is doing so well. They now have 36 locations with sales of over $32 million a year (their sales were a little over $1 million when they originally appeared on the show). They had won my “Best Presentation of Season 4 Sharky Award”. I had predicted they were “on their way to fame and fortune”.

OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE………..B-

 

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Shark Tank episode aired April 8, 2016

In the Update segment of last night’s episode, Shark Lori took several of her consumer product companies to exhibit at a large trade show and she revealed an amazing statistic. These companies combined annual sales prior to their appearances on Shark Tank was $8 million. Fast forward to the trade show, their combined annual sales are now $188 million! Lori has clearly been the dominant Shark in terms of  Return on Investment results.

The winner of this episode’s Sharky Award, given for entrepreneurial excellence, is Sean and Steven from Pride Bites.

Pride Bites sells personalized pet toys and accessories. To date, 70% of their sales ($1.4 million) has been generated thru retail channels. The Sharks immediately saw a large opportunity to ramp-up online sales. Sean and Steven appeared knowledgeable and committed to growing their company. They ended up getting a deal from Sharks Lori and Robert. Once they help beef-up the online presence and capabilities, this should be a home run.

Best of the Rest…..Chris and Jason from Coolbox make a toolbox that can best be described as a “smart toolbox”. In addition to carrying tools, it charges phones, provides blue tooth capabilities, etc.  Their company was so cash-starved, they couldn’t deliver their current orders. Despite that, they remained cool and showed no signs of desperation. They had successfully bootstrapped their company with $50K of their own money and needed a cash infusion to move forward. Lori made a deal that called for a $500K line of credit in return for 15% equity. This should be a win-win if it makes it past due dilligence and they can figure out how to reduce the cost ($110 each) and price ($249 each) of the Coolbox.

Chris and Jeremy from Trobo sell a “story-telling plush toy”. It was basically a teddy bear with a speaker in it. The content was not compelling (it was crowd-sourced!)  and it was over-priced at $60 each. They had sold 600 units but failed to draw any significant interest at Toy Fair. Despite all of these red flags, Shark Robert offered $166K for one-third of their company thinking he could get a large licensing deal for them. He sees this as a  “content delivery vehicle” not just a talking plush toy.

Comic relief was provided by Van and Chris from NoPhone. This was a very entertaining and funny pitch! Their NoPhone looks like a smart phone, but is only a piece of plastic with nothing inside! They believe it is going to become “the pet rock of our generation”. Unlike the pet rock, which was amusing right out of the box, the NoPhone requires Van and Chris’s comedic spoof to make their product “work”.  No deal here.

                     OVERALL EPISODE RATING……………..B

 

 

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Shark Tank episode aired March 18, 2016

This was the strongest group of entrepreneurs appearing in a Shark Tank episode in a long time. I had a hard time deciding who should win the Sharky Award for entrepreneurial excellence, but the tie-breaker was the company with the greatest sales in the last 12 months.

Shark Tank

Sharky Award- Wondercide

Stephanie and Laura from Wondercide……These two knew their business (killing insects) and had an easily understood value proposition (their product is natural and has no chemicals). They have over $3 million in annual sales and have 70% margins.

Stephanie and Laura gave a very good presentation and even had test results from an independent source to prove how effective their product is. The product even kills bedbugs within two minutes.  The only weakness in their pitch was putting too much emphasis on their desire to go retail vs. building their already robust online sales.

Mr. Wonderful made a ridiculous offer that required Wondercide to payback $1.5 million for a $500K loan AND give up 3% equity. Shark Lori made a more reasonable offer calling for a royalty of 50 cents a unit until she got her $500K back. Lori will get a 3% equity stake in Wondercide. They will be great partners.

Brian and Steve from Vengo were a close second to Wondercide. They gave an excellent presentation but their business model was complex (and revolutionary). Their “smart vending machines” were so much different from today’s vending machines that it raised many questions. The fact that they are cashless, play videos, take up little wall space,  and can aggregate customer data was a little mind-boggling.

What was even more mind-boggling was their valuation of $16 million with only $1 million in annual sales, but I loved the way they defended their valuation……”we’ve already raised $3.4 million, partnered with the largest vending machine company, partnered with a large food company, developed the technology over 3 years using our aerospace engineers, built a network of over 150 machines, and disrupted a market segment with over $7 billion in annual sales”. They were very convincing, and got Lori and Mr. W. to give them a $2 million loan for 3% equity.

Ozzy and Mike from Beer Blizzard were hysterical. I laughed out loud at least five times during their presentation. Being from Pittsburgh, they immediately connected with Mark Cuban who ended up making a deal for $1ooK for 25% equity for their product/company that keeps cans of beer cold for 21 minutes. This was a great demonstration of how to use humor effectively in a presentation.

Karen from The Good Promise gave a nice presentation but none of the Sharks liked the taste of her veggie-infused products (pasta, juices, etc.). Even though she had already secured an agreement with Walmart, the Sharks passed on this opportunity.

 

OVERALL RATING FOR THIS EPISODE…… A+

 

 

 

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Shark Tank episode aired March 11, 2016

Victoria and Tim from Innovation Pet make toys for pets…… Dog Houses, Kitty Connection (think of a jungle gym for cats), and Chicken Coups make up the majority of their sales. They have $2.5 million in revenues with margins of 28%.

They ended up making a deal with Daymond (an animal lover himself) for $250K  for 12.5% equity and 25% of their online sales. It was the 25% that concerned me. With relatively thin margins, this seemed like too good of a deal for Daymond. Granted, they don’t have many online sales now, so it must have seemed like a good deal to Victoria and Tim at the time, but I hope they take a second look at this percentage before signing on the dotted line.

Henry from Mob Craft gave an excellent presentation. He was poised, passionate, and knowledgeable. Mob Craft combines Crowdsourcing technology with Craft Beer creation. Essentially, it lets customers create their own Craft Beers, and then allows everyone to vote on which one they like the best. Henry handed out six samples to each Shark (I think one or two would have fine). I swear the Sharks seemed a little bit drunk after trying all six!

Four of the Sharks were out immediately (nap time?), and Mr. Wonderful made a low ball offer that Henry declined. Being very quality conscious, Henry told Mr. W that he would not outsource the manufacturing of his beer just to reduce costs and increase profits. Good move, Henry!

Jeremiah from Beloved Shirts had only been in business for 2 1/2 years and he already had sales of $2.3 million. Jeremiah gave a good presentation. The only red flag was the number of SKU’s (Stock Keeping Units) he had……22,000! Shark Lori suggested he cut down on his product line of crazy shirts to the Top 50 styles and make them to stock vs. making them to order, thereby cutting down his lead tome (about 30 days) and reducing his cost of goods sold.

Jeremiah and Daymond couldn’t come to terms so there was no deal here.

Matt and Mike from illumibowl made a smart toilet bowl night-light. They had sold 6500 units on Kickstarter but hadn’t officially launched their company. Daymond didn’t think they needed an investment yet….it was too early, and they could get to the next level themselves. Surprisingly, Mr. Wonderful made a deal with Matt and Mike for $100K for 25% of their company. Go figure.

                             OVERALL RATING OF THIS EPISODE…….B

 

 

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Shark Tank episode aired February 26, 2016

Great episode! Many lessons-learned can benefit current and future entrepreneurs.

The winner of tonite’s  Sharky Award for entrepreneurial excellence is Katherine from Betterback.

Shark Tank

Betterback…..February 26,2016

Katherine has created and developed a sling-like device that helps people with back pain. Since 8 out of 10 people will have some degree of back pain in their lifetime, this is a huge addressable market (something investors love).

In fact, Katherine exceeded her Kickstarter goal (crowd-funding site) by 100 times and pre-sold $1.2 million of her device. The biggest risk for the Sharks was that no actual customers have tried the product. There was no question Katherine can develop and promote products, the question was, “How will people like the product”.

Shark Lori ended up making a deal with Katherine for $750K (a 3 year term loan) for 8% equity. This is a great product for QVC. Lori and Katherine will make a great team. Katherine said after she left the tank that Lori was a “Badass business woman” (I’m not sure, but I think that was meant as a compliment!).

Best of the Rest……Brittney and Skyler from Glace Cryothereapy had a Spa Therapy machine that uses extremely low temperatures to make people feel invigorated. Mark Cuban gave this idea some legitimacy when he said his Mav players started using cryotherapy five years ago.

The only Shark that got really excited about this opportunity was Barbara. Even though Brittney and Skyler came into the tank with a very limited vision (they just wanted to add one more store), Barbara was convinced she could make this a national brand. She offered them $100K for a 30% interest. Mr. W said that if they didn’t take the deal, they should freeze themselves. They took the deal, but they would have generated much more interest (and a better deal) if they entered the Tank with a plan that showed THEY understood how to make this a national brand.

Mohamed Mohamed from Linka had a great personal story. His parents immigrated from Egypt and he earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from CCNY. The  product he created was designed to reduce bicycle theft. It had an alarm and used smart phone technology to alert the owner that their bike was being stolen. The Sharks felt like his product didn’t offer enough of a deterrent to a would-be thief.

I was glad to see Mohamed is going to Amsterdam to try and sell his product. In Amsterdam, they have a 1:1 ratio of people to bicycles (about 800,000 of each)! They love technology in Holland, and Mohamed stands a much better chance of selling it there.

Last up was Allison from Teaspressa. She had limited sales history and it wasn’t clear to the Sharks what her product really was. Was it a machine? Was it the tea? Did she want to go retail? She didn’t have a Business Plan and it became obvious pretty quickly that she was “too early to The Tank”.

Lori summarized Allison’s situation very well when she said, ” First you have to crawl, then walk, and then run”.

Would-be entrepreneurs can’t learn about their target market, create their product(s), and learn all about business at the same time. That’s why investors love serial entrepreneurs (like Katherine from Betterback) and stay away from newbies like Allison.

OVERALL  RATING OF THIS EPISODE………A-

 

 

 

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Shark Tank episode aired February 21, 2016

This episode featured products Made in America.

Although the four presentations were good, none of the entrepreneurs were impressive enough to win a Sharky Award for entrepreneurial excellence.

First  up was Frank and Konel from Insta-Fire. Their product helps people start fires in their fireplaces, grills, camp sites, etc. They have a very profitable business with $850K in Sales and $238K in Profits. Frank and Konel got a nice deal from Mark and Lori……$300K for 30% equity.

Next up were Dee and Angie from Custard Stand in West Virginia. They wanted to become a national brand but the Sharks were afraid their hot dog chili might only appeal to people in their region. They had $1.6 million in sales but had $700K in debt…..way too much for the Sharks to make a deal.

Erik and Brian from PRx Performance had a Patent Pending weight lifting/exercise rack designed for small spaces. Mr.Wonderful said he could help them sue the competitors that infringed on their patent (if they ever get one). Erik and Brian accepted his offer of $80K…..presumably to be used to pay for a law firm retainer. Not a great way to grow a business.

Rachel from Rags to Riches was the star of the show. She had over $792K in Sales…..95% of her sales were Toddler Rompers…..all sold online. Rachel gave a very good presentation but had one really annoying habit that prevented her from winning a Sharky Award. She  repeatedly said “Here’s the Deal” before answering the Sharks’ questions.

Despite this peccadillo, Rachel got a deal from Shark Robert who compared Rags to Riches to Tipsy Elves, another Shark Tank contestant who he invested in that has become extremely successful.

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Starting with this episode, I will be giving an overall rating for each Shark Tank episode. The rating will be based on the quality of the presentations, the number and quality of the “lessons learned” by entrepreneurs watching the show, and the overall entertainment value of the show. The rating will be A thru F where A is excellent and F is failure.

                                    RATING OF THIS EPISODE………….C+

 

 

 

 

 

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