June is startup month at Forbes and my focus is on ABC’s Shark Tank, which has been a TV phenomenon spanning three seasons, with eight different angel investors from a variety of industries. These angel investors, also called “sharks”, battle it out for a chance to invest in promising new companies. The show illustrates the American dream, which is something people still believe in despite the bad economy. By watching the show, you’re entertained, inspired and you end up learning a lot about what it takes to sell your idea and make it a reality.
Shark Tank is produced by reality TV legend Mark Burnett, who based it off of the popular “Dragons Den” version played on Canadian TV. In the third season, which just concluded, the Sharks offered over $6.2 million dollars of their own money in investment deals. There have been eight sharks throughout all three seasons. Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec and Barbara Corcoran have been in all three seasons. Kevin Harrington was in season one and two, Mark Cuban in two and three, Jeff Foxworthy in season two and Lori Greiner in season 3.
Daymond John is a fashion and branding expert who grew his homemade hats and t-shirts into the globally recognized brand Fubu. Kevin O’Leary (who calls himself Mr. Wonderful on the show) is a venture capitalist that started a software business in his basement which he eventually sold for $3.2 billion dollars. Robert Herjavec, the son of an immigrant factory worker, is a technology mogul who sold his first internet companies for over $350 million dollars. Barbara turned a thousand dollar loan into a real estate empire worth hundreds of millions in Manhattan. Kevin Harrington is the Chairman of As Seen On TV, Inc, a public company trading as ASTV. Mark Cuban is a self-made billionaire entrepreneur, the owner of the 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks and author of How to Win at the Sport of Business. Jeff Foxworthy is a popular comedian, TV and radio personality, and author. Finally, Lori Greiner is regarded as one of the most prolific inventors of retail items, having created over 350 products.
For the next six days, I’ll be running a Shark Tank roundtable series, where I ask each shark a new question about the show, their experiences, and their entrepreneurship advice. You can watch previous episodes of Shark Tank for free on Hulu or if you’re an entrepreneur, you can apply to be on the show. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll be happy to hear that Shark Tank was renewed for a fourth season, consisting of 22 episodes.
What’s the best and worst deal you’ve done on the show?
Mark Cuban: I’ve done quite a few good deals on the show – Kisstixx.com, Tower Paddle Boards, Lollacup.com, THepaintedpretzel.com, and I Want to Draw a Cat For You are all doing incredibly well. The only failure I have had is Toygaroo.
Kevin O’Leary: Worst deal – Toygaroo. Great concept but they proved unable to execute. Best deal – Talbott Teas. Within a few months of the show they were acquired by Jamba Juice!
Daymond John: This season, I was afforded the opportunity to work with Shane Talbott and Steven Nakisher on the branding of their lifestyle tea brand, Talbott Teas. Our partnership proved to be a success as Jamba Juice acquired the brand. Talbott Teas is a shining example of what the show is capable of doing. EzVip has proven that creating a great social experience starts in the planning stages. EzVip allows consumers to pre-purchase admission tickets and beverages for the best events in Miami and Las Vegas. Since their appearance on the show, the EzVip team has gained notable investors and supporters, such as international recording star, Pitbull.
Barbara Corcoran: My worst was investing in a fast-talking cowboy selling exercise equipment who needed to lose 50 pounds. Instead, he lost my $50,000. My best so far is Daisy Cakes, the absolutely best home-made cake you’ll ever eat! She was right, and 100,000 cake eaters agree with her. It was also the first time I asked that I be paid “a dollar a cake” until my initial $50,000 investment was paid back. I got that money within three weeks, and her cakes are still selling like, well, hot cakes!
Lori Greiner: I really have liked all the deals I’ve done. Each has been very unique and things are progressing really well for most. I really like each of the entrepreneurs as well. I would say the READEREST would have to be considered the most successful deal so far, but several of the others are coming along really well too. Readerest has hit over $2 million in retail sales and we have great Q4 projections. I’m also working on more designs and collaborations with Rick the inventor which will be coming out soon. As for the worst, I can’t say yet. We have to see. I think in Season 4 of ST, you will see a lot of exciting follow ups with several of my deals.
Robert Herjavec: Best deal I have ever done is my good friend Travis from Chord Buddy – an incredible success story. Great combination of a solid business coupled with a nice guy. There is no worst – I tend to look forward not backwards
Kevin Harrington: To call out the worst deal is a tough one; I can just say there have been plenty of deals we didn’t make money on. In one instance on the show, I made a commitment to invest in a product and before we even closed the deal, we found out the product was being returned in vast amounts to retailers that were selling it. Unfortunately, that’s one of the downsides of doing deals live on the spot. We definitely have to do some due diligence to verify the viability of the business.
Jeff Foxworthy: It still remains to been see. There was one with the Hill Billy clothing wear. They had this name trademarked, “Hill Billy” two words. I thought that was kind of interesting. They were selling them at country music concerts out of the back of a van. I was sitting next to Daymond and I was thinking “think outside of the box, you’re selling them out of a van but with that name Hill Billy, why couldn’t you turn that into snowboard gear and go a different route with it.” Market a whole line of stuff for skiers and snowboarders. Daymond liked that idea and I said “you know clothing and I’ve sold t-shirts for years so do you want to get on this together?” We thought of a cool and innovative way to do this thing. When you finish the show, you have 90 days to figure out if they own the patents and trademarks and everything that they say they own.
When we started dealing with these guys they said “we just wanted to be on TV for the free advertisement, we didn’t really want to do a deal with you.” I was sitting there thinking “really, cause you’re selling t-shirts outside of the back of a van, but if that’s the route you want to go, OK.” I think we could have done some cool things with them. Mark Burnett recruited me for Shark Tank. He said “I think you’d be great on shark tank, you’ve always been such a good entrepreneur.” I said “You know mark, I’m the nice guy and I can’t have the shark face and be mean.” And he said “no, no it would be good, you’ll be a different personality on there.” I enjoyed It from that aspect. What I didn’t know is that after you do it, everybody on the planet that has an idea contacts you. The majority of the ideas aren’t good ideas.