Successful Shark Tank Losers: An Update

I have an addiction: Every Friday night I sit in front of my TV and watch ABC’s Shark Tank and then after the most entertaining hour on TV for me is over; I watch video clips from the show online. (That is, I watch the clips that DMCA henchmen haven’t deleted from the web). For those who aren’t familiar with the show, Shark Tank features five millionaire and billionaire investors who sit and listen while entrepreneurs from all over the country solicit an investment to start, grow or save their existing business. The investors -“sharks” - are business magnate, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. His net work is approximately $2.3 billion according to FORBES. Next is venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary whose net worth is around 300 million. After that, is FUBU founder Daymond John whose net worth is between 100 and 250 million depending on what source you believe. There is fiery, real-estate mogul Barbara Corcoran whose worth is around 40 million or so. There is Canadian businessman Robert Herjavec whose fortune rings in at around 100 million or so. Lastly, there is Corcoran’s frequent stand-in, QVC queen who is allegedly worth right around 15 million.

While the sharks certainly are entertaining – especially O’Leary who is the show’s Simon Cowell – it is the entrepreneurs who are the real stars of the show. The entrepreneurs come from all over the country with products and services that range from the bizarre - like a golf club you can whiz into - to the ingenious – like a cell phone app that unlocks your door and eliminates the need for a physical key. Some of the businessmen walk away with a deal and some walk away with nothing (except a very unpleasant ordeal if O’Leary chooses to be especially cruel.)

With all the accumulated knowledge of these six sharks, you would guess that they would always be able to sniff out which ventures would be doomed for failure. That is where you would be wrong. Many of the people who were rejects of the show have gone on to have great success despite or perhaps because they were rejected by the “sharks.” Here are updates on several of the show’s “losers.”

  • James Martin. He is the owner of an Oregon winery – Copa Di Vino – and the inventor of a patented, single-serving glass with a peel-off top. When he pitched his winery to the sharks there was interest, mainly from O’Leary was interested only in licensing Martin’s packaging technology to other alcohol distributors. O’Leary offered Martin $600k for a 51% stake of just the patent of his technology in season 2 and then offered him the same deal when Martin returned in season 3. Martin had sold 500k a year in product when he first entered the tank and was, by the time he returned, making 5 million a year!
  • Donny McCall. In season three McCall – inventor of a folding cargo system for pickup trucks, Invis -A-Rack - visited the tank asking for an investment. He got into a debate with sharks who insisted that he outsource the manufacturing of the device in order to increase his profits. McCall insistence that his product remain American made caused him to ultimately lose a deal with the sharks. After his appearance on Shark Tank, McCall went from selling 75k worth of product over a period of a year and a half to selling 75k in merely three months! McCall ended up making a licensing deal with a company in Des Moines Iowa called DeeZee to make and distribute his product.
  • Shawn “Chef Big Shake” Davis. In season two Davis failed to get the $200,000 investment from the sharks he was asking for. Davis’ company – CBS Foods, Inc – went from making less than 30k in sales before Shark Tank to making almost ten million dollars in sales after Shark Tank. (Daymond John later publicly stated he regretted letting this one slip past him.)
  • Abby Jordan and Becky App of Ecreamery. The two women wowed the sharks with their ice-cream but failed to get an investment from them. However, according to Omaha.com, the Ecreamery website was inundated by 75k visitors shortly after the show aired.

Now it’s pretty easy to attribute these after Shark Tank successes to a temporary bump caused by the show’s success. The show is, after all, a 10 or 15 minute commercial for all of the entrepreneurs whether they get their investment or not. Yet I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that businesses that appear on Shark Tank have nothing to lose by appearing in this format. Some entrepreneurs have been made to look quite foolish and even deceptive upon entering the tank. These Shark Tank failures that turn out to later be successes just go to prove that sometimes there is more behind a company’s success than mere numbers and that drive and passion are intangibles that cannot be measured. Herjavec himself has been quoted as saying “We are five arrogant people on TV. We think we always get it right. But the reality is, we don’t.”

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