Monday, August 10, 2009

My Thoughts on ABC's Shark Tank Premiere

Did you catch the premiere of ABC's new reality offering "Shark Tank" last night?

On the show, entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of potential investors. The investors, or "sharks," are successful entrepreneurs in their own right and evaluate each idea for its strengths and weaknesses. If an investor decides to invest in an idea, he or she makes a cash and equity offer for the entrepreneur to accept or decline. Sometimes a negotiation ensues and a new number is reached. Other times, the entrepreneur turns down the offer and walks away.

In other words, it's like pitching a VC firm, only on national television.

I've covered small business for more than a decade, so I was fascinated. There were parts of the show, however, that I had to rewind and watch again. The show moves very fast. So fast, in fact, that I wonder if it went over the heads of many viewers who aren't hip to business terminology such as "net revenue," "ramp up," et cetera. The show needs a narrator, or at the very least some captions to explain the business terminology that could fly over the audience's head. I would prefer captions.

I thought the product concepts were interesting and easy to understand, for the most part. The second entrepreneur's idea for a surgically implanted Bluetooth technology --- yes, surgically implanted --- was my favorite. The VCs laughed the entrepreneur out of the room.

There were valuable lessons every entrepreneur could take away from last night's episode, because all five entrepreneurs made some basic mistakes. For example, don't go into detail about your past business problems, like the Mr. Tod's Pie Factory guy. Be able to explain your business concept clearly and show passion and excitement for your own idea (work on it, Ionic Ear guy). Don't say you're terrible at confrontation and then give up 55% of your company in return for a $50,000 investment (I'm looking at you, Emmy the Elephant lady). Don't go for broke and risk your home and your kids' college funds on your fledgling business (Tsk, tsk, WiSpots guy). Finally, don't overvalue your company in return for a paltry equity stake, like the co-founders of College Hunks Hauling Junk. "You're pigs," one of the sharks told them. "Pigs gets slaughtered."

Will the show make it past a few episodes? The premiere captured a little more than 4 million viewers. I guess time will tell. I'm already looking forward to next week's episode, though.


  1. I'm curious as to what you think "you're pigs" meant exactly. It definitely refers to their greed, but he also said, "you're wearing pink ties" or something like that, and I didn't see what that had to do with anything. Unprofessional?

  2. Sorry for my delay in reply - I'm realizing that people are responding to posts I wrote awhile ago!

    The "pigs" reference, if I remember correctly, referred to two entrepreneurs who were trying to get a lot of venture capital without giving out any money. The "you're wearing pink ties" comment was supposed to be funny, I think. I hear there are new episodes of Shark Tank coming up at some point. Can't wait...