"Shark Tank" is arguably the most American show on television. It speaks to the American Dreamer in all of us, showcasing our collective opportunity to create a business out of blood, sweat, tears--and ungodly amounts of hard work. "Shark Tank" represents the spirit of the innovator, the tinkerer, the salesperson, all personified in the passionate entrepreneurs on the show. You can imagine how excited I was to get word that Lovepop would have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pitch America's most well-known billionaire investors--while the entire nation watched.
Somehow I survived a swim in the tank, and lived to tell the tale, but a few things were definitely surprising:
1. It's exactly like it looks on TV
I'm not sure why, but I always figured that "Shark Tank" must be partially staged: that the set doesn't really have the sharks swimming by, that it can't be as dramatic in real life as it seems as a viewer. Some of those stressful moments and intense questions must be the product of clever editing, right? Wrong.
That walk down the hallway before those doors open and you step into the tank was easily the most nervous that I've ever been. And when you get into the tank, you really do come face to face with actual sharks, it's just like TV. But those sharks in the tank were nothing compared to looking up and being face to face with the five actual Sharks, pitching our business.
2. The Sharks have never heard of you
This was the biggest surprise. I always figured the Sharks would have received detailed files about the businesses before an entrepreneur walked into the tank. It just makes sense that they wouldn't actually invest several hundreds of thousands of dollars without doing their homework. But they do.
When you walk in, the Sharks have never heard of you. They know nothing about your product, your idea, or your business plan. They actually do make a decision based entirely on what you say on that stage. Talk about pitching under pressure.
We've talked to a lot of investors since we started our business, and we've been asked a lot of hard questions by smart people. But the Sharks were among the toughest out there--they narrowed in on the real questions and concerns very quickly.
3. Sharks are unpredictable
I've noticed that with investors in general, the ones who understand your business right away are the ones who will eventually invest. As such, we entered the tank thinking that Lori would be the most interested because she has such a strong consumer background, and is adroit at the distribution of products. In reality, she went out really early. The interest came from two completely unexpected Sharks: Robert and Kevin.
No matter how many past episodes you watch, or how much research you do, it's impossible to predict how the Sharks will react to your business, and you're lucky if you can get even one Shark's attention.