If you don’t yet know what Shark Tank is, you have been living under a rock for the past decade. Originating from the UK’s Dragons’ Den, the American version of the show launched in 2009. Not only is this business-based reality television show a ratings smash, Shark Tank is also multi-Emmy Award-winning.
What is Shark Tank?
Considering the twelfth series was recently aired on ABC in October 2020, it is probably safe to assume everyone is familiar with the basic premise. For those who aren’t, budding entrepreneurs present their business ideas to the “Sharks” – a panel of tough, no-nonsense, self-made, multimillionaire and billionaire tycoons. A percentage of the business is offered up along with a request for an amount of money.
The entrepreneurs who dare to enter the Tank must try to convince the Sharks to part with their own hard-earned cash and give them the funding they desperately need to turn their dreams into million-dollar realities. All of the good, bad, emotional and even absurd pitches help showcase the “I wish I had thought of that” business ideas and products.About Shark Tank, ABC Entertainment
The hopeful contestants have a very real chance of walking away with an investment from one – or several – of the Sharks. Quite often, the show sees the Sharks engage in lively bidding wars in order to land a deal. As always with these types of reality tv shows, for every great idea presented, there are hundreds of awful ones waiting in the wings. It is safe to say that not every aspiring entrepreneur leaves the Shark‘s lair with a deal.
The Greatest Rejects
Not all rejected pitches were due to a poor product or idea, however. The Sharks may have considered some ideas too difficult to market. Some felt their company was worth more than the Sharks were willing to offer them. In some cases, the potential market could not have been foreseen. There are many products that, after leaving Shark Tank with no-deal, went on to enjoy great successes. Here are just a few of those products. These are the most successful Shark Tank rejects.
In 2013, when he appeared on Season 4 of Shark Tank, Jamie Siminoff valued his company for what seemed like an over-optimistic amount. Ring, then called DoorBot, was a security device company which made a wi-fi enabled “smart” video doorbell. Siminoff valued Ring at US$7 million and was seeking US$700,000 for a 10 percent stake in the company. He left without striking a deal with the Sharks.
Fast forward to 2017 and Ring had cornered the market in the USA. According to a market research firm, they had a 97 percent share of all video doorbell sales. In March of 2018, in what was their second largest investment made to date, Amazon purchased Ring for the astronomical amount of US$1.1 billion. With results like that, Ring can hardly be called a “reject”!
Co-founder Steven Sashen was tired of getting injured while running, so switched to barefoot and found the benefits immediate. This led to the development of Xero Shoes with his wife Lena Phoenix. Designed as a thin running sandal, the barefoot-inspired shoe attracted the attention of investor Kevin O’Leary when it appeared on Season 4. However, the couple ultimately turned down his offer of US$400,000 for 50 percent equity.
Although Sashen and Phoenix left Shark Tank without a deal, Xero Shoes proved popular with the public afterwards and the couples’ faith in their product paid off. Xero Shoes managed to raise US$1 million through crowdfunding to fuel business growth. Incredibly, sales were estimated at US$5.1 million in 2017 and projected to reach US$12.2 million in 2018.
Kodiak Cakes is a natural food brand which produces protein-rich breakfast options. A flap jack and waffle mix made from 100 percent wholegrains, Kodiak Cakes conveniently only require water to make. When he appeared on Shark Tank in Season 5, founder Joel Clark managed to win the Sharks over with the delicious flavour of Kodiak Cakes. However, a deal could not be struck, with Clark wanting US$500,000 for 10 percent of the business and the Sharks instead wanting a 50 percent share.
Clark was probably right to hold firm because now Kodiak Cakes is the fastest growing pancake mix brand in the USA. Their revenue is set to pass US$100 million in 2018 and, as a company, they are growing by 80 percent each year.
During Season 3, Shark Tank viewers were introduced to cellhelmet. What began as a quest for the most indestructible iPhone case, cellhelmet Liquid Glass Screen Protector was developed by co-founders Mike Kane and David Artuso. So confident in their product, cellhelmet comes with a guarantee: “If your phone breaks inside this case, we will repair it. If it is beyond repair, we will replace it.”
The Sharks, however, were not interested in investing the requested US$160,000, as they felt competitors could undercut their pricing. Kane and Artuso came away without a deal. But their product proved popular with the public and they doubled their total sales-to-date in the following 24 hours after their appearance. Since Shark Tank, cellhelmet has gone on to strike a successful deal with Eldridge Communications, a Verizon Wireless retailer, which included a Pennsylvania-wide distribution deal.
Chef Big Shake
Shawn Davis failed to get an investment when he appeared on Season 2 of Shark Tank with Chef Big Shake, a gourmet food company which made shrimp burgers. The Sharks were unimpressed and there were no takers for the offer of a 25 percent stake in the business for a US$200,000 investment.
However, within a few days of the episode airing, Davis was approached by several investors and Chef Big Shake took off. Within a year, sales of his frozen patty-style shrimp burgers had grown to over US$6 million. Although, a Shark Tank “reject”, Chef Big Shake went on to appear in the show’s Season 3 success stories segment. Shark Mark Cuban has since said he regrets his decision not to invest.
Three brothers from Idaho pitched Proof Eyewear, an eco-friendly brand of handcrafted, wooden-framed glasses, to the Sharks in Season 4. Taylor, Brooks, and Tanner Dame spent their summers working in the family sawmill. Their woodworking background led to the creation of Proof Eyewear and their eyewear designs.
Although two Sharks offered the desired US$150,000 investment, both wanted more equity in the company than the brothers were willing to give. However, within a year of their appearance on Shark Tank, Proof Eyewear went on to make over US$1.4 million in sales, opened a flagship store in Boise, Idaho, and have projected ongoing growth ever since.
The Smart Baker
Hopeful entrepreneurs Daniel and Stephanie Rensing brought The Smart Baker to Shark Tank in Season 3 of the show. The Smart Baker offered a range of cooking utensils designed to make baking and cooking easier. Initially, the duo struck a deal – a US$75,000 investment for a 40 percent share of the business – with Shark Barbara Corcoran. The deal also included a 5 percent royalty on sales.
However, in an unusual turn of events, differences of opinion regarding the brands’ target audience emerged. The Shark Tank deal fell through and The Smart Baker team left empty handed. This was not the end of The Smart Baker though. After appearing on the show, their website saw a traffic increase of 1,200 percent. The Smart Baker brand has seen tremendous growth ever since and they now produce a wide range of products, from baking utensils, aprons, and culinary aids, all available on Amazon. The company was on course to make US$1 million in annual revenue last year.
First Defense Nasal Screens
Joseph Moore’s company, which manufactured First Defense Nasal Screens , was already doing very well when he appeared on the second season of Shark Tank to promote his nasal air filters. Having already secured an US$8 million contract, Moore was offered US$4 million outright by Shark Robert Herjavec for his company. After this was rejected, negotiations moved to a US$750,000 loan in exchange of 30 percent of the company, which was also turned down by Moore.
Since then, First Defense Nasal Screens have grown in popularity globally, being sold in over 30 countries worldwide. They are protected by several patents, ensuring Moore’s continued success for many years to come.
Shark Tank, and its originator Dragons’ Den, has enjoyed successes that few could have foreseen. Now a global franchise, aspiring entrepreneurs, inventors and business postulants have the opportunity to make it big when they enter the Shark Tank. And as we’ve just seen, even those who aren’t lucky enough to strike a deal on the day can still change their fortunes.