Cast: Kevin O’Leary, Phil Crowley, Robert Herjavec
I discovered ABC’s show Shark Tank accidentally on one of the television channels and after the first episode, it was kind of settled that I would watch the next one and reruns of the episodes that I had missed. After dedicating a significant part of my youthful years to watching many reality shows on television—Indian Idol, Bigg Boss, Master Chef among others, I had pretty much moved on till I discovered Shark Tank. Let’s just say, I fell for it, hook line and sinker because here was a reality show, a competition that was about entrepreneurs and their creativity, business acumen and of course, their pitch and presentation to the formidable jury. Not the stuff that is common in reality shows.
Adapted from a popular show called Dragon’s Den that originated in Japan and then spread to countries like Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Spain, and Afghanistan among others, Shark Tank has turned into a very popular show in America too. Like most reality shows, the charm of Shark Tank too, rests heavily on its jury or Sharks, as they are fittingly called. These sharks are business mavens, American millionaires known for their personal success stories.
The early Sharks include Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O’ Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec with special guests over progressive seasons that include investors and entrepreneurs like Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher, Richard Branson and Rohan Oza among others. The format is rather clean-cut and simple which works well given the complicated nature of what’s on play.
Participants, who have been shortlisted come in, make their pitch and convince the sharks to invest in their business. If not done smartly, with the right amount of drama and suspense this could have been a pedantic bore like watching paint dry but the makers really up the ante by not only allowing the participants but also getting the sharks to compete against each other. There are nail-biting moments when you think a participant is going to seal the deal only to realize that these sharp investors are not easy customers. They can sniff out a good business from a bad one and their brief but probing questions speedily give you an inkling of the pitch that will hold and one that will fold. The editing is sharp, cutting down the pitch to shorter segments—an episode usually has 3-4 pitches—so things keep moving, although a fan site of the show says that a typical pitch could last for an hour or more.
Apart from the many innovative and smart business ideas snapped up by the Sharks, there are many socially-conscious projects that are picked up by the Sharks, for example, Rethink-an anti-cyberbullying software created by Trisha Prabhu from Illinois when she was all of 14. She started working on the project when she heard of a young girl who had committed suicide because of cyberbullying. (Season 8).
There are also many that depend heavily on research and development and would not be easily backed by conventional investors, for example, Dreampad, a company that created a pillow with built-in sound technology that plays music through vibration to help people fall asleep faster. These are just two but multiple products that have appeared on the show have gone on to become a great success like the Moki car doorstep—a detachable car step devised to reach the car roof, FishCall-a floating device designed to attract fish, Tangle Pets—hairbrushes for children, Fizzics, a beer pouring system—the list is quite an impressive one.
A good story of struggle, innovation or entrepreneurship coupled with a smart product and a sound valuation of the business with clarity on revenue-earning potential is the key to getting the sharks interested although occasionally they drop a surprise by rejecting a good proposal because it’s in the early stages or too whimsical or has little scalability. Poor attitude does not help either.
Now many years later, Shark Tank has completed multiple seasons- Season 1 to Season 10 are now available for viewing on Amazon Prime. What is remarkable is that despite the familiar format the show holds your interest, introducing minor tweak. For instance, newer episodes have updates on the businesses acquired earlier by the sharks, particularly those doing well. Occasionally, there are also updates on some who were rejected by the Sharks. What works big time is the authenticity factor and the positivity that the show augurs.
At this juncture when everyone has been forced to cut back on daily activities, things can seem quite frustrating and the future bleak what with the forecast of a big downturn in the economy and so on. Shark Tank then is the perfect antidote to those utilizing the time to think ahead, explore a variety of opportunities that this crisis may offer. Time, after all, as the old adage goes, is money.