And The Bland Played On During Shark Tank
The maker of a pair of headphones designed to lower decibels without impacting sound quality walks aways without a deal on this episode. But that's not a bad thing when Chris Sacca is sitting in one of the guest chairs.
Hey, it's been a tough day, man. Tough week even. But at least the unending parade of horrors can take a knee for the rest of the evening, and you and I can turn on our favorite reality-based program and maybe enjoy a few minutes of respite, as big-talking Sharks toss around six-figure sums like dimes nickels rolling around lesser people's pockets. Yes, maybe Shark Tank will be just the thing to snap us out of our dour reverie.
[turns on Shark Tank, sees Chris Sacca staring back at him]
You know what? You go to hell, Shark Tank.
Well, since Shark Tank's notion of reviving our spirits apparently involves bringing the cowboy shirt-wearing dude who's always "Once Upon a Timing" us about some companies he invested in way back when, I guess it's up to us to turn our own frowns upside down. So let's rank tonight's Shark Tank participants on who came away with the best deal, even if that turned out to be no deal at all.
I'm going to guess John Staff and Pete Davis watch a lot of Tiny House Hunters and have bought into the premise that living in a compact hovel is a trend that's sweeping the nation. Because what they've done with their Getaway business is promise you your very own tiny house in the woods that you can book for $99 a night whenever you want to unplug from your hectic go-go city life. I say this as someone who regularly heads out to national parks -- I mean, you have to before they're sold off to the highest bidder — but this entire premise sounds like the setup to a story that concludes with "... and then the city-folk were never heard from again."
The real horror story, at least according to the Sharks, is the valuation. John and Pete want $500,000 for 5 percent of the company, which is a $10 million valuation on a company with properties limited to the outskirts of Boston and New York. Ah, but John and Pete want to expand, which is why they think the $300,000 in revenue they're expecting this year will grow to $2.1 million next year. The counterpoint to that counterpoint, Mark Cuban notes, is that the properties Getaway maintains will depreciate over time and these two cats will constantly need capital to keep everything up to snuff.
Still, Kevin's willing to do a loan, offering John and Peter $500,000 for the next three years at 11 percent interest; for his troubles, he also wants a 2.5 percent stake in the company. Whatever you feel about that deal, at least it's an offer -- Mark, Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner all drop out quickly, and Barbara's disinterest has to sting, since she's the real estate expert here. Chris feigns interest, and when John and Peter indicate their willingness to do a deal with anyone who isn't Kevin, Kevin puts them on a 10-second timer to accept his loan. They do not, and Sacca's the only Shark remaining.
John and Pete note that they're meeting with very important venture capitalists who have no problem at all with a $12 to $15 million valuation. After wondering where he ranks on the Very Important Venture Capitalist Scale, Sacca's willing to do a deal on the terms that Getaway's previous investors got, which would give him a 7.14 percent stake for his $500,000. That deal wouldn't sit too well with Getaway's existing investors, so John and Pete take a pass. It's just as well because we've already had far too many Friday the 13th sequels.
3. PopUp Play
From what I can gather, Amelia Cosgrove and Bryan Thomas think that kids are spending too much time consuming content and not enough time creating it. So they've invented an app where you can go in and design a cool-looking play area that gets printed up and shipped to your home -- basically an on-demand playset that your children have designed. So that means PopUp Play is a toy company, right? Wrong, idiot. Not only are they not in the toy business, as Bryan explains, PopUp Play is really a "platform to enable custom on-demand design." Sounds like a lot of fun for the kiddies.
To be fair, though, PopUp Play's revenue backs up this babble. The company's tallied $330,000 in revenue over the last 11 months, though $30,000 of that can be attributed to one customer (an unnamed automaker). The Sharks do not find this disclosure particularly reassuring, especially given that Amelia and Bryan think a 6 percent stake in their company is worth $250,000. Let the sound of Sharks fleeing the scene disabuse you of that notion, guys.
One Shark who doesn't drop out is Chris Sacca, who will be willing to do a deal on the same terms as PopUp Play's previous investors who bought in at a $3 million valuation. That sounds perfectly fine to Amelia and Bryan, both of whom apparently realize what a bird in the hand is worth. Good luck to you, Chris Sacca, and whatever it is you just invested in, because I sure as hell have no idea.
"If we can get people excited about eating bugs, we can put bugs in all sorts of foods," is the kind of thing you'd expect a supervillain to say to her minions. But in this case it's Laura D'Asaro, who, with business partner Rose Wang, wants the Sharks to invest in a project that integrates crickets into snack food. To be fair, Laura said this while wearing a bug costume, so it's possible that she is, in fact, a supervillain.
Supervillain or no, Laura and Rose do have a point: crickets are a ridiculously sustainable form of protein enjoyed in all corners of the world, save for ours becasue ewwwwwwwwwww. What Laura and Rose have done is integrate a lone cricket into a bag of chips for a high protein snack. That's put them on track for $200,000 in sales this year, with revenue skyrocketing to $1.5 million the year after. Apparently, they've got some deals lined up, they tell the Sharks, who are a little bit skeptical about that sales trajectory.
Mark Cuban, who has invested in a lot of high-protein food businesses over the years, is intrigued and willing to give them the $100,000 they want, but in exchange for 20 percent of the business; Laura and Rose only wanted to part with 7 percent. Still, Lori thinks that's such a good deal, she drops out entirely. Before Chris Sacca can open his mouth -- and God bless Mark for cutting off Chris Sacca -- Mark suggests that maybe the two women would like to make a counteroffer. They would, to the tune of 15 percent for $100,000. Sold, says Mark, and the lack of drama in this segment is more than made up for by the lack of Sacca.
Jackson Mann wants to build the world a better earplug, one that instead of muffling sound merely reduces its decibel levels while retaining sound quality. And I have to tell you, this is literally just pops and whistles to me, as I have substantial hearing loss in one ear to the point where everything sounds muffled to me, earplugs or no. A few years back, U2 was brought on as the surprise musical act at a tech gig I was covering, and to me, their number sounded a lot like Miss Othmar from the Charlie Brown specials had formed a pop band. So I'm not a customer, is what I'm saying.
The Sharks like how the earplugs work, particularly when Jackson brings out a brass band to deafen his would-be patrons. What they don't like is the $23.99 price tag. Kevin whips out a pair of rival earplugs -- because of course, the future prime minister of Canada totes around his own earplugs -- and notes that his pair are much cheaper than what Jackson is selling.
The Sharks have other concerns. Chris Sacca thinks the point when you may buy earplugs is too far removed from when you might actually think, "I need earplugs to drown out Bono's caterwauling," so he's out. Neither Barbara nor Lori is terribly impressed, and Mark is put off by the pricing. That leaves Kevin, who's perfectly happy to take a royalty for his $100,000 investment -- say, $2 on every pair sold until he makes his money back plus another 35 percent in equity. Jackson makes it clear he's not the least bit interested in an equity deal, so he walks away from Shark Tank. Not unwisely, I hasten to add.
"When you come out with a version that filters out Kevin," Sacca begins, as if everyone watching weren't thinking the exact same thing about him.