Kevin O'Leary Sees The Light On Shark Tank
The Grinchiest Shark of them all has his heart grow three sizes in this episode, as a semi-holiday-themed installment sees him finally striking some deals.
There's a popular story that gets trotted out this time of year, about a miserly old scoundrel whose love of money over everything else has shriveled his heart. Then, just before Christmas, he's convinced to change his ways, rejecting his tightfistedness to rejoin the brotherhood of man.
Yes, it's quite the redemption arc for Kevin O'Leary.
After all, throughout this season of Shark Tank, I'm sure you've been as fascinated by I have by Kevin's ongoing inability to seal any sort of deal -- at least not without dragging other Sharks in on a project to compensate for his undersupply of goodwill. Was Kevin's Scrooge-like persona getting in the way of his ability to get deals done? Your guess is as good as mine. But just when it looked like we would need three spirits to intervene on Kevin's behalf if he ever had any hope of making an investment again, he went and inked two deals in this week's episode. Talk about your Christmas miracles.
And since this episode is ostensibly holiday-themed -- if you consider the aroma of all-natural deodorant to be on par with that of chestnuts roasting on an open fire -- let's rank the pitches in order of how well they contributed to my overall seasonal jollification.
Maybe you reached this final segment of Shark Tank tonight and thought "What the hell is this pitch about fancy-pants deodorant doing at the tail-end of a holiday-themed Shark Tank?" Well, you keep Christmas in your way, Clem, and the producers of Shark Tank will keep it in theirs. And their way is to have Jess Edelstein and Sarah Ribner come on and talk up how they've created a safer alternative to chemical deodorants, without offering much in the way of evidence to support their claim other than earnest assurances.
After the Sharks are invited to smell the armpit of a lady who's been exercising all day with only the PiperWai product standing between her and unbearable stinkiness -- and really, that comes across as awkward as it probably just read -- all the boy Sharks drop out, leaving Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner to battle over who's going to give Jess and Sarah the $50,000 they're looking for. Barbara tells the PiperWai ladies that she believes in them, but since she's asking for a third of the company instead of the 10% Jess and Sarah are looking to sell off, she must not believe in them that much. Lori counters with a $50,000-for-35% offer, arguing that PiperWai is going to need a lot of help from her to grow the business. Jess and Sarah would prefer only to part with a quarter of their company. Lori rejects that out of hand, and so does Barbara initially, until some hemming and hawing from Sarah seemingly convinces Barbara to totally abandon the hardline stance she took just fifteen seconds earlier.
As it turns out, Barbara has decided to cave on the equity because of her burning desire to beat Lori, which seems kind of...stupid? I mean, who among us hasn't dreamed of grinding Lori to dust under our boot heel, but there are better ways to spend $50,000 than on a deodorant that may or may not do everything its creators claim.
If that Ziggy greeting card you were thinking of getting your loved one to mark yet another birthday seems a tad impersonal, why not turn to the lads at Lovepop for an artisanally crafted card? John Wise and Wombi Rose are taking the design know-how they learned from ship-building school and coupling it with their Harvard Business School acumen -- none of what I've just told you is a lie -- to create intricately designed greeting cards that tap into what Wombi calls "the human need to connect."
If that sounds like a bunch of touchy-feely argle-bargle, then the $300,000 they've grabbed in sales puts the demand for their product in cold, hard reality. Still, the Sharks are reluctant to get involved: Barbara thinks Lovepop's trying to grow things too fast, Lori's not a fan of its $3 million valuation, and Mark sees too much risk in the mall kiosk-based approach that John and Wombi are hung up on.
But Kevin...Kevin looks at John and Wombi and sees two anthropomorphized dollar signs, particularly when he thinks about all the wedding-centric businesses he's managed to collect over the years. And Kevin's going to meet any price to bring LovePop into his matrimonial-focused fold. When Robert Herjavec bids $300,000 for 20% of the LovePop business, Kevin matches that offer (after Robert spurns him as a partner, it must be said). And when John and Wombi think that maybe the equity stake should be lowered to 15%, Kevin joins Robert in agreeing to that demand. And so it comes down to Robert -- who professes his love for the LovePop kiosk model -- and Kevin, who talks up all the customers who can bring to the business. John and Wombi, who have a chance to do business with someone who is decidedly not Kevin, end up accepting Kevin's offer. It's the right choice, but that doesn't shake the whole day-is-night-up-is-down feeling inspired by Kevin winning a deal on merit.
I will be the first to tell you that I don't care for untangling strands of Christmas lights and then stringing them around the tree in an ever-dizzying array of loops. Still, I'm not sure that it's worth paying $500 to have Brad Boyink solve my problem with his GeekMyTree strand of animated glow-balls. Brad's lights cost $299 for a starter kit, plus another $200 for an expansion pack that ensures that you actually have enough lights to illuminate a conventionally sized tree. I don't care if Brad's lights blink in different patterns or that he's looking to add professionally synchronized musical sequences as a feature to his lights. I am not going to pay $500 to light up something I toss to the curb the minute the Rose Bowl wraps up. Kevin calls the product "ridiculously expensive" and for once, he's not being needlessly cruel.
All the Sharks drop out, citing either the insane price of GeekMyTree or the fact that this is a niche business at best -- all, except for Kevin, who's intrigued by the idea of a $225,000 investment ramping up production so that the overall cost of the product can come down. With no Sharks left to possibly temper his asking price, Kevin asks for half of the GeekMyTree business. Brad asks if maybe he'll go down to 40%, but Kevin's not about to pull a Barbara on this one. It's 50% or it's no deal. It's a deal, Brad says, and gosh darn it if Kevin hasn't turned out to be the best option twice tonight.
1. Beard Head
David Stankunas has the cure for those biting wintertime winds: it's a hand-knitted beanie with a detachable beard that doubles as a facemask. Apparently, this product was conceived in a world where scarves and ski masks have been banned by an authoritarian government. David's business is obviously geared toward seasonal sales, though he hopes to expand into the sports market, with fake beards that come in your team's favorite colors for the fan who has long since given up on the notion of dignity.
David's more pressing concern is that his novelty headwear may be too much of a novelty, since his sales dipped last year. David blames that on a costly lawsuit with a competitor -- which, not surprisingly, fails to assuage the Sharks. They're not about to invest in this business, not even Robert, who does not miss the opportunity to gas on about Tipsy Elves once more. But Beard Head's sales have spiked and flatlined, Robert notes, which is the only data point he's really interested in.
Wait, did a company pitching a totally unnecessary product just walk away from Shark Tank without securing a deal? That's an even bigger miracle than Kevin getting his mojo back. God bless us, every one.