While the people making a honey substitute have no problem securing a deal with the Sharks, the same can't be said for other would-be wheeler-dealers appearing on this week's episode.
Chris Sacca makes his triumphant return to Shark Tank tonight, so you're probably bracing yourself for eleventy-dozen references to Uber being forced into the conversation. You know, your honey substitute reminds me of how Uber is a substitute for taxis and how we're getting a whole lot of buzz. Well, the joke's on you, because Chris Sacca doesn't mention Uber at all on tonight's show. Did I just wreak havoc on your expectations?
Another surprise tonight, though I'll concede it pales next to the shock of Chris Sacca refraining from saying the U-word: Not many people got deals in this episode. In fact, apart from some nice ladies who've come up with a honey substitute, every entrepreneur appearing on this edition of Shark Tank walked away empty-handed. To make sense of this episode's carnage, let's rank the pitches, counting down to who most deserved to get frog-marched out of the building without a gigantic novelty check in tow.
5. BeeFree Honee
Katie Sanchez and Melissa Elms have the rare Shark Tank pitch that hits on multiple fronts. Their honey substitute -- named "Honee" in the spirit of The Simpsons's malk ("now with vitamin R!") -- is cheaper than organic honey, satisfies the demands of even the fussiest vegan, and reduces the strain on bees, who are dying off with the rapidity of Spinal Tap drummers. It takes 60,000 bees to produce one pound of honey, but Katie and Melissa can pull off the same task with a bunch of apples, some lemon juice, and cane sugar. And unless the Sharks have gotten really good at suppressing their gag reflexes, Honee tastes like the real deal.
Daymond John, whom viewers of lesser-quality spinoffs will remember is mad into beekeeping, wants in. He's willing to put up $100,000 for 25 percent -- a bit more than the 10 percent Katie and Melissa wanted to give up -- but only if there's more of an effort to change the label to read something along the lines of "Note: Doesn't Kill Bees." Chris Sacca, who does not take this opportunity to remind us that he invested in Uber, would like to make a deal, but with other Sharks involved. Mark Cuban appoints himself spokesman for the group -- he, Sacca, and Barbara Corcoran will come in on the deal, with each putting up $70,000 for a 10 percent stake. That's a total of $210,000, with Katie and Melissa giving up 30 percent to their triple-headed hydra of a business partner.
"Imagine the conference call," Daymond snorts, as Mark, Chris, and Barbara haggle over the details of the deal. But Katie and Melissa take it, as Daymond looks for all the world like a man wondering if he can unleash the power of his bee colony to deliver a horrible vengeance on those that have wronged him.
This week's Where Are They Now segment catches up with the fellows who struck a deal with Mark Cuban for their smart lightbulb back in Season 5. That's allowed Ilumi to go from a pre-revenue company to one that sleeps on giant stacks of revenue surrounded by supermodels. This segment is only interesting to me because it was filmed at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. You can tell it's before the CES showfloor has opened to the public because the aisles are uncrowded and nobody looks like they're yearning for death. That latter feeling grips just about everyone by Wednesday at the latest.
3. Float Baby
Amy Poehler appears on the show in her most cunning disguise to date. She's claiming to be "Kristi Ison" and she's touting the merits of flotation and massage for wee babies. If the video she's prepared is anything to go by, this involves strapping the babies into some sort of flotation device and having them bob around a tank while they look confused as all hell. Amy...er, "Kristi" suggests there are all sorts of health and developmental benefits to this, and I'd be inclined to believe her, were it not for the fact that my daughter spent the first year of her life screaming as if she were being dipped in acid whenever we bathed her. So I guess I'm not a client.
It's the lack of sales growth, not shrieking babies, that are putting the Sharks off. Kristi's business did $44,000 in revenue its first year, inching up to $60,000 by year two. Kristi wants $150,000 to buy deeper tanks, but the real problem, as Mark Cuban sees it, is that she's not really maximizing the resources she already has.
And that pretty much sums up the Sharks' entire reluctance to give Kristi what she's asking -- her business doesn't offer them enough return on investment. Oh, it might be different if she were selling the inflatable devices, but this is essentially a service, and we all know how those tend to pan out on Shark Tank. Kristi walks away without a deal, but at least she can live off those Parks & Recreation residuals for a while.
A Shark Tank favorite: the product that solves a problem that really doesn't trouble anyone. And in the case of SmartPlate, we're talking about a product that really doesn't solve that non-existent problem, to boot. What Martin Dell'arciprete has created is a plate with a built-in scale and cameras that can automatically register just what it is you're shoveling into your gaping maw; the plate then comes up with an accurate calorie count. The idea is that SmartPlate takes the tedium out of manually entering your dietary information into an app, and it works great, right up until the moment it doesn't. Since SmartPlate can't distinguish between specific cooking oils and since you're unlikely to tote your $199 plate to restaurants, you're right back to manually entering your dietary data like a common animal.
The Sharks pick up on all these issues, essentially concluding that the photo-recognition capabilities Martin is boasting about are the real value here and not the plate itself. "The plate is a crutch," Chris Sacca says, in what is probably the most salient thing to ever leave his lips that does not involve Uber. But since Martin seems wed to the plate concept and the Sharks are put off by how overly reliant SmartPlate is on outside design firms, there's no way this company is getting the $1 million it wanted for a 15 percent stake. A pity, too, because I was totally looking forward to being judged by my dinner plate.
You know how we occasionally get appearances on Shark Tank from businesses that have no intention of striking a deal, but reason that a network-TV appearance will provide a bump to their business? It's hard to shake the conclusion that this was the case with MTailor, a murkily defined operation that somehow is supposed to be worth a $2.5 million investment for a 10 percent stake.
The concept behind MTailor is promising, at least: You shoot a picture of yourself with your mobile device and send it on to MTailor, which provides custom-tailored shirts for around half of what you'd pay if you went to an actual tailor. The company's problem is its revenue growth -- thanks to supply-chain problems, it's only going to hit $1.1 million for the year, which is 50 percent off from where it was projected to be. You can imagine how Kevin reacts to that news.
Nevertheless, Daymond is willing to put up some money -- $2.5 million for a 17.5 percent stake, which MTailor's Miles Penn doesn't hesitate to decline. Well, how about one of Kevin O'Leary's venture debt deals? In this case, Kevin's proposing a $2.5 million loan at 7 percent interest, plus a 2.5 percent stake in the company. That offer also won't work for Miles, and by this time, all the Sharks were out, which Miles doesn't seem all that torn up by.
"Please just go away," Daymond says, after everyone's time has been wasted. A pity he waits until the closing credits, or it might have saved us another lackluster episode.