Shark Tank Asks, 'What's It All About, Algae?'
And the answer is, it's about filling time between commercial breaks, as someone with no hope in hell of a deal is allowed to flail around while the Sharks twiddle their thumbs, waiting for a real business to come along.
Sometimes, you just know that a person who strides on to the Shark Tank set will be striding off it without a deal in short order. Usually, your clue is when The Strings Of Whimsy begin to pluck on the show's soundtrack right as the pitch begins and before the cameras can cut away to the Sharks making "Get a load of this character" faces. But sometimes, it becomes more readily apparent from the get-go that the poor saps ushered out onto Shark Tank's set are only wasting their breath and our time.
Such is the case with Catharine Arnston, who arrives on the show to convince the Sharks to get in on the ground floor of the algae supplement craze that is most decidedly not sweeping the nation. All the signs that this not a going concern are there on display, from the out-of-whack valuation -- Catharine figures her business is worth $10 million because...well, everything's worth something, isn't it? -- to the pseudo-science claims about algae's efficacy in staving off cancer, to the paltry sales figures. (Catharine's EnergyBits business has racked up a grand total of $1.5 million in sales over six years, which, coincidentally, is about how long this segment on Shark Tank feels like it lasts.) And yet, some producer felt it was worth our time to parade out this person who had no hope of ever landing a deal, unless one of the Sharks decided to chase their algae supplements with a bracing gulp or two of scotch.
If this seems cruel, consider this loosely paraphrased one-act play I've entitled How To Not Succeed At Shark Tank Business Without Really Trying:
DAYMOND JOHN: Could someone be allergic to it?
CATHARINE: Well, everybody buys product liability insurance.
DAYMOND JOHN: So you have product liability insurance.
CATHARINE: Well, we don't have it because we haven't been able to afford it.
Full credit to the Sharks after hearing that exchange for not running from the studio screaming.
Anyhow, let's count down tonight's would-be Shark Tank deals starting with who was most likely to land themselves a deal with one of the Sharks. The No. 1 slot may surprise you, if you suffered a debilitating stroke at any point during the last three paragraphs.
C'mon -- you knew these guys were getting a deal. I mean, they brought puppies for everyone.
So we can dive deep into the whys and wherefores of Ben and Ariel Zavifler's business -- they send a monthly box to puppy owners at $30 to $40 per pop that includes products, treat and tips. They have $585,000 in sales over the two years they've been in business, and they're on track to tally $800,000 this year as they move into profitability. They also have an annoying tendency to call pets "furbabies" -- a term that tends to send me, a person who helped raise an actual baby, spiraling into blinding rage.
But you know what? They wheeled out a wagon full of puppies. Robert Herjavec even went and formed a shield composed entirely of puppies. These guys are probably all right.
In fact, they are so all right, they can entertain three offers. Kevin O'Leary wants to give them $250,000 for 20 percent, about double the equity Ben and Ariel were looking to give up. Daymond raises the stakes higher with a 25 percent offer, but he figures he's worth it, given his ties to pet store chains like Petsmart and Petco. Robert, still ensconced in puppies, undercuts them with a 15 percent offer. And after a bunch of needless chatter in which everyone talks over everyone else -- good Lord, is this becoming a problem on Shark Tank -- Ben and Ariel finally take Robert's offer because duh.
3. Line Cutterz
Vance Zahorski comes on with the kind of a product that usually does pretty well on Shark Tank. It's a ring that allows fishermen to easily cut through fishing lines without also inadvertently lopping off any extremities. Indeed, Vance's ring demos very well, as he cuts through a fishing line that's used to haul in Sharks the way you or I might cut through coupons in the Sunday paper.
So what's standing between Vance and the $120,000 he's looking for to help with marketing and inventory? Well, for starters, it's not an entirely unique product, as Robert recalls his dad using something similar back in the day. Also, there's that awkward moment when Vance hails Robert as a fellow Pole, despite the fact that hardly a Shark Tank episode goes by without someone reminding us that Robert's from Croatia originally. I mean, Google says it's only an 11-and-a-half-hour drive between the two countries, requiring you to pass through Slovenia, Austria and the Czech Republic before you pull into Poland, but otherwise the two countries are practically neighbors.
Anyhow, Daymond is interested in making an offer, but not for the 20 percent Vance wants. Instead, Daymond wants 40 percent. Mark has already dropped out, since he's not that in to fishing, and both Kevin and Lori Greiner take a pass after learning that Vance balked at a deal with Walmart that would have required him to cut down the retail price of his product. That leaves only Daymond, who's suddenly not in a mood to field counteroffers. Nevertheless, after making like his 40 percent deal would be his last, best and final, Daymond finally caves when Vance inches up his spate of counter-offers to 33 percent. There will be much rejoicing on the Croatian-Polish border tonight, I can tell you.
2. Barbell Apparel
Hunter Molzen and Alex Hanson are so swoll that they can't always find clothes that fit them comfortably or flatteringly. I can sympathize. Not because I am a muscle-bound Adonis, mind you, but rather because God in His wisdom has fitted me with an oddly proportioned body so that when I head down to the local Kohl's, there's maybe one pair of pants tailored to my exact proportions. So if Hunter and Alex want to make denim, chinos, and shorts for people with legs like mighty tree trunks, more power to them, I say.
Unfortunately, Hunter and Alex have let their sales -- $2.3 million this year, and a growth rate that will land them between $3 and $4 million next year -- swell their valuation just like regular exercise has swollen their arms and legs. They think the company's worth $10 million, since they want $500,000 for just a 5 percent stake.
One by one, the Sharks hightail it. Daymond doesn't like the fact that they specialize in denim -- he likes his clothing plays to be something that people are inclined to replace after a few months of heavy use. Mark fears someone could undercut Barbell Apparel, while Robert and Kevin both see cash exiting the business at a rapid clip. Everyone's out, and if only Barbell Apparel had been sensibly appraised, this all could have been avoided.
Well, I mean, we all saw this coming, right?
"The company is growing so fast, and we have so many opportunities coming our way so quickly, I don't need to convince anyone," Catharine Arnston says in her Shark Tank exit interview immediately after she tried -- and failed -- to convince people. "If they can't see it, then that's unfortunate for them," she concludes, which is certainly a unique perspective on a business that's lost money for a half-dozen years. Then again, in our current fact-free world, that kind of thinking might put Catharine in line for a cabinet post in our new administration, so I for one welcome the future Secretary of Commerce and Algae.