Shark Tank? More Like Shout Tank, Am I Right?
With six Sharks crowding the stage, no one can get a word in edgewise, least of all the people there to ask the Sharks for money.
You know what's a failed experiment? I mean besides participatory democracy, silly. That's right -- stuffing all six Sharks onto the stage for a single episode of Shark Tank. We saw this in the season premiere when every Shark talked over one another and very little time was spent on the products themselves since every Shark had to get their screentime, like the individual musicians getting their solos in a 1970s supergroup.
"How can we possibly make this worse?" one producer must have asked another. "I know!" the other replied. "Let's invite on a bunch of would-be entrepreneurs who never stop talking either so that our show becomes an hour-long wall of noise." Then, presumably, they celebrated with cocaine, as I'm sure all Hollywood producers do.*
* Except for you especially litigious Hollywood producers. You guys are fabulous.
"The longer the backstory, the worse the deal," an exasperated Mark Cuban sighs at one point when one contestant will...not...stop...talking. Cubes and I rarely see eye to eye, but on this subject, he is on point. So let us count down tonight's Shark Tank pitches in the order of people who couldn't stick to saying 10 words when 50 might do.
4. Style Club
A grateful tip of that hat to Hillary Novelle Hahn, then, for sparing us any tedious backstory and getting straight down to business with her Style Club concern. I mean, all this talk of a "multi-platform shopping experience" is just pops and whistles to my eyes -- I detest shopping and I'm not altogether fond of platforms either -- but at least it's pops and whistles in service of a larger goal.
Hillary has created a fashion line that appeals to the younglings, and she's got an army of influencers pushing her hats and jackets on the youth of America. More importantly, she has an exclusive deal with Urban Outfitters, though that is proving to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, that's helped Style Club rack up $400,000 in sales over the last three to four months; on the other, it makes Style Club very dependent on Urban Outfitters to keep that cash coming.
It's a little too dependent for Kevin O'Leary's taste, and he drops out. Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec follow suit, all citing some variation on the theme that Hillary's business is a little too early stage to get $500,000 for a 20 percent stake. None of this deters Daymond John, who's willing to put up that half a mil, but only if he gets a third of the company in return. Meanwhile, Mark's offer is to put out that $500,000 as a line of credit at 8 percent interest, with him getting a 22 percent stake for his troubles. Giving up less equity for a chance to work with noted teen fashion impresario Mark Cuban? Where does Hillary sign?
Bad news, gents: The ladies of America have apparently had it up to here with you and your thoughtful gift of flowers. "Ugh, flowers, again?" the ladies of America are apparently saying when we're not around. "Why not try getting me something that won't die, chump?"
The source of this insight into the feminine mind is Megan Bowman, and the something that won't die happens to be her product, which are flowers made out of paper and burlap and bamboo. It sounds, frankly, like something you'd find urchins selling outside of Victorian factories -- "Buy one of me paper flowers, guv'nah? Only a haypenny for the bunch." -- but Megan can point to $2.8 million dollars in sales over the last year and a half, so what the hell do I know? A lot of decrepit Hoovervilles must be decorating more than I thought.
Megan has a habit of swatting away any possible concern the Sharks may have about her business. When Lori suggests that there's a lot of competition out there in the fake flower business and Kevin points out that people at weddings tend to like real live flowers, Megan's all, "Noooooooope." But her real misstep was in giving away too much equity before she ever set foot on Shark Tank -- 25 percent to the initial investor who helped get EcoFlower off the ground, and another 50 percent to a couple other fellows. Now she's talking about parting with 10 percent more for $400,000, and at this rate, her company won't even be her company any more. In fact, the only offer she gets is from Daymond, who would like 25 percent of his own, please. That means Megan would go from owner to employee in less time than it takes a bouquet of flowers to die.
Fortunately, Megan has a counter offer. Each of her partners are willing to give up 5 percent, giving Daymond 20 percent of the company. That means everyone will get an equal share as we embrace the living flower-free future that stretches out before us like a bleak, foreboding desert.
Sean Wittenberg and Bryan Boches seem like nice guys with a badly needed product -- it's a machine that can quickly and cost-effectively diagnose when tuna has too much mercury in it. But boy, do they not know how to adjust their sales pitch on the fly.
Case in point: Because the fishing industry has been loath to adopt their machine -- "The mercury is the tastiest part," one imagines a fishing industry magnate saying while motioning for his thugs to smash the SafeCatch machine -- Sean and Bryan are getting into the canned tuna business themselves, selling a line of pricey (though not excessively) canned tuna that's guaranteed not to turn you into a walking sack of mercury the next time you crave a tuna melt.
This is all very interesting, Mark says, but you are actually a technology company, so why don't you tell me more about your technology? We would love to, Sean and Bryan reply, but first here are some PowerPoint decks about the exciting opportunities in canned tuna. The resulting look from Mark could probably melt cans of tuna.
The bigger problem is that a lot of money's been sunk into this business -- $14 million initially -- and it's losing about $70,000 a month at this point. Each of the Sharks decides in his/her own way that they would not like their money to join that mass exodus, and Sean and Bryan walk away with no deal. "We never really got our vision across and how big our market is," Bryan says in a post-game interview. Perhaps more PowerPoint decks might have helped.
Kash Shaikh is on hand to promote...well, God, I'm not exactly sure. There's an app -- there's always an app -- and you tell the app what you like and it suggests things that you can do and Kash's business gets a 20 percent cut out of this somehow. But Kash is adamant that what he's actually doing is building a "movement" and he yells quite a bit and throws in a freestyle rap about how he's created the world's first experience marketplace and am I in church? No, Kash just described the people who provide those experiences as "passionaries," so I am definitely not in church. I may, in fact, be in hell.
All's I know is, at one point, Kash suggests that Robert could book classes through Kash's hashtag-bedecked business to learn how to become a ninja, and then the ninja rolls into the Shark Tank studio on a giant tire. This seems a very unstealthy way for a ninja to appear, but I don't have a hashtag so clearly I know very little about the ways of business or ninja-ing.
At any rate, boy do the Sharks not like Kash. Mark is openly hostile and Barbara calls him abrasive. Kash's response to any question from the Sharks is to launch into some sort of epic poem about passion, which only irritates the Sharks more. Daymond's perfectly legitimate question about liability lawsuits is met with a rather facile answer along the lines of "Well, why do you think I'm asking you guys for $1 million?" Anyway, we will cut to the chase -- which is more than Kash is capable of doing, apparently -- and tell you that he does not get a deal. I'm pretty certain the Sharks refused to validate his parking just on principle.