Shark Tank Needs A Lift
Daymond John may get a little pick-me-up from an overjoyed body builder, but where's the helpful meaty hand to lead the rest of us through this confusing episode?
I'm going to lay my cards on the table for you folks. Tonight's Shark Tank left me in a stupor. And I don't even have the excuse of gulping wine out of a sippy cup like some Sharks I could name. Instead, this is simply an episode where I have no idea why the Sharks cut the deals they end up cutting.
I say this with all measure of humility. The Sharks, for all the laughs we have at their expense 'round these parts, have a certain degree of business acumen. They are all wealthy investors. In contrast, I most certainly am not. I consider it a sign of my crafty deal-making when I remember to bring coupons to the grocery store before they expire.
And yet, watching this episode I found myself bellowing at the TV: what are you doing, Sharks? You're giving that guy money? Why is the Shark Tank Flashback segment once again the most engaging part of the show? (Actually, that's not a mystery. You send Kevin O'Leary to Fargo, North Dakota in the dead of winter -- and you throw in Fargo homages to boot -- and I don't care that this is usually my least favorite segment of the show. I'm in.)
So tonight, let's rank these Shark Tank pitches from the ones that had me looking around helplessly for an adult to explain things to me to the ones that finally managed to cut through my mental fog for a brief, blessed moment of bracing lucidity. And, yes, bonus points if your segment involved people ganging up on Kevin.
4. LocTote Industrial Bag
Don Halpren and his boy ward Adam McBride are selling a lockable drawstring backpack that's so durable, it can survive downpours, thwart thieves armed with RFID scanners, and even flummox boxcutter-wielding assailants who are slashing through conventional drawstring backpacks to get at the goodies inside. Oh, you did not know that our police stations were jammed with people whose drawstring backpacks have been slashed open by emboldened criminals? Then you must not have read all about it in The Journal of Things You Need To Be Concerned About.
What you should be concerned about is the $179 price tag for one of these bags -- at least if you're a Shark being asked to pony up $150,000 for a 5% stake. There's some talk from Don and Adam about producing a lower-cost bag that's not nearly so durable, though wouldn't that defeat the entire raison d'etre for this product? Also, there's much touting of money raised on crowdfunding sites, as if that's to be conflated with establishing recurring sales.
For a bit, the Sharks seem as confused about all this as I am, as they drop out in droves. At this point, Don interrupts with the "Did I mention I've been diagnosed with cancer" revelation, and while we certainly wish him all the good fortune in the world at getting treatment, this seems not exactly relevant to the funding question at hand. Indeed, by now, we're down to Kevin, who's not about to allow sentiment stand between him and a royalty deal. So he proposes giving Don and Adam $150,000 for a 10% stake, but he also wants a $10 royalty on every bag sold until he's made back $450,000.
Don clearly does not like the royalty aspect of the deal, and there's a lot of one-way counteroffers because, as it turns out, Kevin is very happy with the thought of getting royalties. Eventually, Don suggests maybe cutting off the royalty after the initial $150,000 is recouped, and Robert Herjavec -- previously out on this deal -- jumps right back in to snipe it away from Kevin on those terms. At least we all get a cruel chuckle at Kevin's expense if we're not exactly sure why.
3. Booty Queen Apparel
We spend an awful lot of time in this segment talking about Amanda Lutona Kuclo's hiney. This is not because everyone involved in Shark Tank is actually a perv -- or, at least, not any more than usual. It's just that the business of Booty Queen Apparel seems to be entirely focused on Amanda Lutona Kuclo's behind.
That's because Amanda, a fitness model, has developed quite the following on social media among people who enjoy staring at her hinder. And Amanda and husband Steve have wisely decided to profit off that by coming out with a line of fitness apparel that will also present your bottom in a flattering way. That you are not sporting Ms. Lutona Kuclo's posterior would seem to negate the benefit of buying those particular rear-hugging pants, but $375,000 in sales over 18 months is nothing to sneeze at, particularly since sneezing is not something one should do with one's butt.
Everyone agrees that there is nothing particularly proprietary about what the Kuclos are selling here. It's really just a long-form version of a Sir Mix-a-Lot song. And as you might imagine, the Sharks drop out one by one since investing in apparel can be a brutal experience.
Ah, but Daymond John is not yet ready to throw in the towel. In an offer delivered with all the "what the hell" ennui he can muster, Daymond suggests paying $250,000 for a third of the company. Since the Kuclos were envisioning only parting with 20%, they ask if Daymond might want to lower his stake just a tad. Actually, Daymond counters, he was initially thinking of demanding half the company. So 33.3% it is! Bottoms up, Daymond -- I hope this investment doesn't leave you feeling like an ass.
If the thought of going anywhere without your precious, precious wine is almost as hateful as the thought of spilling that wine en transit, then Shannon Zappala and Regan Kelaher have quite the proposal for you: why not drink your wine out of a sippy cup like a toddler who's rejected milk in favor of the hard stuff?
The good news is that Shannon and Regan have managed to rack up some sales for their portable wine flagons -- $384,000 so far for the year, with a target of $500,000 by year's end. The bad news? That's a $24 glass you're holding in your hand, which is probably more expensive than the plonk you're drinking out of it. On the bright side, the glass can hold 17 ounces of wine, which seems...like a lot to tote around with you.
Because this involves wine, Kevin is interested, and because Kevin is Kevin, he places a premium on his involvement in any project. He'll give Shannon and Regan the $200,000 they want, but he wants a third of the company. Shannon and Regan look like they've just been cut off at a wine bar. But before they resign themselves to their fate with Kevin, Robert proposes a deal in which Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner will join him in grabbing that third of the company for $200,000. Crazily, Shannon and Regan think now's a swell time to negotiate over that proposal rather than grab the lifeline that's been offered to them. Daymond's groans quickly convince them to take the deal.
Rob Yonover has a PhD in geochemistry and volcanology, and everyone insists on addressing him as Dr. Rob even though he can't write me a prescription. What he can do, though, is create a product that could rescue you if you're ever lost at sea or on a hike, which happens a lot more than someone slashing up your drawstring backpack with a boxcutter. The SeaRescueStreamer unfurls when you need to be spotted from very far away, and includes reflectors and lights. It's already sold a bunch -- $15 million over fifteen years, though that was largely under a licensing setup. That licensing's gone away, and now Rob wants to start anew with the company, courting consumer sales along with the military business the company's built up over the years.
The trouble, as some Sharks see it, is that this just isn't a consumer business -- not one that's going to generate enough revenue to be investable, at any rate. Rob seems to be banking on the notion that his product becomes part of mandated safety equipment, but none of the Sharks can claim any expertise in greasing any regulatory skids to make that deal happen.
And so the most useful product to appear on Shark Tank in this episode is the only one to walk away without a deal. Come to think of it, that may be the most confusing thing of all about tonight.