Sharks Don't Make Passes At Glass-Wearing Asses
Two hipsters show up on Shark Tank with a multi-million dollar valuation for a company still in pre-sales mode. Oh, this will go well.
I'm on the record as finding Beyond the Tank, the Shark Tank spinoff, to be a useless hour of contrived puffery. Perhaps you feel the same, perhaps you don't. But if you do happen to consider Beyond the Tank to be a rather transparent attempt by the Shark Tank team to polish their own medals, I hope you do not let that attitude sour you on this episode from the Mothership. Because this hit all the notes for what a Shark Tank episode should be. Teary-eyed momtrepreneur? Check. Dudes looking for free publicity from Shark Tank and getting slapped around for it? Double check. Pat Boone? All the Pat Boones in the world!
Let's rank tonight's presentations, counting down toward the Shark Tank recurring conceits I find the most delightful.
4. The Paleo Diet Foods
The Tears Of A Mom: I don't know if you play the Is This Person Going To Cry game at the start of each Shark Tank segment, but if you do, I hope you got your bets in early with Shauna Sledge. Because from the second this mom/dental hygienist/fitness trainer/person who is maybe just a little bit too invested in the paleo diet walks into the room, she comes across as so tightly wound that the slightest bit of criticism is going to break open the ol' water works. Which is precisely what happens, so please collect your winnings in an orderly fashion.
Shauna makes protein bars in line with the paleo diet, which supposes that you should only eat things that cavemen ate, because cavemen lived to such ripe old ages, I guess. Shauna says her bars have the personal endorsement of Dr. Cordain, who's the guy who thought up the paleo movement. Later Shauna seems to indicate that he also owns a stake in her company and gets a royalty from every sale, which would seem to take the shine off his endorsement somewhat. ("Hi, I'm the CEO of Coca-Cola, and I totally endorse Coke Zero. That's how this works, right?") Shauna wants $150,000 for a 20 percent stake in her company, because a lot of people want a lot of crazy things.
It's Lori Greiner who draws first blood by pointing out she didn't think the protein bars tasted all that good. Shauna looks genuinely shocked. And soon Daymond John wonders if she's spread too thin, and Kevin O'Leary points out that she's not all that focused, and Robert Herjavec agrees with Daymond, and now I know why it is you cavemen cry. When Mark Cuban drops out -- Mark, who actually buys into this flimflammery -- and says it's because he also doesn't like the taste and thinks there's too much sugar in the bars, well, there's not a dry eye in the house. Assuming we're talking about Shauna's house, and she's the only person in it.
Also, Shauna drops Dr. Cordain's name so frequently in this segment, if you took a drink each time she did it, you'd be dead of alcohol poisoning. Though I guess people on the paleo diet don't drink alcohol, which is great because that means there's more for me if I have to watch someone sob their way through Shark Tank each week.
3. Zero Pollution Motors
The Celebrity Cameo: Hey, everyone, it's Pat Boone, who awesomely introduces himself as an "aging singer." And he's here with Ethan Tucker to tout the merits of Zero Pollution Motors and its AirCar that's powered by compressed air. Pat calls it "the leanest, cleanest, greenest form of auto transportation ever to hit our crowded, polluted streets" and I can just imagine the suits huddling around a TV set in the Chevrolet war room. "Goddammit, Boone," one of them finally shouts. "We paid you a lot of good money back in the day."
The Sharks are less concerned about Pat Boone's betrayal of the gal that brung him and more bothered by the licensing agreement Zero Pollution has. The company only holds the rights to build a plant in a certain part of the U.S. Ethan has selected Hawaii, which is not entirely dumb because it's a controlled market that struggles with high fuel costs and has the sort of environmental concerns that the AirCar addresses. What is dumb, though, is that Ethan and company only have the rights to one market in the U.S. Should they prove successful, there's nothing stopping someone else from snapping up another market and and taking away all the business that Zero Pollution has worked to cultivate.
Nearly every Shark drops out save Robert, who doesn't mind the relative size of the investment he'd have to put up ($5 million for half the company), likes the price of the car ($10,000), and is prone to having his head turned by shiny things. He'll give Ethan and Pat Boone $5 million, but it's contingent on Zero Pollution getting the rights to rest of America and Pat Boone singing a flawless version of "Love Letters In The Sand." Only one of these things is likely to happen.
2. World Record Striper Company
The Hyper-Focused Visionary With The Cool Niche Product: Greg Myerson knows fish, knows them so well that he can claim multiple world records for catching comically-sized fish, including one for an 82-pound striped bass. What's his secret? It's a rattling sinker that makes a noise that convinces fish that food is in the water. It's only after the fish bite your hook that they realize the food is them and they better make their peace with their vengeful fish god.
"Why did no one think of this before?" Mark wonders. "Because nobody is as smart as me," Greg counters. There's no honor in fighting a battle of wits against an unarmed opponent, Greg.
As great a fisherman as Greg may be, he's not bagging his limit in the business world. His rattle sinker has tallied only $55,000 in sales over three years, and his company is in the kind of early state that makes a Shark unwilling to invest, let alone put up $75,000 for 20 percent. Fortunately for Greg, Mark Cuban isn't like the other Sharks, and he already invests in a specialty fishing-and-hunting concern. Mark will put up $80,000 for 33 percent of Greg's company -- the same deal he made with an outfit called Shell Bobber on a previous episode. But Shell Bobber is going to take over the distribution part of Greg's business. It makes sense, really: Greg concentrates on the stuff he's good at, and leaves the other things to a competent partner.
There's still a bit of drama left, when Kevin indicates he might want to make Greg an offer. But before Kevin can spell out his chilling vision of back-breaking royalty payments, Mark suggests that Greg can either hear Kevin's offer or accept his, but not both. Kevin does the right thing and takes Mark up on what figures to be a lucrative deal for the both of them.
The Punching Bags: It's not that Konrad Billetz and Kevin Habich have a bad idea for a business with Frameri (though, oh Lord, that name). The concept is you're able to snap out lenses into different frames so that you can wear a pair of glasses that matches the rest of your wardrobe. Konrad and Kevin sell a box of three frames with two different lenses for $500. It seems clever enough, though I imagine those lenses will sport a pretty noticeable set of fingerprints after one too many changes.
No, the problem here is with Frameri's laughable valuation -- $150,000 for a 3.5 percent stake. Yes, that's 3.5. No, I didn't randomly insert a decimal in there. The $4 million-plus valuation becomes even more comical when you learn that Frameri's sales are made up entirely of $70,000 in preorders and a Kickstarter campaign that doubled their original target of $30,000. You'll excuse the orchestra if they don't break into a rousing rendition of "We're In the Money."
Daymond wonders whether Konrad and Kevin are just here to drum up publicity for their business with no intention of inking any deal. The paltry 3.5 percent equity stake might be your tip-off here. Lori is bothered by that big an ask too, especially from people with no real experience in running a business. Mark is less put off by all that, because someone sounded the Contrarian Horn, I guess, but when he poses questions about how Frameri is going to attract new customers and finds the answers wanting, he pulls out too, right after Robert. That leaves Kevin O'Leary, who takes his royalty deal approach out of mothballs and offers $150,000 as a loan until he makes back $400,000 via a $25 royalty payment on each box sold. He gets the 3.5 percent equity stake, too, and presumably, a pony. Konrad and Kevin, who were totally on this show to make a deal with a Shark, turn down this deal from a Shark. To his eternal credit, Daymond resists the urge to leap up and do a Busby Berkeley-style dance number while singing "Told Ya."