These Days, Can Anything Still Bowl Over The Shark Tank Sharks?
Daymond John decries gadgets that people buy and never use. Dammit, Daymond, that's Shark Tank's entire raison d'etre!
During this week's Shark Tank, I counted promos for all-musical episodes of at least two ABC programs, The Middle and Once Upon a Time -- both of which exist without my consent or input. And two thoughts entered my mind. First, was this some sort of ABC mandate to make with the all-singing, all-dancing tout de suite? ("Start crooning, Quantico, or we replace your ass with another 1970s game show reboot.") And second, we're all agreed that ABC missed the mark by not including Shark Tank in its parade of musical gimmick episodes, aren't we?
Robert Herjavec and Kevin O'Leary could have kicked things off with a rousing duet on "O Canada." (Kevin would have dropped out right before the last verse, though.) Rejected entrepreneurs could have sung a dirge-like rendition of "You Never Give Me Your Money." Mark Cuban could teach us all the Dallas Mavericks fight song, the lyrics of which I'm certain are 75% Mark Cuban-related.
Better to have Lori Greiner warbling "Money Makes The World Go Round" in full-Sally Bowles kit -- no, your brain needed that jolt -- than to have Daymond John inadvertently reveal the ugly truth about Shark Tank these days. "There are too many gadgets out there," he grouses, after taking a long hard look at another gadget. "I feel people will buy this and never use it."
Daymond's more right than the producers of Shark Tank would probably care to admit. But what products on this episode came the closest to fulfilling Daymond's chilling prophecy? Let's count our way down toward the most frivolous.
5. Rumi Spice
Rumi Spice is the Pete Best of the Spice Girls, kicked out of the band after a vicious feud with Posh sparked by that time she made fun of David Beckham's vo-- hold on, I'm being told it's the name of a company that appeared on Shark Tank. And that its founders are a trio of ex-Army personnel peddling saffron grown in Afghanistan. My story was a lot better.
Your correspondent here is something of an amateur cook, which would seemingly put me in the Rumi Spice demographic. And yet, I've always spurned recipes that call for saffron, since I don't want to take time out from making dinner to talk with my banker about extending me a line of credit so that I can buy spices. Indeed, Rumi does not solve that problem: a gram of the stuff will set you back $18. At least, the company's heart is in the right place, since it's vowing to reinvest revenue into rebuilding Afghanistan, what on account of our efforts over the last fifteen years to break it to pieces.
Still, the Rumi Spice brain trust has found someone willing to take out a second mortgage so that they can make paella, since the company's racked up $400,000 so far and is on pace to grow that to $750,000 this year. That's not to say Rumi Spice is profitable, though it will be turning a profit soon. Just how much profit is unclear, as Rumi Spice's Emily Jung pulls a number out of the ether, causing Kevin to sputter in outrage as if someone just told him he'd be expected to court Quebec voters by speaking French. Kevin's out, and Daymond and Lori drop out, too, either because the product's too expensive (Daymond's rationale) or because they don't like saffron (Lori's excuse).
Mark, however, is willing to do business with these saffron peddlers, giving them the $250,000 they've asked for, but for 15% instead of the 5% stake they were hoping to part with. Since Robert was going to ask for 25%, he advises Emily and friends to take Mark's deal, which Mark stresses is non-negotiable. They do not negotiate, and Rumi Spice has a fourth partner.
The Shark Tank flashback segment checks in on LovePop, those nice young boys who make elaborate greeting cards for people and, for their sins, have gotten Kevin O'Leary as a business partner. At least Kevin has used his influence to get LovePop to provide the winner's envelopes for the upcoming Billboard Music Awards, which we are dutifully reminded will air on ABC. Try fucking up an award announcement now, Warren Beatty.
3. Thompson Tee
If you've ever sweated through a shirt like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News, then Billy Thompson and Randy Choi are here to rescue you with their $25 undershirt that wicks away your disgusting bodily fluids. Yes, they've created a t-shirt with really thick pads around the armpits.
That's an idiot's oversimplification, of course, since in reality, the Thompson Tee features an ultrathin four-way stretch compound polymer medical-grade filament that also happens to be patented. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Kevin O'Leary, while you try to flog that extra-padded t-shirt metaphor.
Billy and Randy want $700,000 for 7% of the company, which would seemingly put their valuation within shouting distance of Crazy Town, until you take a look at their sales -- $2 million last year, and on pace to double that to $4 million by year's end. What's more they're making a 25% profit on that revenue.
But Billy and Randy want to use that $700,000 to bring manufacturing in-house, which causes several of the Sharks to make "who farted?" faces. Mark notes that they're a marketing powerhouse, not a manufacturer, and Daymond makes it clear that he wants no part of the manufacturing process. Robert will bite, though, provided he gets 25% of the company for his $700,000 and not the 7 percent Billy and Randy were dangling. Once all the other Sharks drop out, Robert's deal should look much more compelling, but Billy and Randy take so long hemming and hawing that Kevin, pronouncing that he's bored, starts to propose a debt equity deal. The though of doing business with Kevin is enough to push Billy and Randy into Robert's waiting arms, 25% stake or no.
2. People's Design
Admit it: you were expect this to be #1. I know I was. After all, this was the product that prompted Daymond John to bemoan the futility of gadgets. Boy, the product that is in the top spot must be really useless!
I don't think you can fairly say that about Tyler Peoples's all-in-one bowl, which lets you rinse, strain, mix and separate assorted food items in one single, convenient place. I mean, I've seen worse kitchen gimmicks. Hell, I own worse kitchen gimmicks. (Looking in your direction, garlic press.)
Tyler's problem is that he's sold all of 200 of his bowls. "I know that's not a great number," he tells the Sharks in what may be the understatement of the episode. Lori's not put off by those sales numbers, however: she's willing to give Tyler the $75,000 he wants. All she needs is a third of the business, and not the paltry 25% Tyler proposed. Lori's deal is made all the more attractive when the other Sharks drop out and Kevin essentially begs Tyler to pull the trigger on a deal. Shark Tank actually has the gall to make us sit through a commercial break to find out what he says.
It was a commercial break wasted. Tyler suggests that maybe Lori will want to do a royalty deal. ("I'm back in," Kevin jokes.) Lori would not. She is asking 33.3% because her expertise in getting products on QVC and into Bed Bath and Beyond Stores is worth that extra percentage, which Lori points out is just 8% more than what Tyler initially proposed. She's got you there, chief: Tyler sensibly makes the deal.
1. Wallet Buckle
To hear Trevor and Justin Johnston tell it, Wallet Bucket is the fashion sensation that is sweeping the nation. What is Wallet Buckle you ask? Oh, you naive urbanite. Wallet Bucket is a giant-ass buckle for your belt that can also stash credit cards for marginally easier access than if you had to reach for a wallet. "It makes me wonder why hasn't anyone thought of this?" an impressed Robert Herjavec muses.
I'll field that one, if you don't mind, Robert. It's because digging a card out from a belt buckle isn't that much more convenient than fishing out a wallet from my back pocket or jacket. And, while I haven't fully embraced mobile payments, paying for stuff just by waving my phone in the air seems to be more convenient than either method. Plus, under the two scenarios I have just outlined, I do not need to wear a belt buckle that is visible from space.
The counterargument to all that is that Wallet Buckle is doing just fine, you fey left-coast elitist: it's on track to reach $800,000 in revenue by year's end. The Sharks, however, seem dubious that Wallet Buckle will be more than a niche product since that buckle might look great at a rodeo, but not so much when you're dressing for a day at the office. The Sharks certainly don't think much of the valuation the Johnstons have put on their business, which is 16 times the profit they're turning.
And so, there will be no deal for Wallet Buckle. Were this the musical episode of Shark Tank, here's when everyone would joining in a chorus of "Turn Out The Lights."