Will Too Many Sharks Spoil The Shark Tank?
We've got a surfeit of Sharks, as all six are squeezed into the studio for the Season 8 premiere. Maximizing the number of Sharks will maximize the thrills and fun, right?!
Shark Tank did something very foolish in its Season 8 premiere -- something that could have cost the show dearly. Normally, at least one of the Sharks is stashed away somewhere for safe-keeping while the other five get down to business. But in this episode, the producers sprang for a sixth chair, rearranged the furniture, and set things up so that all six Sharks were in the same place for the full hour. Madness!
"I agree, Phil," you're probably saying. "Having all six Sharks out there at one time just increased the cross-talk while doing little to add to the dra--"
NO, YOU FOOL! A half-dozen Sharks filling the air with their ceaseless prattle isn't what concerns me. I have my eyes on the bigger picture: what happens if disaster strikes? What if a product demo goes horribly awry? What if one of Shark Tank's many enemies -- I'm keeping a close eye on you, The Profit -- choose that moment for a unilateral nuclear strike? What if there's undercooked food on the craft services table? Then, instead of having one Shark safely tucked away in a bunker somewhere, all of the Sharks are wiped out at once. And then Kiefer Sutherland is suddenly dragooned into evaluating product pitches. And nobody wants that.
So, please, ABC: for the sake of future generations, let's go back down to five Sharks, with one reserve Shark kept safely in a flying fortress until the taping's over and the other Sharks can disperse back to their safe houses. Failing that, at least make sure the full complement of Sharks at least gets to hear interesting pitches and not the assortment of ho-hummery we heard tonight from people who had wildly overvalued their businesses. In honor of this parade of meh, in fact, let's rank each pitch by counting our way down to the one with most tenuous grip on valuation.
Phil Petracca and David McDonald are essentially selling SodaStream, but for beer. Pour a can or a bottle or even a growler of beer into the $199 Fizzics, and it will produce a nice, frothy beverage that tastes like it came out of a tap instead of the disappointing swill you were going to drink straight from the can. We could explain the science behind it, but wouldn't you rather just drink some more of this frothy beer?
Six out of six Sharks agree: beer tastes better once Fizzics does its brew voodoo. But the Sharks are even more taken with the $3.2 million in sales that Phil and David have tallied over eight months, and the ridiculously fat margins they enjoy. (That $200 machine costs less than $36 to make.) Oh, there are naysayers -- Barbara Corcoran thinks they sound a little too slick for her tastes and Daymond John doesn't understand why a thriving business needs to take on backers like the Sharks -- but Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, Mark Cuban, and Lori Greiner all want in on the action. We could give you a blow-by-blow account of the various offers and sniping amongst the Sharks, but Phil and David spare us all some time by noting that they're looking for $2 million in their current round of funding, which would cover a 16% stake in the company. Done and done, the team of Mark and Lori declare, catching Kevin and Robert asleep at the switch.
Trisha Parbhu wants to tackle the problem of jerks online who post terrible things about other folks, and you'll excuse me if I just spend this segment coughing uncomfortably and shifting in my chair. Actually, the targets of Trisha's ReThink product are cyberbullying teenagers and not grumpy reality TV bloggers, so I guess the two of us are still cool. That's fortunate for me, since Trisha can code and give TED talks and she's only sixteen, and there's no way I come out on top in that side-by-side comparison.
All that said, I'm not entirely sold on Trisha's app, which resides on a smartphone and uses language recognition to detect when you're about to text, post, or send something unkind. The app throws up a message asking rather pointedly if you really want to say such terrible things, and this is when the would-be cyberbully is supposed to have himself a good think and decide to straighten up and fly right. Somehow, I have a hard time imagining some bile-spewing onternet troll sweating over a savage meme only to be shamed out of posting it by a mildly disapproving app. But then, I am a cynical monster, and Trisha assures the Sharks that her control studies indicate that, 93% of the time, people using ReThink stop themselves from acting like dicks.
It's not clear to anyone, let alone Trisha, how this kind of product is going to generate enough revenue to make it worth pouring $100,000 into the business for a 20% stake. Robert, Barbara, and Kevin all drop out; Daymond's willing to put up the money but only for a 30% stake. But Trisha mentions that a carrier had approached her about putting the app on its phones, which piques Mark's interest. Soon he and Lori are partnering -- again! -- on a $100,000-for-20% offer, which Trisha gladly accepts because she is a smart person.
2. Spoonful Of Comfort
I don't want to say anything too mean about Spoonful Of Comfort -- besides, this ReThink app I just installed keeps begging me not to. There are probably lots of people who would enjoy getting a giant jar of soup in the mail when they're feeling glum or under the weather. I simply am not one them. To me, that doesn't so much convey a message of caring as it does one that says, "You look like a fellow who enjoys reheating things."
Again, though, there are probably a lot of people who buy into the idea of Marti Wymer and Scott Gustafson that this is a nice comfort gift you can send to people. Considering that the product costs $70 plus another $15 for shipping ($40 if you want the soup to get there overnight), and maybe whomever you're trying to cheer up would feel better if you just sent them the cash.
At any rate, the Sharks don't think the business can grow enough to keep an investor from feeling glum, and Kevin is particularly concerned about the customer acquisition costs. Barbara even out-Kevins Kevin by telling Marti and Scott to stop sinking money into something that's not going to pan out on the scale they need it to. It should not surprise anyone that they walk away empty-handed.
Whatever you think of Justin Kittredge's customizable flip-flops -- and they're all right -- you'd have a hard time looking at his $500,000-for-5% demand and not reaching the conclusion that the valuation was absolutely nutty. iSlide's currently doing about $1.5 million in sales, meaning that Justin is valuing his company at ten times its revenue. I don't care how fervently Pittsburgh Steeler Antonio Brown is willing to vouch for your product -- and he's apparently a fan: you're not going to get a lot of offers from these Sharks with that kind of out-of-whack assessment.
(There's a particularly strange moment in this segment where Antonio Brown just sort of wanders onto the set, just as the Sharks are giving Justin a particularly thorough going-over about that valuation. I guess he was stuck in traffic? Anyhow, the whole bit had a "Would you like to fret about numbers or would you rather just gawk at this pro athlete?" feel to it. Just really weird.)
Anyhow, nobody's particularly interested in making an offer, except maybe Robert who dangles an "oh, what the hell" kind of deal in which he'll put up $500,000 for 20% of the company. "I can't watch you kill money this way," Kevin shrieks, and even Antonio Brown can be heard urging Justin to take the deal. Justin would like to make a counter-offer, which is a bold move considering everyone but Robert has dropped out. Robert remains very comfortable with his offer as-is, so Justin turns Robert down and walks off, leaving Antonio Brown to ask if maybe one of the Sharks wants to give him $500,000. At least the valuation is more realistic.