Premiering on ABC on August 9, 2009, Shark Tank is a reality television show in which hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their companies and ideas to a panel of investors known as “Sharks.” From there, the Sharks can decide whether they want to invest in the company, going into business with the entrepreneur. The show has been the launching point for hundreds of American startups while simultaneously taking home numerous Emmys for its content and viewership. Curious about the true ins-and-outs of the making of this program? Here are some fascinating facts about Shark Tank.
Pitches Start With A Period Of Extreme Awkwardness
Something that audiences at home don’t see, before entrepreneurs give their pitch to the Sharks, the producers require them to stand on stage in silence for 30 seconds to a minute. This is so the film crew can gather footage of them looking at the Sharks and the Sharks looking back which they can use as filler during the editing process.
After the producers give them the go-ahead, they can begin their pitch. A reporter for D Magazine who visited the set described this first encounter as nothing short of “excruciating to watch.”
Not Every Deal Turns Out To Be A Success
With the money in the shark’s pockets and their knowledge of business, one would assume that they could turn any struggling business into a success. While the investors have made millions of dollars over the years from their investments on the show, that doesn’t mean that all of their deals turn a profit.
For example, Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary both suffered a loss with Toygaroo after there wasn’t enough demand for their product and the company went bankrupt. Barbara Corcoran commented on her worst loss stating, “My worst [experience] was investing in a fast-talking cowboy selling exercise equipment who needed to lose 50 pounds. Instead, he lost my $50,000.”
Pitches Go On For Much Longer Than What’s Shown
While televised pitches only take about ten minutes in total, in reality, the pitches go on for around an hour. This only makes sense since none of the Sharks are going to invest thousands of dollars based on a ten-minute spiel from a stranger.
The longest pitch was by Michael Tseng, the founder of Plate Toppers, which lasted for two-and-a-half hours in Season 4. The show producers take out all of the content that most audiences would find dull such as the genuine financial discussions or anything that might decrease the entertainment of the show.
Producers Receive Thousands Of Applications
With the possibility of pitching your business not just to the Sharks, but to audiences all across America, it’s no surprise that there’s no shortage of applicants. It is estimated that the producers receive over 100,000 applications each season with only around 100 slots available during the 31-episode season.
The two options are either to apply via the website or show up at casting call auditions, but the chances are still incredibly slim. According to TJ Hale, the host of Shark Tank Podcast, “Watching people on television gives everyone a sense of, ‘I could do that […] But the odds are against you.”
A Trip To A Psychiatrist Is Required
After the entrepreneurs have given their pitch to the Sharks, they are required to see an on-set psychiatrist to make sure that they’re okay emotionally stable whether their deal was accepted or rejected.
Some segments can be extremely harsh with the Sharks essentially crushing someone’s dream, so it’s essential to the showrunners that nobody leaves without some kind of psychological evaluation. The show is an emotional rollercoaster for the audience, so one can only imagine how it feels actually standing in front of the Sharks.
Not All Pitches Are Aired
ABC films well over 100 pitches for Shark Tank each season since some of them will undoubtedly get cut during the process. This is unfortunate for the entrepreneurs who spend extra money on inventory or advertising expecting what is known as a “Shark Tank bump” only for their episode to never air.
Supposedly, you only know that your segment will be aired just two weeks before the episode, something that can be extremely risky for contestants. Entrepreneurs have to be careful not to get ahead of themselves or else they might be sabotaging their own business.
A Deal On The Show Doesn’t Mean It Will Actually Happen
Although the Sharks may shake hands and hug and entrepreneur after making a deal, that doesn’t mean it’s a for sure thing. After filming has concluded, the Sharks do their own research to ensure the person wasn’t making any false claims that their numbers and sales hold up. If not, they may back out of the deal.
If they do, the shark that made the offer will check to make sure the entrepreneur still wants to make the deal. However, it’s not always the Sharks who back out of an agreement off-screen. Sometimes the entrepreneur has second guesses and decides to do things on their own.
Chum For The Sharks
While the Sharks have seen a pitch for just about everything, numbers have shown that fashion and food are what get the investors interested in a deal. Even if food or fashion isn’t necessarily their forte, all of them can do at least something with either.
Out of 107 deals, almost half of them had to do with fashion or food, indicating that those industries might be the best route for people hoping to make a deal. This is most likely because neither fashion or food are going anywhere anytime soon, and each is continually evolving.
Shark Tank Is Based Off A Japanese Show
Shark Tank may seem like a very original show in the United States, but it is actually based on the late-night show Tigers of Money which aired in Japan in 2001. Of course, there were some differences, the investors were much harsher than the Sharks, and the entrepreneurs were asking for money instead of a business partnership.
Still, the concept was then adopted by the UK for a show titled Dragon’s Den in 2005. After seeing success in the UK as well as other countries, reality television showrunner, Mike Burnett, brought Shark Tank to the US to give people hope after the economic recession.
Mark Cuban Ended A Practice He Felt Was Wrong
For four seasons of the show, there was a standard that all entrepreneurs that made it onto the show had to give the production company 2% of their royalties or 5% of their equities. However, in 2013, after a year of being on the show, Mark Cuban condemned the practice.
In 2013, threatened to leave the show if producers didn’t revoke the clause in the entrepreneur’s contracts. He thought that the concept was incredibly greedy and that it was also discouraging people for applying for the show.
Producers Can Recruit Candidates
Although eager startups can either apply online or in person, those aren’t the only ways that people can get on the show. The producers also have scouts that frequently monitor crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter to find eligible candidates. They look for unique companies and founders that will be entertaining for viewers.
An example of this was when Shark Tank producers approached JD Claridge and Charles Manning of xCraft to appear on the show. In the end, the duo ended up making a $1.5 million deal with all five of the Sharks.
The Sharks Wear Earpieces
Although very discreet, the Sharks have earpieces connected to the producers during filming. While they have communication, they don’t influence the investor’s decisions on what to do with their money or who to go into business with.
What they do, however, is encourage the Sharks to ask compelling questions or to dive deeper into the entrepreneur’s life story to make for juicier entertainment. While the Sharks may be masters at business and investing, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best entertainers.
Seasons Are Shot In 17 Days
While the show may seem to be fun to film for the Sharks, it’s a lot more arduous than it may seem. Seasons average around 30 episodes with each season being shot in a 17-day period. Shooting typically lasts for a week and a half in the early summer and another week and a half session in early fall.
The Sharks listen to around six to eight pitches in a day, meaning that they often work 12 hours a day or more. According to investor Robert Herjavec, “We’re cold, we’re hungry, we’re miserable,” even though they may look calm, cool, and collected.
Many Entrepreneurs Apply With No Plans To Make A Deal
As the show grew in popularity, more people started coming on the show, not to make a deal, but to give their company exposure. Cuban and John refer to these people as “gold diggers” and despise them from not only wasting their time but taking the place of someone who might have actually wanted to make a deal.
One example of this was Erick Berkowitz and John Devecka, the founders of Singtrix. The duo openly admitted on Twitter that they had used the show for publicity after asking a ridiculous $1.5 million for 5% equity.
The Investors Pitch Their Update Segments To The Producers
Each episode of the show typically has a segment that catches up with a past entrepreneur who made a deal and how their business is doing now. While the producers are expected to include these segments in each episode, it’s up to the Sharks to pitch their own companies.
They do this in hopes to boost the sales of the companies they partnered with, putting more money in their pockets. Barbara Cocoran pitches her companies the most frequently claiming, “I’m the queen of updates! I know how to pitch an update better than anybody! And get it bought, boom, booked.”
Pitches Aren’t Ever Stopped
Although the show is heavily edited to make it short and entertaining, once an entrepreneur starts a pitch, they have the floor. The film crew and producers keep the cameras rolling through the whole thing so they have as much footage as possible to work with. Even when the Sharks a berating them with questions, the cameras keep rolling.
According to Eric Marino, who appeared in Season 4, “If you mess up, you have to keep going. You have all these very dominant personalities going after you, talking over themselves. It’s sensory overload.”
There Was A Rivalry Between Mark Cuban And Robert Herjavec
There’s no shortage of bickering between the Sharks on the show, although it’s mostly for dramatic effect. For the most part, they all seem to get along with each other. However, that wasn’t always the case for Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec. Apparently, they used to butt heads with Herjavec not being able to stand Cuban’s very outgoing personality.
In the early seasons, their feud was almost palpable, with Herjavec annoyed that Cuban tried to make a deal with almost every entrepreneur. Yet, after some time, the two set aside their differences, though they’re still known to get into spats every now and again.
Shark Tank Wasn’t Always Popular
Today, Shark Tank has accumulated four Emmy’s and countless other awards, yet it wasn’t always as popular as it is. In fact, the show had a hard time taking off. The first season of the show didn’t even break the top 100 primetime shows in terms of viewership.
It was the addition of Mark Cuban in Season 2 that has been attributed to the show’s sudden uptick in popularity. By Season 5, the show was averaging 8 million views a week compared to its 4.8 million during Season 1.
Entrepreneurs Are Interviewed On A Different Sound Stage
After pitching to the Sharks, whether they made a deal or not, the entrepreneurs are interviewed in what looks like the same hallway they walk into after leaving the show. In reality, they are interviewed in a room completely separated from the rest of the set.
This is so they don’t waste any time or take up any space to make sure that the next pitch starts almost immediately after the last one. It’s also so the other entrepreneurs don’t have an idea of the outcome of the last pitch.
The Simplest Ideas Are The Most Successful
When people come in front of the Sharks and pitch extremely grandiose ideas, the investors are a lot more hesitant to invest than someone who has a very straightforward and simple product. The most successful product on the show the incredibly basic all-purpose cleaning tool ScrubDaddy.
Since going on Shark Tank and teaming up with Lori Greiner, the company has done more than $50 million in sales. Greiner commented that “If you have one genius product and good entrepreneurs, you can turn that one product into a huge success.”