Ten Lessons I Learned from Shark Tank

people on shark tank

I just gave up all parenting responsibilities this weekend to Mark Cuban. Meaning, my kids and I watched eight straight episodes of “Shark Tank”.

For the past two years, people have been begging me to watch “Shark Tank”. One friend of mine, who has co-invested with me on two deals, has given me two pieces of advice in life. One is: “you never know what someone is worth until they declare bankruptcy”. The point is, we all speculate that someone is worth $100 million or a billion or whatever, and the next day you read in the newspaper that they declare bankruptcy. Now you know.

The second thing my friend and co-investor was always telling me was that “James, you need to watch Shark Tank”. Now, after watching every episode, I can say I agree with him.

For those of you who don’t know what Shark Tank is, it’s the best reality TV show I’ve seen. 5 investors sit on a stage, keeping them slightly higher than the supplicants who come in asking for money. Then, one by one, aspiring entrepreneurs are led into the “Shark Tank” where they pitch their products and the Sharks, right then and there, decide whether or not to give them money. The entrepreneurs are often humiliated, laughed at, insulted, ask the stupidest questions I’ve ever heard, but occasionally get some good advice and even better, walk away with a check if one or more of the “Sharks” think their business is a good idea.

“The Sharks” as the show describes them, “are filthy rich” and invest their own money. It’s not always the same sharks each show. Mark Cuban is often a shark. (See also, “How I Helped Mark Cuban Make a Billion Dollars“) And the rest of the often rotating cast includes Barbara Corcoran, of real estate fame, Kevin O’Leary, who started and sold “The Learning Company” for $3.2 billion to Mattel. Robert Herjavec, who I had never heard of but he’s sold “companies worth $350 million”, Daymond John who started Fubu and “has sold $6 billion worth of products” and Jeff Foxworthy, the comedian who has created an empire out of making fun of rednecks. Power to him. God bless them all.

I’m never jealous of any of these people. Money doesn’t buy happiness but it certainly solves your money problems. It’s up to you after that to be happy or not. To not self sabotage at every opportunity. I can tell you this: I am very good at making money but have often had a talent for self sabotage. A talent I have been hoping these past few years to suppress.

So I think highly of the people who have learned through experience not to sabotage their successes.

So what have I learned from the show. Some items are good for investors, some for entrepreneurs, some for me, and some for my kids.


Math: The first thing that happens when an entrepreneur enters is: “Hi, my name is ABC and I’m asking for a $100,000 for  10% stake in my company.”  At this point we would pause the show and I’d ask my kids how much the company is worth. Any trader, investor, entrepreneur, does this math instantly and I wanted my kids to get good at it.

And they did. At first the answers (from either kid) would be a nervous “I don’t know”. Then they’d start to figure it out but still be nervous “one ….million?” And then finally, by the last episode, they were doing it in their head and blurting it out before I even hit pause.

But sometimes the entrepreneurs would present confusing numbers like, “I’m asking for $85,000 for 15% of my company.” And then they’d launch straight into their story. To be honest, I can’t even do this accurately and quickly in my head. I always wondered if these entrepreneurs did this on purpose, so that the sharks would focus more on the product than the specific valuation.


Not everything is as it appears. This is a TV show. Not a venture capital firm (where, also, by the way, not everything is as it appears. In fact, in all of life, nothing is as it appears but this is never more true than a “reality” TV show.) For instance, in the beginning intro the show says “Barbara Corcoran took a $1,000 loan and turned it into a real estate empire worth hundreds of millions.” Except she sold her “hundreds of millions” company for “60 million”, which they don’t say.

Barbara Corcoran of Shark Tank

Barbara Corcoran

I’m not saying she’s poor. She’s incredibly smart and successful. But the TV show hypes it up. There’s subterfuge like that throughout the show. Kevin O’Leary, who plays it up as the most obnoxious member of the Sharks, is described as someone who “built a software company in his garage and sold it for $3.7 billion”. That’s true. He built The Learning Company and sold it to Mattel. What they don’t say is how much he owned of it (so we can estimate his worth). He clearly made some money on it. But he bought hundreds of companies first. So each company, assuming it was bought in part for stock, diluted his share. So his stake might have been tiny.

And then, Mattel repeatedly missed their earnings estimates because of the acquisition of his company. In fact, the acquisition has been described as “one of the worst acquisitions in history” in various articles about it. But, fair enough. Kevin turned this “success” into having a role at a venture capital firm. I am guessing it’s his firm’s money (rather than his personal money) which he uses when writing checks on the show.

I went through this exercise with each “Shark” and in every case it was not how they described it on the show (except in the case of Mark Cuban).

My only guidance for the people who are going on the show, or for anyone who pitches any investor, is to carefully study every aspect of the background of the people you are pitching. There are many ways you can use that to your advantage in the actual pitch. And because these guys, in particular, have very public personas, there are a lot of venues you can research their net worth, their successes, their failures, their interests, their distastes, and so on.


Sell the Dream, not the Sales. Many of the entrepreneurs go in there and say, “I sold $11,000 of this product last year from my garage.” These are the people that get either the worst deals or no deal at all. Nobody cares about $11,000 in sales. Sometimes the Sharks didn’t even care about close to $1 million in sales over the last year. (A great example was games2u.com which I thought was an excellent company but walked away with no deal).

And yet some companies with no sales walked away with a great deal. Here’s what the Sharks, or any investor, want to really understand: Do you have a great product? Do you know what the size of your market is? Do you have some sense of a business model? And, in some cases, do you have big breasts?

How do they know if you have a great product? They can tell by your background, they can tell by the technical expertise you needed to make the product, they can tell if you have a patent, and they can tell if you say, “I have 3 distributors about to send me purchase orders for the product.” You might not have a dime of sales but if you show that people are interested and that your product is special, you’ll get an offer. If you also say, “and for the last three years I’ve had a total of $53,000 in sales even though I’ve had a full time job” then you will definitely not get a deal.

Sell the dream. Better not to have sales unless you are going to blow them away with your sales numbers.

A shark tank pitch

She sold the dream


Don’t Nickel and Dime. It’s not so bad to “nickel plus dime” and I’ll explain that in a moment. But if you went in there and said, “I’d like $100 for 25% of my company” and you have no sales and one of the Sharks says, “I’ll give you $100 for 40% of your company” then just say yes. What do you care about the percentage? As Cuban said in one of the episodes, “better to have 20% of a $100 million company than 100% of nothing.”

With one successful company I sold I wanted my partner to take 10%. Instead they asked for 50%. I gave it to them and sold the company 4 months later. To them! Because with 50% they had to care. With 10% maybe they would not have cared.

However, you should nickel plus dime. If Mark Cuban offers you $100k for 30% of your company push forward and ask for a few more nickels. Price is often the least important part of a negotiation. Ask him: can you introduce me to Netflix, can you get me a promotional deal with the Dallas Mavericks, are there any distributors you can help me license my product to?

Get value out of every deal aside from the money. Money won’t save or help your business for more than a short time. But the right deal and connections will make or break you. So while they are playing around with the dimes, make sure you collect as many nickels that they may have left lying on the floor.

If you want a deal, then take a deal. Unless…


Don’t Take the ‘Hail Mary’ Deal

Kevin O’Leary is famous for this deal. He waits for the other Sharks to say “I’m Out” and then he knows he’s the only possibility left for the entrepreneur. So then it suddenly doesn’t matter at all what they are asking for. Let’s say the entrepreneur is growing, they  have profits, they have one million in sales, etc. Kevin O’Leary doesn’t care at all.

Instead, he makes the Hail Mary offer. Let’s say they were asking for $500k for 10% of their company, valuing their company at $5 million. Even if the company could be reasonably valued at that, he doesn’t care.

He’ll say “I’ll take 51% of your company for $500k”.

It doesn’t matter to him if they say “yes” or “no”. If they say “yes”, then it’s a great deal for him. He just bought control of a company he knows is worth a lot more. If they say “no”, then no problem, one out of ten will say “yes” and he just has to wait it out. It’s the same concept as the story of the guy who wants to have sex so he stands on a street corner and asks every woman who passes him to have sex with him. Obviously every girl will say “no” to him. Except for maybe one out of 200. He’s just standing there waiting for that one. And he’ll get it. Unless it’s me. Then its one out of three thousand.

Kevin O'leary of shark tank

Kevin O’Leary


Be the Source

Kevin O’Leary has two other techniques as a Shark that I have to admire, despite his persona as very obnoxious on the show. That persona becomes an asset in various ways because the entrepreneur is instantly trying to get on his good side. But that’s not the technique I admire (by the way, that technique of being obnoxious first—a technique I would never be able to pull off is similar to Neil Strauss’s “negging” technique in his book “The Game” when he talks about seducing women.)

One technique Kevin does is he sits there while one or two of the Sharks make their offer. Then he asks the entrepreneur to leave the room. Then he turns to the Sharks who made the offer and says, “Lets join forces and do this one together”. Then the entrepreneur comes back and whereas before they had 2 or 3 competing offers (an auction environment is always what you want), now they have only one combined offer. They have a minute to decide, and the offer is worse than the lowest offer they had before. Kevin takes charge of the auction, makes it an “all or nothing” deal and again places himself in a can’t-lose situation.

The other technique he uses is to be the Source for the entrepreneur. Almost as if they are his friend. Three or four of the Sharks might make an offer and are competing. Kevin will then say, “Ok, to summarize, here are your four offers.” So he’s being a source of information. He’s “the bank” all of a sudden, seemingly in control of all four offers, and he can spin them in any way he pleases and quiet the Sharks who protest because he behaves as if it’s a legitimate part of the show. When you are the Bank, it gives you a slight edge over your competitors because the customer wants to do business with the Bank.


The Deal Doesn’t Close Until The Money Hits

Many times the entrepreneur will strike a great deal. He comes in asking for $100 for 10% of his company and he might get $300 for 5% of his company. At the end, the Shark who made the deal and the entrepreneur will smile and shake hands (or hug, in the cases when the entrepreneur has big breasts and the Shark is a male). It’s all good. Then, in typical Mark Burnett reality show-style, there’s the post session interview where the entrepreneur is whooping it up and saying, “Yeah! I just made a deal with the Shark Tank! Yeah!”

My guess is most of these deals don’t close. I only have anecdotal evidence. But I looked up several of the companies afterwards and there’s no mention of their new co-investor. There’s only mention of “see us on ABC’s Shark Tank this Tuesday!”

One deal, Hyconn, got $1.25mm for 100% of his company, from Mark Cuban, with a three year employment agreement and a royalty. He sold some sort of contraption which made it easy to attach your hose to the faucet or whatever you call it. But when you go to his facebook page he talks about another group of investors and he says, the deal with Mark Cuban didn’t work out. No other details.

Any deal in life goes through several stages: sales, initial questions, the auction (if there is one), the accepted offer, the honeymoon period, due diligence, legal contracts, potential buyer/seller remorse, and then cash getting wired. The TV show only takes us through “the accepted offer” but at any point there’s the chance the deal can fail. This is important to remember in any deal at all, including personal relationships.


Know What You Are Good At

When an entrepreneur first steps through the door, we would try to figure out which investor/Shark was good for the entrepreneur and we were usually right. If it was a clothing idea then if the FUBU guy didn’t like it, it was all over. If a product looked like it would be ideal for an infomercial (a pushup machine that makes pushups easier) and the informercial expert didn’t like it then no deal. If it was an Internet play and Mark Cuban didn’t like it, then no deal.

This is useful to me as an investor. I don’t like to think very hard when I invest in private companies. I like to know that expert investors who are experts in the space of the company are co-investing alongside of me. In fact, another Kevin O’Leary trick: he would stay silent, but if he saw that the informercial king was investing, he’d try to get in on the action and partner with him because he knows the infomercial king would make an infomercial, get it on TV, and do all the hard work. It’s also useful to entrepreneurs. Pitch to the right guy. Don’t just throw it out there to Barbara Corcoran, the real estate queen, if you have a product that you are going to sell to fire stations.

Which leads me to


Get Advice When You Can

Some of the pitching entrepreneurs simply had bad ideas. If you’re selling a pair of jeans, for instance, and the FUBU guy doesn’t want to buy it, then that tells you right there that you probably have a bad idea. But I only once on the show heard anyone ask, “what did I do wrong in this pitch” asking for advice. And even then, when they gave him advice, he was defensive and insulting to them. If you don’t get the deal, learn what you did wrong, and either modify your product, your approach, or just start a new business. This is not the end of your life if you don’t get some crappy deal on Shark Tank.



Who Cares?

You just presented your product for 15 minutes on a nationally broadcasted TV show that will be re-aired at least two or three times and sell a ton of shows on itunes. That sort of advertising would cost about a million dollars or more. So who cares if you get a deal? Make sure your website is ready for publicity, for the onslaught of traffic and orders no matter how good or bad the product is, and be thankful for the free publicity. Some of these people were crying when they couldn’t get a deal. An entrepreneur takes advantage of every situation and opportunity. A million dollars worth of free advertising plus great advice from a bunch of insulting billionaires is a great experience for you and your business. Make the most of it.

These ten lessons are for my daughters, because I told them at the end of our marathon Shark Tank session that if they don’t have an idea by next week that they can build into a business then “No Christmas this year and no summer vacation!” Which would make my life infinitely easier. That’s the way I roll. Take it or leave it.

Read More: The 100 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur 

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  • http://what-are-my-options.blogspot.com/ the99th

    I discovered Shark Tank last weekend from Cuban’s blog and have been watching every episode since while working on my start-up on the weekends and evenings. 

    I like that TV about intelligent negotiation-as-drama and taking responsibility from quantifiable results is getting such popularity. 

  • Lyn

    Great article and analysis.  You forgot to say that the show is very entertaining.

  • Gavin

    You know this is just the American version of a successful UK show called Dragons Den right? That has been going for like 10 series now and is one of my favorite shows.

    I think I’ll give this American version a miss. The US has a tendency to ruin even the very best of British television shows unfortunately. But as usual, great post and some great points to think about.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_3RQJC5B32JPZZJDKTJTFG5WMVI Mike

      So true Gavin. The Office US version…milk that for as much $ as you the network can, and love the BBC version of Gordon Ramsey advising restaurants whereas US version is all drama.

    • Anonymous

      The original series was Japanese…

    • Michael

      I tried watching Dragon’s Den. Not a fan. In fact, compared to Shark Tank, it was almost painful to watch.

      • Styles77

        Totally disagree. Shark Tank is very good but i don’t like the way is produced. It’s like American Idol with the background stories to each person. Let’s just get to the deals. Dragon’s Den is the Canadian original which inspired the American Shark Tank and took two of its cast members with it. I like both but the Canadian one is far superior and enjoyable!

    • Klay

      I was addicted to Shark Tank and while off season I was trying to watch the original Dragons Dens Canadian and British version. It was impossible to watch.. boring, slow, no personality, everything looked like local tv ad from 80 th. 

      And I love Kevin, he is a star .. I would only dream of having this kind of non sensitive adviser while I was making some terrible investor’s decision. 
      This show  and probably the first few seasons of Apprentice are must be watched by every high school kid.  

      • Bob

        I agree with you a 100%

        americans make the vest tv…or at least they are the best editors

  • http://twitter.com/LuckytobeYou kara rane

    Shark Tank = Art World

  • Shaqir Hussyin

    this was a GREAT post James. Real funny too!

  • Andrew Bujtor

    Love it, especially the last part: 
    That’s the way I roll. Take it or leave it.

  • Mike Sullivan

    One comment states that this is the US version of the UK show.  Didn’t know that.  

    North of the border, in Canada (I’m Canadian), CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp, ‘state run’ television) runs a Canadian show ‘Dragon’s Den’, with 5 dragons (investors), including O’Leary and Herjavec.  It’s been airing for many years, and precedes Shark Tank.  

    Just my opinion (hey, I’m not biased), the Canadian version is better than ST; it’s more authentic, the dragon’s are relaxed, and often hilarious.  It’s also hugely popular.

    Thanks for the post James, which is insightful as usual!

  • http://www.facebook.com/gosmart Misty Lackie

    Awesome article with great analysis. I love how you are teaching your daughters how to be entrepreneurs.

    • Fred Stork

      I would rther teach them how to be themselves. Not everyone is suited or bound to be entrepreneur. Being themselves they will figure out what their true calling is.

      • John Wayne

        Yes but that sort of analytical thinking goes to serve them in life. It causes them to pause and think before acting out in emotion or desperation.
        It has nothing to do with entrepreneurial ability.

        Why do some people only see the trees and not the forest?

  • Kfaul

    This is awesome.

    …and here’s an idea for you: film your daughters pitching you for their Christmas presents in shark-tank format.

    • http://www.facebook.com/anders.mikkelsen Anders Mikkelsen

      Please do this!

    • Malcolm


      Mom, Dad… I think you both know that my life would be way more awesome with a new bike. In exchange for investing in me with that bike, I’ll fetch milk or eggs from the corner store whenever we need it.

  • Laura L. Brown

    Love Shark Tank!  Great assessment!  And kudos to you for showing your kids how much there is to learn about business and they are not too young to start learning!

  • John Goulden

    I will admit that when I saw this post I thought it referred to the “Shark Tank” column at ComputerWorld magazine.

  • Sebastien Latapie

    This was an amazing article! I’ll have to check the show out.

  • http://twitter.com/godcodes GOD CODES

    This is the definitive cheat sheet for going on Shark Tank or even Dragons’ Den, something I did earlier this year with Rejection Therapy: http://rejectiontherapy.com

    I shared my experience with the Hacker News crowd if anyone is interested in reading it: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3634261

    Funny thing is, since being on the show, I haven’t watched an episode since nor have I had a desire to. I haven’t seen the clip of me on the show since it’s aired either, and don’t plan to. When people ask why I say it’s because I already know what happens (heck, I was there) but the real reason is because it was a tough experience and I think it would be flat out weird to see myself on television.

    Again, great article James.

  • Anonymous

    Haven’t watched TV for over 10 years other than sports (Superbowl, college bowl games, etc).  I guess there is one TV show that is worth watching.  Will do it online though.  Great article.  Thanks James.

  • http://twitter.com/VeehCirra Veeh Cirra

    I totally agree with you whether the deal is sealed or not, capitalizing on the free publicity from the show is one big bonus to the entrepreneur.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yoav.ezer Yoav Ezer

    James, now I’m confused.

    You always say that when you want to start a business, the first thing to do is find a customer.

    And here you said that if you have sales, you won’t get an investment.

    So which is the better tactic? Selling the dream or selling?

    • http://twitter.com/jaltucher jaltucher

       The cheapest money comes from your customers. That’s why having customers is the #1 rule and the best way to build a startup.

      If you are trying to raise money from VCs or “Sharks” then there’s other tools. Ideally, you’ll never need to go on Shark Tank.

      • ragtagrebel

         VC’s wouldn’t care about sales because the market may to small. No real growth opportunities to poor all that money into?

      • dapo egberongbe

        This was a rili awesome article James, do u have a newsletter?

  • Tullystoll

    James you are right on with this post. The
    advertising and potential connections are worth more than any cash I’ve ever
    even seen requested. The problem with a lot of the contestants is that they may
    have a great idea, but their business sense is lacking.  Even if they strike a deal, they are going
    nowhere if they don’t request and accept guidance from their investor.

  • amy

    I can’t believe O’Leary has made it all the way to the US with his antics. I just sold out of his funds because he’s too distracted with his celebrity to be focused on his business. However, I do enjoy his obnoxiousness on the business news roundup show up here called the Lang O’Leary Exchange where he lovingly plays the evil billionaire capitalist to Amanda Lang’s why-can’t-we-all-just-share-in-the-wealth idealism.

    He got rrrreeealllyy annoyed last week when this chirpy financial advisor came on and advised Canadians to invest their 401K equivalents by themselves saying mutual funds with their poor performance history over the past decade and high expense ratios (2%-3% in Canada & more!!!) aren’t worth it. 

    She advised being a passive investor, buying ETFs and updating your investments once in a while and forgetting about expensive financial advisors. That really rankled Kevin. He tried to rile her but she was unflappable waving him off with Forrest Gump-type simplicity saying if you can read the directions on how to bake a cake, you can invest in ETFs by yourself and pocket the high fees & commissions. Just buy a few different countries a few different sectors, change ’em every once in a while and Bob’s your uncle. He was PISSED. I had to freeze frame his face and my husband and I had a good laugh. 

  • Roy

    i have seen the british version and the canadian version of the show

    the americans have a way of making the show exciting and the products that appear on the american show are way better inmy opinion

    also….there were a handful of people who didnt get any deal but were contacted by other investors after wards

    one case was the shrimp burger guy

    the man candle guy also made it on his own after being laughed at

    the investors are human too….dont let anyone tell you you cant do anything


    • Roy

      another thing

      I have seen some people come in and make a presentation and everyone likes them instanly….

      while others just get badly treated even if their product is good..for eg the “pure ayre” product guy or the portable graffiti removal guy

      both those guys I mentioned were even being offered a deal…but the sharks were like…”we dont need you…we just want your company…the moment we buy your company you are fired”

      is it like a viba thing where some people are bubbly and people treat them good while others get attacked for no reason


  • http://jameshamlett.com/ James

    It seems as though some of the individuals who presenting their companies and products are not aware of how cold and calculating the Sharks can be.  I guess business can be all about the bottom line.  The Sharks also don’t realize that an entrepreneur has put their lives, money, and time on the line to create their product.  It may not be so easy to give this up for a dollar or a quick deal that does not promise success.

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    Great post, James.  The “one out of a three thousand” remark made me laugh.  So, the final lesson from Shark Tank, spend $5K on breast augmentation, raise $500K.

    • Jeffrey Fry

      Yep…even if you do not get $500K…you have nice breasts!! booyah

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Connor/100000284561197 Peter Connor

    Fascinating.  So the drill is big concept, big breasts!

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    I’ve probably watched every episode of Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den Canada and UK. First of all, kudos to anyone who has the balls to step in front of investors and millions of viewers and pitch their product. Or their dream. Or whatever. I often put myself in their position and I get sweaty palms just thinking about it. For me, that would be a victory.
    Secondly, I’ve always thought, just like James, that this was a great opportunity to get your product some exposure. It’s up to you to make the most of it.
    And lastly, this season of Shark Tank had a guy come on pitching a RSVP type of service for night clubs. What struck me wasn’t the product. It was his cool demeanor. At what point, the investors were having a go at him, and he was as relaxed as somebody meeting a buddy in Starbucks. To paraphrase him, he said something like “It’s all good. We’re just talking. It’s not personal. It’s always good to talk business.” I think that is the BIGGEST LESSON OF ALL. When you make anything too personal, you’re bound to come off either arrogant or nervous or standoffish. Stay relaxed in life, make the other person just as relaxed and you’ll go far in life. 

  • Gonzalo Gandia

    I’ve probably watched every episode of Shark Tank, Dragon’s Den Canada and UK. First of all, kudos to anyone who has the balls to step in front of investors and millions of viewers and pitch their product. Or their dream. Or whatever. I often put myself in their position and I get sweaty palms just thinking about it. For me, that would be a victory.
    Secondly, I’ve always thought, just like James, that this was a great opportunity to get your product some exposure. It’s up to you to make the most of it.
    And lastly, this season of Shark Tank had a guy come on pitching a RSVP type of service for night clubs. What struck me wasn’t the product. It was his cool demeanor. At what point, the investors were having a go at him, and he was as relaxed as somebody meeting a buddy in Starbucks. To paraphrase him, he said something like “It’s all good. We’re just talking. It’s not personal. It’s always good to talk business.” I think that is the BIGGEST LESSON OF ALL. When you make anything too personal, you’re bound to come off either arrogant or nervous or standoffish. Stay relaxed in life, make the other person just as relaxed and you’ll go far in life. 

    • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

      Great point, Gonzalo.

    • Fred Stork

      Three biggest fears:
      1) Dying
      2) Speaking in public
      3) Dying while speaking in public

  • http://www.facebook.com/anders.mikkelsen Anders Mikkelsen

    Thanks for another amazing parenting tip in the last paragraph. 

  • http://736hundred.tumblr.com/ 736hundred


  • kate

    i stumbled on this show and i love it! it is truly the only useful reality show out there.  And i have actually learned a lot about large scale business… even if you don’t want/need investors, you get an idea of what roadblocks you might run into that you would not ever think of (manufacturing costs, delivery, licensing, etc.).. even through all the reality crap, there are some really useful pieces of information. I agree with your summaries and there are even more little industry specific nuggets of info being thrown around in each episode. 

    after watching that show i would bet you have to tell the kids to only present their favorite business idea… you so are not getting out of christmas and summer vacation!

  • http://www.facebook.com/aleksander.tenev Aleksandar Tenev

    this show is a killer :)

  • http://twitter.com/ilovethome THOMÈ

    btw in this video mark cuban says he would NEVER get funding for a business: http://youtu.be/HgFmyHUdJiM

  • Anonymous

    Mark Cuban just blogged some FAQs about Shark Tank. http://blogmaverick.com/2012/02/17/your-quick-and-dirty-guide-to-sharktank/ I love that you are watching it with your daughters. I had Dad TV shows too. Dukes of Hazzard, Mork and Mindy, Star Trek TNG, Knight Rider, Buck Rogers, etc. My mom was not as enamored with the jumping cars and sci-fi, although she said she thought I looked a little like Mindy.

  • http://jacxu.com/ Jac Xu

    Yesterday, after I saw this post, I can’t help go back to the show, it is exactly the same as James debriefed, so funny, after read this blog.  I can’t help laughing, when every points match James’.  James, you are awesome!

  • Carlos

    James, have you seen the documentary “Anvil! The Story of Anvil”? 

    It’s a great example of how you can have a good product and make no money of it because of bad management and bad promotion. The film is a tribute to human stupidity, total lack of common sense and professionalism. It shows how crazy and delusional (band members) attracts crazy and delusional (manager). Another lesson of the movie is that if you persist long enough, you might make it despite your stupidity.

  • http://iphone4pascher.fr/ Thomas G

    Hi James, shark tank only shows 5/10 minutes of the presentation but they last around one hour normally.

    You should take a look at Kevin O’Leary’s book, it’s entertaining and interesting. I’m also curious to know the truth about the Mattel story, because for him they took a very good company (his) and, because of all of the mattel bureaucracy, tanked it.

    The book : http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Hard-Truth-Business-Money/dp/0385671741/

  • Nick Freiling

    Mr. Altucher,

    I recently wrote an article on my blog regarding a recent Shark Tank contestant. I thought you might be interested in reading it considering your thoughts on the show expressed in this post.


  • http://twitter.com/EntreprenKorner EntrepreneursKorner

    Joseph Kony 2012 – Raise Awareness!


  • Anonymous

    I am totally hooked on this show, too! But it does kill me when I see “wantrepreneurs” give away everything with their desperation and poor negotiation skills. Did you see the wine balloon episode? When they do find an idea that they know is a sure bet, the sharks often succeed in buying them out completely for a couple hundred thousand…something they will be kicking themselves for down the road. My heart hurts for those people!   I am trying to get on the show with my business partner, a physician who has a patent on a medical device that will save lives and costs in the hospital, but he only has a patent and a prototype and cannot manufacture the product without a million in investment? Do you think we have a shot?

  • Anonymous

    th the screw college bit, but I am new to your blog and must do further research. However, I will disclose some evidence in support of your case. 

    My sister went to Georgetown University, and her college entry coincided with my father’s massive heart attack. Luckily he survived to face the next tuition bill. I am quite certain that this piece of statistical information will now give you complete and total credibility with Georgetown. You can thank me later.

    FYI, my now coronarily challenged dad went to harvard and he wishes he hadn’t. His parents had decided his fate starting at hotchkiss ending at harvard…that’s what good elitists do. From a young age my dad campaigned against choosing an ivy league education because he felt he was taught more by TA’s then professors. Being published is much more important than some undergrad peon, I guess.

    My father has his faults, but I thank him for instilling in me his allergy to all things pretentious. Unlike my disobedient sister who went to a pseudo-ivy league college, I was loyal. I maintained a C+ average and skipped school often just to ensure I had no chance to gain entrance to this axis of evaluation. I lucked into a sports scholarship at a very prestigious institution commonly referred to as “Over Dose University.” Yes, be impressed (and puzzled since you may have never heard of ODU- it is quite exclusive).

    I can’t weigh in intelligently about the yay or nay of going to college yet (see what that university education bought me?) But I can say that paying half a million bucks for a name is ridiculous. Unless your name is Winthorp, then it is kind of mandatory. Tootles!

  • http://www.facebook.com/blakelymike Mike Blakely

    Great article, I’m glad you brought up the fact that all the deals don’t close, because they don’t. Robert Herjavec flaked on his deal with You Smell Soap, which was sad because he had such a heart felt response on how he wanted to make sure the girl had money to live on the first year and making her promise to quit her job to work on the business full time.  She quits and then he does not respond for months and months.  

    Now I know why Barbra always says I go through with all my deals, not sure if she really does or not, that might be a whole other lesson. 

  • Styles77

    I enjoyed your article. Thank you. I have on demand TV so I catch up with Shark Tank on this. So interesting to watch the deals or non deals. What people forget is that deals do fall apart because of due dilligence. Sometimes the investors own board members or lawyers will stop them from proceeding with a deal.

  • Kakan

    ;Hi, great article. I plan to submit the description of my product to Shark Tank next week. That’s all they ask for. I have a great idea, no sales, but great buyer feedback. I need money to go into production and for marketing.. Aside from talking about what the product is and the feedback, should I talk about having a business plan, board of advisors, maufacturers, and component suppliers lined-up, size of market, etc?, Would love to hear from you. Thanks!

  • Martin

    Kevin O’Leary didn’t start The Learning Co. His company, Softykey International, obtained The Learning Co. through a hostile takeover. Then he renamed Softkey The Learning Co.

    • Jeffrey Fry

      …yes, it IS amazing how history gets warped even in the “age of the internet.”

  • Martin

    PS. Kevin’s obnoxious personality on the show is not just a personna for the show. He’s that way all the time. I worked very closely with him for quite a while. He was always like that with everyone.

  • http://nprasanna.com/ Prasanna N

    Wow James.. this was amazing. I’m looking to escape the cubicle nation and become an entrepreneur. I listen to Mixergy.com interviews while I jog every other day. Shark Tank looks like a similar show for Entrepreneurs.

    Thanks again for the article.

  • Murphy

    So much in your article is incorrect. So blatantly incorrect i cannot be bothered listing it all.

    One thing you don’t do, is sell equity in business that is not a business. “Sell the dream”… no you are selling a working business. Why the fuck would anyone invest in a product… a working business creating positive cashflow is what an investor looks for.

    The only exception to the ‘selling a product’ approach is if you have an amazing product.

    Anyone who creates a product is not an entrepreneur, they are an inventor. Anyone who creates a system that clearly sells their product is an entrepreneur. Noone wants to waste their money on someone without a business. If you have no sales, YOU DO NOT HAVE A BUSINESS FULLSTOP.

    You clearly have not made much money as your mindset is still stuck in ‘what product can I invent that the market doesn’t have yet?’

    Stop giving people advice you moron.

    • Guest

      Something tells me James can make more money off this blog alone than you can working 80 hours a week at a desk.

      Despite anyone’s net worth, that freedom alone would be heavenly.

  • John

    This is ridiculous. You’re not going to let your kids have a Christmas or good summer vacation just because YOU have no life?

  • Tammy Hubbard-Wimbish

    ha i have world wide product that affect every human in poor to rich society tammy.hubbard @ymail.com i james

  • Jospeh Malkom

    with all due respect I think you are missing a big fact, this show is a blood sucking one! did you know no matter what business name you mention there the make you sign an agreement to pay them 2-5% of your sales to Sony (Blood sucker) for ever!

    so it is never a $1m free ad, unless your business is meant to close in few years

  • jhfgjkf

    screw blogs

  • tonilee07

    LOVE — thanks!

  • FD8

    Number ten is probably why Mark Burnett Productions gets 5% of a business as a fee for appearance on the show (at least according to Wikipedia). You hear all this stuff about those people turning down deals but getting a big boost in sales.

    • I_Love_KU

      oops…thought so too

  • Leslie Robert Wolfe

    Have you seen “WHALE OF AN IDEA?” Go to: http://www.whaleofanidea.net

  • http://www.facebook.com/topsecretboss Leslie Robert Wolfe

    Have you seen “WHALE OF AN IDEA?” Go to: http://www.whaleofanidea.net

  • Jesse

    Apparently it’s not actually “free advertising”. Every entrepreneur that pitches their company has to give 5% of their “business” or 2% of the profits forever to the producers regardless of whether a deal was made or not.

  • I_Love_KU

    If you appear on shark tank, don’t you have to agree to provide a certain amount of your sales for appearing on the show?

  • sanjiv

    hey, it was very good. i appreciate your insight.

  • Ken

    “You just presented your product for 15 minutes on a nationally
    broadcasted TV show that will be re-aired at least two or three times
    and sell a ton of shows on itunes.” Even if you don’t make a good deal, you still win no matter what is said about you or your product by the Sharks.

    • dash

      The only problem with that is if you don’t make a deal the producers of the show still get about 5% of the company…so that’s more of a loss than a gain..its in the fineprint

      • ShowMeTheMoney

        I still think that’s a great deal. As James said, if they want a higher percentage but are offering you the money you seek, take it. Of course I would give up 5% of my company to the Sharks for a chance at a deal, the publicity, and… unlike most others on the show, I would be asking them for advice and direction.

  • Matt

    I love you, James. You’re the best & have truly put inspiration back in my brain. Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

  • Vic

    Hi, Thank You Lady for Placing this Info, It is VERY MUCH APPRECIATED.

    To Everyone Out there that are Investors, entrepreneur and Good People of Internet World:

    I have a Favor and a Question to Ask Of you Experienced ONLY People Please!

    I am an Inventor of at least 5 MAJOR Money Making Ideas out of Total 20.

    But never made it to Patent them for Financial Reasons, Who can Give me the Best EXPERIENCED and Knowledgeable ADVICE so I can put My Ideas to Production level AND wait NO Longer for this Agonizing Situation of watching everyone come and Pass you while I Beg for A TRUSTWORTHY Investors that become a TRUE Partners with me.

    Its Frustrating and painful Catch 20 Situation since People CAN and WILL Steal Your Idea and Everyone that Has been in this Situation and Finally Told someone THEY ALL SAY DON’T TELL ANYONE YOU DON’T TRUST !

    And So far that’s where I HAVE BEEN , But I Don’t Wish To .

    God BLESS you People that Are out there and will Extend a Thought to Help, I have an Elephant Mind for people that Help me to COME BACK and FIND THEM for REWARDS!

    THANKS and Happy Valentine’s Day To All you Good People .

    • Axel Nissim

      If you “god bless” all over, you cannot be “good people” or associate yourself with one. Think twice about what you’re saying with your post!

      • tryn

        I was thinking the manic random capitalization of letters was the tell here, but yeah, a little too much “God Bless” for my taste…and I happen to be Southern.

  • lita scott

    Very cool observation and what a great education for your kids that they could not ever get in school.

  • lisa

    I met the woman you have in the “she sold the dream”. She said the deal fell through shortly after airing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/emichaelnelson Erik Nelson

    The guy from Scottevest states that in everyone’s agreement to appear on Shark Tank every entrepreneur has to give 5% equity or 2% profit in perpetuity for appearing on the show whether or not they strike a deal with the sharks. Hence, no free publicity.


  • Mike

    I read an article that eluded to the fact that every business that actually airs on Shark Tank gives up 5% equity to the Sharks who are partners in the show itself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.mullis.3 Kevin Mullis

    No ideas no Christmas. I’m down with that.

  • Sashagrace80

    Awesome words of wisdom thanks!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jack.arnold.547 Jack Arnold

    Very Good Article, but you left out the most important part. The Contract.
    I recently received a response from Shark Tank in relation to an email I sent regarding Products I invented.
    They called me and asked several questions about the products and my back ground.
    I was then emailed a packet which contained a contract to sign and return within seven days.
    As a 64 year old gentleman with twenty years experience in the arbitration field, I first looked at the agreement before filling out the informational forms. I was astonished at what I read!!
    My personal opinion, The whole show is a scam against inventors.
    The agreement requires you to give up your Property Rights whether or not you get to present your product . They also charge a 2 % royalty or a 5% equity charge, again whether or not you get on the show. My advice, beware of what you sign!!!

    • JBSIII

      They’ve since removed the 5% equity charge according
      to Mark Cuban. He said he wouldn’t come back to the show if they didn’t, the interview was on You Tube.

  • John

    In regards to “free advertising”, I believe the pitchers must give up 5% of their company (or comparable royalties) just to get on the show.

  • Laura

    Yes, “not everything is at appears”. My little town in a Northern State is filled with what we call “Trust Fund Hippies” – they are definitely not as they appear. But we also have biz owners who appear very successful but who either are in the sh&&*S or had become internet millionaires in the 90’s or have trust funds and are using their failing biz as more as hobbies. Examples: The cheese maker who is in so much debt, lives in a house that is literally falling down around her, and really only can still make cheese because her parents Dairy Farm supplies her with the milk. Recently highlighted in our “Edible” magazine – she appeared every bit the epitome of a successful country bizwoman. We also have the wedding cake baker/artist – who turned her garage into a $100k pink kitchen wonderland – How many cakes a year do you sell? I asked her – “Oh, 7 or 8, it takes up a lot of weekends, so I don’t want to really do too many.” Hmmm…is that really a business? She was also highlighted at a recent “Women’s Career Expo” as the featured speaker and a successful entrepreneur. Really, you bake 7 or 8 cakes a year – that’s inspiring? Her husband is a doctor – not sure how much income she’s pulling from those 7 or 8 cakes a year to contribute to that $100k garage/kitchen renovation. We also have the wine shop owner. Somehow, even through our harsh winters and lack of tourists, the shop stays open and even has staff – but really it is the assets and alimony from her divorce that keeps her store alive – not the tourists. She does appear to be every bit the successful entrepreneur, though – and plays it nicely in the press. Not that any of this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s just things are not as they seem. There is a lot of creative writing in our local press. I wouldn’t take biz advice from these entrepreneurs based on their “local success” stories.

  • Andrew Cockerham

    Great points James…best breakdown of Shark Tank I’ve read

  • dash

    I think it sucks that the producers of the show gets about 5% of the company whether they make a deal or not with the sharks…I used to think it was a great show until I’ve done my research

  • Idia Ogala

    Its not free advertising. The fine print says anyone that makes an appearance on the show is mandated to forfeit 2% of company sales to the Shark Tank executive producer for the life of the company.

  • Kira

    How did you calculate the sharks evaluations like 83000 for 15% equity?

    • ShowMeTheMoney

      You divide it. $100,000 / 10% = $1,000,000.

      $83,000 / 15% = $533,333.33

  • http://www.boneblast.com/ JB KIR

    That girl who ‘Sold the dream’ can sell her dream to me anytime.

  • Burge Wallick

    Great article – reading all I can as I have made it through the phone interview level for the show.

  • Anon

    I’ve done business with one of the larger companies featured on shark tank. They, like many who are featured, went on for the publicity. This company made a great deal only to later back-out because the publicity allowed them to self-finance. The owner shared a lot about their experience with me. This person confirmed that many, if not most, of the deals made never happen. This is often because the business owners have misled the sharks about their finances and situation.

  • http://www.y8u.org/ Y8 Games

    the good lessons, the road lead to the final fife is very difficult to go, when we don’t know how to choose the right way to go, we eay be stuck and give up the goal. let’s keep and don’t give up

  • DrewRL

    James you’re a genius. Usually I think of watching TV as = soul-destroying waste of time but I love how you turned it into a real-world education, and I predict big success for your daughters.

    Also, reading your blog makes me smarter.

  • Mickey Phill

    Mickey Phill. I have A product on the market and I would love to get it to the next level. Im in Springfield Oregon.Please go on line & take look at my front page spread. The Oregon Register Guard Wednesday May 25th 2011 life section. Mickey,s Creole Sauce Made with Love.Organic, hickory sweet & smokey Mickey,s Creole@gmail.com 541-870-1870

  • Amanda Sanchez

    First of all, Am just short of words i don’t know what to say, am so grateful to Dr Hunt for what he has done for me. At first i thought he was a scam like two others that i worked with, but i just decided to contact him then he told me that my lover will be back home within 72 hours. When the 72 hours completed my husband called me and said he was sorry for the frequent argument and fight, i was so happy that my husband who left me for over 2 years called me. Now we are together he can’t do without me, he always wants me to be by his side and he just bough me a new car. If you want to contact him for help, his email is ancientremedy1@gmail.com

    Amanda Sanchez

    • Razooka Joe

      Dirty Sanchez

  • TraceyHartley

    Love your take on it! I have a really great invention but no money to even patent it…really wish they had a show similar to Shark Tank where they actually helped people who really need the help from start to finish!

  • Montgomery Modus

    Dang, you went “Mr. Wonderful” on your daughters in that last paragraph, lol. Another great post, thank you James.

  • Louise Calle

    We have to hope that things will get pretty better for our Real Estate Investments Australia. As long as we know the essential things that we needed to build a better strategy it will be enough for us to achieve our success. With this kind of business, we need to give our best to ensure that we will succeed.


  • Maisie

    Me and my boy friend was been separated for a long period of time, I came across different spell casters and they were all unable to bring back my lover. I was so sad and almost gave up on him, when i met a spell caster called Dr.Grant, who helped me get my lover back. Ever since then i have been so happy and couldnt believe it would happen. He also helped me with success spell, I have been living happily with my lover now and will be getting married soon. Here is his email address grantingheartdesiresspell@gmail.com to contact him if you need his help

  • Jeffrey Fry

    Hum, you make Mark Cuban into an internet guru, and what he actually did was just steal, yes steal, broadcasts of sporting events and rebroadcast them (illegally) until Yahoo was stupid enough to totally overpay for this company… It does NOT make you smart just because the other side is stupid, it makes you lucky, and kudos for him for that..but honestly, most of the advice / expertise on this show is more fluff than actual good or actionable advice. Like a plate of platitudes… pretty to look at, but not very filling….

    Oh, but you are dead nuts on about the FREE advertising… exposure is everything…even on a “dead” media like TV!

  • rosh3000

    A point to make: pitches can last hours and we are only shown a 10 minutes. O’Learys: “Ok, to summarize, here are your four offers.” is what the ABC producers ask him to do so it gives them a place to put in a break. ps very good read


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  • albert mark

    impressed with the surpassing and instructive blogs that you just provide in
    such very short timing.

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  • Igor

    I would love to see you James as a shark guest on Shark Tank.