For over a decade, ABC’s Shark Tank has allowed entrepreneurs to pitch their product or business to a group of very successful and influential investors. It has given the rest of us some insight and entertainment. Especially when some of those pitches don’t go as planned
Raising money for a business is always challenging. It is also something that should be prepared for and presented well. It is not every day that an entrepreneur will have an opportunity to ask 6 investors for capital and get national TV exposure for their business.
In this article, we’ll list the 20 times pitches went wrong in the Shark Tank. But first, let’s define what a bad pitch is.
Why Are These the Worst Pitches?
To be clear, inclusion on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that the product was bad or that the people presenting them are not capable entrepreneurs. In fact, every entrepreneur on this list should be commended for taking the risk of going on national TV and presenting the product or company that they are passionate about. Instead, this list consists of some of the worst mistakes you can make when pitching to investors.
Many things can make a pitch bad:
Sometimes the presenter is unprepared to talk about their product. To pitch your business, you need to understand the number, projections, competition, and market demand. Not knowing these things dramatically increases the chances of a pitch going badly.
Not Thinking the Idea all the Way Through
Many times the entrepreneur hasn’t thought their business idea all the way through. When this happens, experienced entrepreneurs like the Sharks can easily see the problems with the product that, if unaddressed, can lead to disaster.
Good Intention; Wrong Product
There are several examples on this list of entrepreneurs who had the right idea, but went about it the wrong way or developed the wrong product as a solution. These can range from being too advanced, too outlandish, too risky, or too much of a novelty.
Overvaluing the product
Another reason why a pitch can be bad is just that the entrepreneur had the Sharks’ interest but made the mistake of overvaluing their company and asking for too much money. It is good to have confidence in yourself and your business but it is equally important to value your company accurately.
Getting Confrontational with the Investors
And finally, a few of these pitches are on the list because of an uncomfortable or confrontational exchange between the investors and the entrepreneurs. When asking someone for money, it is never a good idea to start a fight. Especially on national TV.
There are a lot of things entrepreneurs can learn about how to pitch a product by learning from those who made mistakes. Here are the 20 worst pitches from ABC’s Shark Tank.
1. Ionic Ear – Season 1, Pilot Episode (2009)
Product description: Surgically implanted Bluetooth device
Ask: $1,000,000 for 15% equity
Probably the worst pitch ever on Shark Tank was during season one, according to the Sharks. Ionic Ear was supposed to be a surgically implanted Bluetooth device designed to replace the Bluetooth of a person’s phone as well as other devices. The entrepreneur, Darrin Johnson, asked for a cool million dollars for 15% of the company.
Johnson hadn’t made any previous sales of the device when he appeared on the show, but the investors took more issue with conceptual flaws. For example, in order to charge Ionic Ear the user would need to insert a needle like device into their ear at night.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a person would have to go through the entire surgical process again in order to upgrade the device. He tried to save his pitch by comparing his device to breast implants— but even years later, many of the sharks agree Ionic Ear was the worst pitch they’ve ever heard on Shark Tank.
“The worst pitch is probably the crazy engineer who had a Bluetooth device that would only work if you surgically put it in your ear,” Barbara Corcan, Shark Tank investor, said. “When it ran out of battery (life), you have another surgeon take it out of your ear and recharge it. Nutso!”
What Happened to Iconic Ear After Shark Tank?
It appears as though the world is not yet ready for implanted tech. Iconic ear never took off and it seems that you cannot purchase the product anywhere.
2. Sullivan Generator – Season 3, Episode 11 (2012)
Product description: Machine converting salt water to electricity and gold
Ask: $1,000,000 for 10%
This pitch by Mark Sullivan made some amazing claims. Sullivan, who holds a graduate degree in biomedical engineering and is a MENSA member, presented a generator that creates electricity from saltwater, brackish or industrial wastewater. He claimed that this one-of-a-kind machine could even produce gold from the desalination process.
Sullivan did not have a prototype for the machine and only presented a conceptual drawing during his pitch. He quickly lost the interest of most of the sharks. Robert Herjavec offered to give $50,000 to Sullivan if Kevin O’Leary would invest the other $950,000. O’Leary, of course, declined.
Daymond John, Sark Tank investor, later spoke about the pitch, stating, “The guy wanted to build some kind of system in the ocean that twirled around sand and created gold. And I went home, and I put a bunch of sand in a blender. I thought I was going to get a pinky ring or something. Nothing ever happened.”
What Happened to Sullivan Generator After Shark Tank?
It appears that Sullivan was never able to find an investor for his generator. However, Sullivan is clearly a smart and accomplished guy so maybe he has some winning ideas up his sleeve.
3. THROX – Season 1, Episode 8 (2009)
Product description: Set of three socks so if you lose one you still have a pair
Ask: $50,000 For 25%
Edwin Heaven came up with a solution for a problem people have had since the invention of socks. At the time of the show’s airing, he had $38,000 sales. O’Leary appeared particularly annoyed by the pitch, calling Heaven a “vampire cockroach.”
The major problem with the idea is that any sock production company could duplicate the product without much trouble and would essentially push THROX out of business.
What Happened After the Shark Tank
Surprisingly, THROX’s website is still up and you can still purchase a triplet set of Throx. Even though the idea hasn’t scaled, you’ve got to give Heaven credit for being able to keep this product on the market for over a decade.
4. Wake N Bacon – Season 2, Episode 2 (2011)
Product description: Alarm clock bacon maker
Ask: $40,000 for 20%
Matty Sallin came up with the idea of an alarm clock that wakes you up with the smell of cooked bacon while attending NYU. His classmates loved the idea, so Sallin created a prototype and published it on the internet. He claimed to have gotten such a large amount of feedback that he decided to move forward with the idea.
The sharks had an issue with a device that cooks actual food so close to where people sleep. Both shark investors Mark Cuban and O’Leary worried the clock would be a fire hazard.
But the real problem came when Cuban asked about production costs. Sallin did not realize that he actually needed to ask for $170,000 rather than $40,000 to meet those costs. Mark was convinced the clock would be a good gag gift but would not invest $170,000 alone in the product.
Before leaving the tank, O’Leary did offer $300 to Sallin for his prototype.
What Happened to Wake N Bacon After Shark Tank?
The interest in the bacon themed alarm clock seemed to die out eventually and Wake N Bacon is no longer in business.
5. Tycoon Real Estate – Season 6, Episode 16 (2015)
Product description: Crowd-investing platform that allows people to invest in real estate
Ask: $50,000 for 5%
There are millions of people in America that would like to begin investing in real es