So you want to be on “Shark Tank.” How do you get there?
With a massive viewer base, ABC’s hit pitch show is a priceless publicity tool for aspiring entrepreneurs. Experts believe an appearance on “Shark Tank” can equate to millions of dollars in free marketing exposure and numerous companies have become incredibly successful after going on air, even without landing a deal.
But it’s not easy to secure one of those coveted slots on the show. Previous contestants estimate that ABC gets tens of thousands of applications for each season of “Shark Tank,” which they whittle down to a handful of finalists for every episode.
To get a better sense of exactly what it takes to get on the show, we talked to Jamie Siminoff, inventor of video doorbell app DoorBot and a contestant on the fifth season. He applied to “Shark Tank” in March 2013 by filling out what he calls “an enormous handwritten application,” which included questions about the business idea, operations, and plan for growth. He then submitted a rough video pitch to the producers after they expressed interest in his company. That pitch landed him a spot on the show.
Siminoff went into the tank seeking $US700,000 in exchange for a 10% stake in his company, which helps homeowners identify visitors by streaming live video of the front door to a smartphone or tablet. He didn’t get a deal, but gave a strong presentation that earned nods of approval from the Sharks.
Below, we’ve collected his best behind-the-scenes tips for getting your company on “Shark Tank.”
1. Keep your pre-show pitch relaxed and down-to-earth.
When he and his team were filming the video they would submit with their application to be on “Shark Tank,” Siminoff says they had “zero production quality.” Instead, they tried to keep their segment high energy, entertaining, and down-to-earth. Siminoff thinks the approach paid off because the producers look for people who will be comfortable and personable in front of the camera.
2. Have a great one-liner.
Toward the very end of his video pitch to the producers, Siminoff said he casually threw in a funny rhyme: “Sharks, invest in me and the next time you hear a ‘ding,’ it’ll be a ‘cha-ching.'” The producers loved it, and Siminoff insists that’s why they called him back. “You have to be smart about the product and also entertaining,” he says. The line made it all the way to his actual pitch to the Sharks on the show.
3. Expect to invest a lot of time in getting ready for the show.
Siminoff estimates that he spent more than a month of full-time work on his “Shark Tank” appearance. He bought four seasons of the show on iTunes and watched all of them, flagging tough questions and entrepreneurs that performed especially well. He admits all the prep work was hard to juggle with running DoorBot. “Anything that’s this big is very distracting to the team,” he said. But it pays off once you’re in front of the Sharks. The show really is filmed live, and Siminoff says the Sharks will talk over each other with rapid-fire questions.
With all of the time-consuming prep work, it’s important to remember that even if you film a segment, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will make it on air. A little-known secret of “Shark Tank” is that the producers film far more segments than they actually run. That means you could go through months of work and preparation to get to the final stages of production, but never see your efforts hit the air. It’s a huge risk for a young business to take. “If we didn’t air I wouldn’t say it would have been devastating,” Siminoff reflects, “but it would have been pretty bad.”
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