After seeing hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their businesses over six full seasons of “Shark Tank,” Mark Cuban said there are only three primary categories they can fall into: honest entrepreneurs, arrogant ones, or scam artists.
At a “Shark Tank” a roundtable discussion hosted by Sony Pictures Television and ABC in late September to celebrate the premiere of the show’s eighth season, Cuban explained that each of these types will dictate how he behaves during the pitch.
1. The honest entrepreneur
“There are two elements,” Cuban said. “It’s not just, ‘Is it a good business?,’ but ‘Is it a good investment for us?’
That means the Sharks will see plenty of entrepreneurs they admire, but in whom they have no interest in investing. Cuban said he will be respectful to these entrepreneurs, regardless of whether he thinks they can make him money.
“And so if they’re an honest entrepreneur, I know we all — except for maybe Kevin [O’Leary] — try to be very supportive. Because we know this is going to air and we’re trying to send a message to everybody.”
O’Leary, who is known for bullying entrepreneurs and calling them “cockroaches,” explained that the reason he’s so harsh is because he thinks he’s doing them a service by telling them to stop wasting their time on a struggling business. If they can prove him wrong, then he’s happy to hear them out. “I’m trying to test the mettle of those entrepreneurs, because if they think it’s tough in the Shark Tank, wait until they get out in the real world,” O’Leary once told Business Insider. “If they can’t take a guy like me, then they’re not ready.”
At the Season 8 roundtable, fellow Shark Lori Greiner defended Cuban’s position, saying that she and Cuban are aware of the children and aspiring entrepreneurs watching the show, and don’t want them to see the investors picking on someone following their dream.
2. The arrogant entrepreneur
Sometimes an entrepreneur will speak down to the Sharks. They’re typically from Silicon Valley, where everyone competes for millions of dollars in capital, or Utah, which is has a rapidly growing startup scene.
“The arrogant ones are sometimes the most interesting,” Cuban said. “And so if they’re arrogant, then it becomes a battle of wits for us. You see us perk up, because we want to come right back at them. Like hey you’re coming one against five. And we each have our own skill set, and it’s hard to match up against that many, even if there’s two or three of them. And so that’s interesting and that’s a different dynamic.”
For example, Cuban has said the worst pitch he’s seen
on “Shark Tank” was in Season 5, when the cofounders of Rolodoc asked for $50,000 for 20% equity of their confusing mockup of an app — a mockup that didn’t even come with a business plan.
After Cuban dismissed the Rolodoc team by telling them “Worst pitch ever,” he told CNBC that “typically I don’t like to be mean to entrepreneurs … but these were two doctors who I think thought they could just snow us and mislead us into thinking that because they’re doctors they’re smarter than all of us.”
3. The ‘scam artist’
Cuban said some of the entrepreneurs out there are just out to steal people’s money. When they find their way into the Tank, they make for some pretty entertaining segments.
In Season 6, for example, Cuban called out Tycoon Real Estate founder Aaron McDaniel for being “scammy,” because he considered McDaniel’s real-estate crowdfunding business to be preying on unsophisticated people. Barbara Corcoran, who made her fortune building one of New York’s premiere real estate agencies, said McDaniel and his idea were “spooky.” The business no longer exists.
In the same way “Shark Tank” can make a company, it can break one, too.
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