Reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” perhaps unusual for its focus on businesses seeking investment rather than on the drama or personal lives of cast members, has something of a cult following in the United States.
But it didn’t get its start there. In fact, the U.S. was actually rather late to the game. The original version of the show aired more than a decade ago in Japan. It was then licensed by a production company in the United Kingdom and turned into a popular British version called “Dragon’s Den.”
Now, there are versions all over the world, and the look and feel of the show varies dramatically by location and country, as does what the investors expect when they put money into a company.
Here’s a brief look at “Shark Tank” around the world.
Canada: “Dragon’s Den”
This is the second-longest-running spinoff, having lasted eight seasons. Current U.S. Shark Kevin O’Leary was on board from the first season in 2006, and continues to do double duty on both shows. Robert Herjavec was also one of the Dragons on the first six seasons. There’s also a separate, French Canadian version in Quebec called “Dans L’oeuil Du Dragon” (“In The Dragon’s Eye”).
Czech Republic: “Den D”
The Czech version, whose name is a reference to “Dragon’s Den,” is relatively long-tenured. It started in 2009 and is on its fourth season.
The set takes the “dragon’s den” theme pretty seriously. In what appears to be an unused factory, it looks like a haunted house, complete with cobwebs.
And although you see offbeat pitches in the U.S. version, nothing quite matches “Humanic Houses,” a company that appeared on an episode in 2012 that intends to build full-scale residences that resemble human faces.
England: “Dragon’s Den”
This is the first and longest-running spinoff of the show. There have been 11 seasons since 2005. The investors on the show have invested millions of pounds in more than 100 businesses over the run of the show. It’s largely responsible for the look and feel of the many other versions that have followed it, down to the stacks of money sitting next to the investors.
Finland: “Leijonan Kita”/”Leijonan Luola” (“The Lion’s Jaws/Den”)
The first time Finland tried a version of the show, it was titled the “The Lion’s Jaws,” but it only lasted one season back in 2007. A new version called “The Lion’s Den,” started this year with an entirely new set of investors and a new host.
The format and feel of the show are pretty similar to others around the world. In one episode, the Lions went in for 35% of a Finnish grandmother’s cupcake business.
Japan: “マネーの虎” (“Money Tigers”)
This is the original version, which ran from 2001 to 2004. Its tagline translates roughly to “no challenge, no success,” according to the Japanese Wikipedia page.
The hallmarks of later shows are there, like the row of seated investors being pitched to.
However, the production value leaves something to be desired. The majority of the show consists of extreme closesups of people’s faces, ofen with large and intrusive white text:
Poland: “Dragon’s Den — Jak zostać milionerem” (“Dragon’s Den — How to be a millionaire” )
The Polish version has the same look as the other European ones: a dark, intimidating room, a “dragon’s den” theme, and money on the table.
In the U.S. and British versions, the investors are almost always the minority partner, but in the Polish version, the Dragons almost always end up with well over 50% ownership when they invest.
Spain: “Tu Oportunidad” (“Your Chance”)
This is the newest version of the show, which began airing in late October. The show tends to follow the format of the U.S. and British versions, with lower investor stakes and without the campier aspects of some of the Eastern European versions.
Ukraine: “Акули бізнесу” (“Business Sharks”)
The Ukranian version has a somewhat more industrial feel than some other Eastern European counterparts. One of the Sharks, Serhiy Tihipko, was a former candidate for Ukraine’s presidency and is currently Vice Prime Minister.
U.S.: “Shark Tank”
Now in its fifth season, the U.S. version most resembles the Canadian show, both in the personalities and in the way it looks. What sets the show apart is the wealth of the investors, billionaire Mark Cuban being a notable example, and the size of the deals.
You rarely see other deals even approach the $US2 million that Cuban recently invested.
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