- “Shark Tank” contestant Shaan Patel bombed his answer to a question he knew the Sharks were going to ask him.
- The question was whether Patel, a medical student, wanted to be an entrepreneur or a doctor.
- Despite stammering through his answer, Patel secured a $US250,000 deal from Mark Cuban.
No matter how much you practice a big business pitch, nothing compares to the pressure of actually delivering it.
For Shaan Patel, that lesson was made painfully clear on a 2016 episode of “Shark Tank.”
Patel went on the show to pitch his SAT tutoring company Prep Expert to a panel of celebrity investors. Although the investors were impressed by Patel’s credentials – he scored a perfect 2400 on his SAT in high school – he nearly blew his chance at a lucrative deal when he flubbed the answer to a question he knew they were going to ask him.
The question was whether Patel, who at the time was earning a medical degree in dermatology from the University of Southern California, wanted to be an entrepreneur or a doctor.
Patel told Business Insider he had prepared for that very question on the flight to Los Angeles for filming of the show. In fact, when producers of the show asked him to write down 25 potential questions he might face from the panel, that was the first one he wrote.
But when it came time to answer the question in real life, Patel stammered his way through an answer that left the Sharks unconvinced about his commitment to his business.
“It was so funny because on ‘Shark Tank’ when they asked me that question, I totally stumbled,” Patel said. “I could not give them a clear answer and I looked like a total goofball. Like, how did you not think they were going to ask you that?”
The Sharks didn’t spare Patel their criticism.
“Your biggest problem, Shaan, is that you’re not 110% committed,” Kevin O’Leary said.
“I give my money to people that will die for their business,” he continued. “They will give up their lives for it. That’s the kind of general I want to back. You’re not that kind of general.”
“I’m not sure that you know the direction you want to be,” Lori Greiner said, with Robert Herjavec adding, “I can’t invest in a part-time entrepreneur.”
Despite the harsh words, Patel managed to come out on top when he accepted a $US250,000 offer from Mark Cuban for 20% of his company and any of Patel’s future business ventures.
In the two years since the show aired, Prep Expert has grown tenfold, with sales increasing from $US1 million to $US10 million and the company expanding from one full-time employee to 10. Prep Expert now offers live classes in five US cities, and between live and online courses, has tutored 30,000 students, a couple of whom have gone on to score perfect scores on the SAT.
Patel and Cuban have even co-authored a book, “Kid Start-Up,” about how parents can teach their children to become entrepreneurs.
At the same time, Patel finished medical school, earned an MBA from Yale, and is now in residency to become a dermatologist.
“If I could go back to the show and answer that question, I would have said I’d like to do both,” Patel told Business Insider.
Ideally, he said, he would be able to have a career as a dermatologist and as a business leader, possibly only practicing medicine “a couple times a week.”
“All of the Sharks wear multiple hats. None of them are just Sharks on ‘Shark Tank,'” he said.
“They do all kinds of different things, and they don’t just hold one career. I think lots of people do that. I don’t know why necessarily it was so astounding for them.”
He continued: “But I can understand that if you’re going to invest in someone you want them to be fully 100% dedicated to it. Hopefully I’ve been able to show the Sharks, now being one of Mark Cuban’s most successful investments on the show, that I was able to grow the company and continue my education at the same time.”
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