Since “Shark Tank” debuted in 2009, we’ve seen hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of celebrity investors.
While each Shark may have their own method for evaluating whether a company is worth an investment, they all agree on the fundamentals of a great pitch.
In the best pitches, entrepreneurs sell themselves as much as the product and are prepared to answer any question. The pitches are concise and exciting, and make investors afraid they will miss out on a major money-making opportunity if they don’t make a deal.
A great pitch is far from a guarantee of success, but it’s one of the first hurdles to becoming the next hit company out of “Shark Tank.” In anticipation of the seventh season’s premiere on Sept. 25, we’ve rounded up the best pitches in the show’s history.
Beatbox Beverages cofounders Brad Schultz, Aimy Steadman, and Justin Fenchel entered the tank looking for $US250,000 for 10% of their neon-coloured, boxed fruit wine company.
After working through the details of how the three built their business, Mark Cuban decided the drink had the potential for viral growth among younger drinkers beyond the company's native Texas and offered $US600,000 for a third of the company. Fenchel was grateful for the offer but said they hadn't prepared to give up so much of their company. Cuban asked for a counter. Without skipping a beat, Fenchel asked for $US1 million in exchange for a third of the company. They shook hands on the deal.
One of the most common reasons why entrepreneurs miss out on a deal on the show is when they become indecisive or anxious. The Beatbox Beverages team trusted each other and had prepared well enough that nothing caught them off guard, and they ended up with an investment that's uncharacteristically large for the show.
Extravagant pitches filled with performances and props can make for great television, but often are used to hide deficiencies in a company. In the case of EmazingLights, however, a giant cartoon headpiece and a light show was used to demonstrate the company's unusual product, gloves with LED lights in the fingertips that have become increasingly popular at raves.
Founder and CEO Brian Lim's pitch showed the importance of self-promotion when wooing investors. He was able to convince them that the $US7 million in annual revenue he'd achieved for his four-year-old company was due to his focus, passion, and long-term vision to crush the competition.
'You are probably one of the, if not the best entrepreneur we've had here,' Robert Herjavec told him.
Lim made a deal with Cuban and Daymond John, with Cuban giving $US650,000 for 5% and John taking licensing rights and a 20% commission.
Husband-and-wife team Nick and Elyse Oleksak left high-paying Wall Street jobs to pursue the excitement of building their own business. They launched stuffed bagel company Bantam Bagels in 2013 and entered the tank looking to turn a New York City outlet into a national business.
Their pitch was noteworthy for having clearly outlined how the company's been successful thus far, what its deficiencies are, and how an investor's guidance and capital can overcome the weaknesses and turn it into a big success. They created the necessary 'fear of missing out.'
Lori Greiner, who built her career as the 'Queen of QVC,' saw the perfect opening for another home shopping hit. She got 25% of the company in exchange for a $US275,000 investment.
He established himself as trustworthy, explaining how he spent four months living in a Chinese factory to ensure his products were kept to his standard of quality; he showed how an investor could add value to his company by using their resources to help him meet overwhelming demand; and he illustrated how an investor could make money off his rapidly growing company, which grew to $US1 million in annual sales within two years.
Gunawan walked away with a deal with Herjavec for $US350,000 in exchange for 10% equity.
Zipz Wine chief consultant Andrew McMurray landed the biggest 'Shark Tank' deal of the past six seasons when Kevin O'Leary agreed to invest $US2.5 million in return for 10% equity.
What's especially interesting is that the Shark started with a bias against McMurray simply because his company reminded him of another single-serving wine company, Copa Di Vino, whose founder was the only person to decline an offer on two separate 'Shark Tank' appearances.
McMurray's main strength was a keeping a cool head and having the willingness to negotiate aggressively but reasonably.
When he saw that the investors started fighting with each other for a piece of his smartphone-operated breathalyzer, he calmly told them that regardless of what happened on 'Shark Tank,' he was looking to raise $US1 million in the next two months from angel investors and was happy to get more than one Shark in on a deal.
Cuban was initially reluctant to work with anyone, but Yim was able to orchestrate a conversation where the investors realised a bidding war would cause everyone to miss out. Cuban agreed to invest $US500,000 for 15% equity, and John, O'Leary, Greiner, and Herjavec split another 15% for $US125,000 each.
Bruno François, creator of hand-free video app Cycloramic, showed the power of a flawless product demonstration, a feat that requires plenty of preparation.
François was able to get all five Sharks interested in his app by demonstrating how his patented technology uses an iPhone's vibrations to move it in a circle for the purpose of compiling a panoramic photograph. After impressing the investors, he agreed to a joint deal between Cuban and Greiner for $US500,000 in exchange for 15% equity.
The demo's polished production also made it one of the premier benefactors of the 'Shark Tank effect,' earning it the top spot in the Apple app store after the pitch debuted on television, and racking up seven million downloads in the 12 months following the episode.
Cuban has said that he becomes less receptive to a pitch as soon as someone walks in with a gimmick. But Melissa Carbone's cast of ghouls didn't stop him from investing $US2 million for 20% equity in Carbone's horror attraction company Ten Thirty One Productions.
The Sharks love when entrepreneurs have their numbers down, and Carbone was ready to rattle off all of the performance and forecast data the investors wanted.
Carbone shocked the Sharks when she told them she pulled in over $US1 million a night during the Halloween season for her premiere event in Los Angeles, and Cuban jumped at the opportunity to take the company national.
Nothing matters more to an investor than a proven product and an opportunity to make money with it alongside a savvy entrepreneur, but Tree T-PEE founder Johnny Georges proved that making an emotional connection with an investor can, on the rare occasion, overcome a lack of business acumen.
Georges told the story of how he developed a business from his late father's invention, a semi-conical device that farmers can use to conserve water around trees. A 2009 University of Florida independent study found that trees with T-PEEs use '93% less water, fertiliser, electricity, and fuel,' which excited the Sharks. But they were then disappointed by Georges' lack of a drive to make the devices more profitable and to attack the market.
He then gave an impassioned defence of why he believes so strongly in helping his fellow farmers and carrying on his father's legacy, and the investors started to get emotional. Guest Shark John Paul DeJoria invested $US150,000 for 20% equity.
O'Leary told Business Insider that Georges' tribute to his father and mission 'was a particularly powerful moment in 'Shark Tank,' and no one's going to forget it. Every Shark had a tear in their eye, including me.'
Al 'Bubba' Baker, 1978 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, gave an impressive pitch that let his charisma shine through without letting it get in the way of solid data proving why his boneless ribs company was worth the investment.
He grabbed the Sharks' attention from the outset by presenting a problem -- his wife wouldn't prepare one of his favourite dishes because they took too long and were too messy. So he created a boneless, pre-cooked alternative. It helped that his post-NFL career in the restaurant business had made him an exceptional cook.
John loved the product and Baker's personality, and saw an opening to take Bubba Q's Boneless Ribs from a local favourite to a national item. He invested $US300,000 for 30% and licensing rights.
'They were clear, they were good-looking (you couldn't take your eyes off them), they were high energy, and they answered every question and objection like geniuses. Genuine, rock solid, and perfect answers,' she said.
After meeting with them to work out a business plan she learned that it was far from luck. The cofounders prepared for their pitch by watching all four existing seasons of 'Shark Tank' and filled a stack of paper with every possible question about their business they could think of. Then they took turns quizzing the other to ensure that they had every answer memorized.
'I haven't seen it before, and I haven't seen it since,' Corcoran said.
Nate Holzapfel is a tremendous salesman. His company, Mission Belt Co., makes belts without holes and donates money to a Kiva microlending fund for every belt sold. It's a neat idea, but not necessarily revolutionary.
What got the Sharks interested was his intense passion for the product and his declaration that they wouldn't need to spend money on a salesforce because all they would need is him.
John liked the quality of the product, and more importantly, he liked Holzapfel. He invested $US50,000 for 37.5%, contingent on Holzapfel remaining the brand ambassador, which Holzapfel was more than happy to oblige.
On 'Shark Tank,' there's always a risk that a teen-aged or child entrepreneur has a distracting novelty factor. But Lani Lazarri, who was 18 at the time of filming, was the real deal. She gave a thorough demonstration of her Simple Sugars line of skincare products and drew the Sharks in by explaining how important it was for her to be a strong female entrepreneur.
Moving personal story aside, Lazarri outlined a clear plan for how she would use an investor's capital and guidance and didn't balk during a round of difficult questions. Cuban made a deal with her for $US100,000 in return for 33% equity.
Scrub Daddy founder Aaron Krause had refined his pitch so well that he was brimming with confidence as he gave a demonstration of his ultra-tough yet scratch-free, smiley-shaped, hygienic sponges.
John, who was beaten out by Greiner for a deal, told Business Insider that it was his favourite pitch of the first six seasons, and that it was like watching a live infomercial.
Krause told us that his pitch was so polished because he had been refining it for months in local grocery stores where he was selling his product.
Greiner was smitten with the Scrub Daddy and beat out other investors for 20% of the company in exchange for a $US200,000 investment.
Herjavec told Business Insider that entrepreneurs should be aware that when they film a season, the Sharks are on set 12 hours at a time, about seven days in a row. 'We're cold, we're hungry, we're miserable,' he said. 'You gotta go out there and you gotta make an impact right away.'
ReadeRest founder Rick Hopper did this by walking into the tank and immediately tripping over himself and falling onto the ground. The investors were shocked and embarrassed for him, but when he picked himself up, he smiled and showed how his invention, a magnetic clip for glasses, worked.
Hopper was then able to follow up the memorable, silly demo with an airtight pitch of his product's potential. Because he considered himself more of an inventor and marketer than an experienced business person, he gave up 65% of his company to Greiner in exchange for $US150,000 and the promise that she would make it a huge success.
Unikey Technologies founder Phil Dumas proved the power of being humble in front of investors and listening to everything they had to say.
But that doesn't mean he was a pushover. After giving an effective demonstration of his smartphone-activated lock system and explaining how he'd spent money and planned on spending more, he negotiated hard with Cuban, John, O'Leary, and Herjavec.
Due to his engagement with each investor and his ability to think on his feet rather than rely on memorized responses, Dumas ended up with a deal he was happy with. Cuban and O'Leary each invested $US250,000 for 20% equity with the added assertion that they would use their skill sets to land him a major licensing deal.
'Shark Tank' is, of course, a reality show, and so it works in the entrepreneurs' favour to create a pitch that's as memorable for the investors as it is for the viewers at home.
Kisstixx founders Dallas Robinson and Mike Buonomo would probably be thrown out of a typical investor's office really quickly if they asked them to kiss a colleague to demonstrate their flavored lip balms, but that's exactly what they did with O'Leary and Corcoran.
The stunt worked, getting all the Sharks roaring with laughter and interested in the product. Robinson and Buonomo made a deal with Cuban for an investment of $US200,000 for 40% of their company.
Sometimes a potential hit product initially appears ridiculous, requiring entrepreneurs to quickly assert its seriousness while maintaining a sense of humour. It's what CitiKitty founder Rebecca Rescate managed to pull off when she pitched her cat toilet training kit, which you can use to teach your cat how to use your toilet instead of a litter box.
Rescate survived a round of jokes and laughter from the investors, and then explained how her concept had been proven by $US225,000 in sales from the previous year despite her being a one-woman enterprise, and that coverage in outlets like The Wall Street Journal helped create a demand among cat owners.
She ended up with a deal with former Shark Kevin Harrington for $US100,000 for 20% equity.
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