'Shark Tank' Takes a Bite Out of Tuesday
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, ABC's business-reality series "Shark Tank" returns to the schedule on a new night (and at a new time, 8 p.m. ET/PT), aiming to help more hopeful entrepreneurs get some investment capital and be able to chase their piece of the American dream.
Bright and early Monday morning, I got on the phone with three of the five "sharks" (the other two are Daymond John and Kevin O'Leary): real-estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, tech innovator Robert Herjavec and infomercial pioneer Kevin Harrington. Here's a chunk of our Q&A (Corcoran is BC; Herjavec is RH; Harrington is KH. I'm KO).
KO: Did the experience of doing the show turn out as you expected?
RH: It turned out a lot better. What we're seeing are investments that really have a potential to make a lot of money. We had one investment that we ended up selling within two weeks of it airing. We've had other ones that I think are going to go all the way, potentially.
KH: I had a company that went from $8,00 a month to $80,000 a month with the capital that I invested. So that's great for me to see, that kind of growth in a company in a very short period of time.
BC: The other thing that's been surprising for me is 'Shark Tank,' each week, it's been the first forum ever created where someone with a great idea, a dream that they kept in their cookie jar or something, could actually come into the tank, pitch their idea and get a bundle of cash. That's nothing short of an entrepreneurial miracle.
RH: It's the appeal for the great American Dream. That's what we're giving people an opportunity for.
KO: Interestingly, two of the sharks possibly funding that American Dream (Herjavec and O'Leary) began their journey to success in Canada. Despite that, if O'Leary thnks someone isn't trying hard enough, he's likely to say, "That's un-American." Ironic, no?
BC: Isn't that funny? I never thought about it that way.
RH: I'm Canadian. In (the Canadian version of the show), he says, 'That's so un-Canadian."
BC: Obviously, he's got his lines down.
KO: How do your lawyers and accountants feel about you coming on TV and tossing wads of cash at companies you'd never heard of an hour before?
BC: They think we're smokin' dope, frankly, that we're on the air, judging a business in a half-hour, 45 minutes -- which winds up being only five minutes on air -- that we're putting our hard-earned money into somebody's pocket after 45 minutes of trying to size them up. They think we're total nutjobs.
RH: I've never had a business adviser tell me to do the show. They've always said, "That's such a bad idea,' but there's a reason people are professional business advisers, and then there's a reason why I have a few million dollars in the bank. It's because I take risks, and that's what this show is about.
KH: But I'm going to say, in my business, if I hit on a certain percentage of winners, then I can make my money overall. If one out of two investments work, if that one is a big one, that can be a big thing for me. So I look at the averages and the percentages when I invest.
KO: As I've learned from watching Discovery's "Pitchmen," infomercial producers listen to thousands of sometimes very strange pitches from eager inventors. Kevin, what's this like compared to your real life?
KH: Yeah, when I leave here today, I'll be taking pitches today, right off the air. So that's my business. For me, it's a great, natural thing to just turn the cameras on and do it for ABC network, because I do it every day.
B: And it's the real deal. He doesn't do anything differently on camera than he does off-camera, so you're watching real money, real entrepreneurs, real half-baked or well-baked ideas coming to fruition.
RH: But he does wear a suit and tie. I'm not sure he does that every day.
BC: He cleans up for the show, that's for sure.
KH: I shave, also.
KO: We've heard a lot in the news about greedy financiers coming under siege for throwing a wrench into the works of the banking business, and because of that, what a tough financial climate it has become for young companies to get started. How do you feel about that?
RH: There's two parts to what you said. Absolutely what we've learned is that the typical Wall Street, $20 million a year executive who has no skin in the game -- that is under siege, and it should be.
But the small business people that made this country so great are the ones we need to foster. We need to put our money into those people. That's the beauty of our show, that we're giving people the chance.
KH: The other thing is, a lot of really good, solid companies are having trouble getting financing. So if they end up on "Shark Tank," these are good, solid opportunities for us to invest in. The banks may not lend them the money for whatever reason, but now we have the opportunity to get involved with that good, solid company.
BC: A little detail that I never hear mentioned in the press -- and it's a shame because it puts a different spin on small businesses -- for every seven jobs created this week in America, one in seven are created by businesses that are less than 60 days old. So look at the power of "Shark Tank" -- the ability to create jobs for the guy next door, not just make these entrepreneurs' dreams come true, but create jobs.
Good businesses that grow need employees, and employees beget other employees. This has a more far-reaching effect. My gosh, we certainly need it right now.
KO: Barbara, what's it like to be sitting on the set between Herjavec and O'Leary?
RH: It's impossible. She keeps talking. I never get a word in edgewise. It's incredible (KO: BTW, all during this, Corcoran is alternately trying to speak and cracking up), how can a woman talk that much?
BC: I can hardly get a word in, and that's the truth. You know what it's like? It's like somebody sent these guys 50 gallons of testosterone and poured it all over their heads, and their muscles bulge out and they're screaming and yipping and yapping.
And I'm sitting there waiting for my turn. It's preposterous.
RH: Barbara, I'm so tired of your incessant whining.
BC: They're great guys off-camera; I just hate them on the set.
KO: What one piece of advice would you give to anybody coming into the tank?
KH: I would say, make sure you value your company the proper way. Don't ask for too much money.
BC: Show the passion in your belly. I fall for it every time.
RH: Three words: sales, sales, sales.