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Shark Tank | Emily Gao

Shark Tank

By Emily Gao

It’s seems like it should be every entrepreneur’s dream: to receive investments, or even just praise, from the well-established sharks of Shark Tank. These judges, including Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, just to name a few, are known as some of the top business people in the world.

This well-known reality TV show is known for attracting entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. These entrepreneurs pitch their start-up in front of a panel of investors, and after a series of back and forth questions, the judges will choose whether or not to invest money in the company. 

Whether this show is itself a start-up like gimmick or is an invaluable resource for entrepreneurs is up for debate. It’s reality TV, so it is expected that things are dramatized and blown out of proportion. 

The opportunity to pitch to the sharks in front of set cameras is a long treacherous journey that starts with an open-call audition. The only requirements for a hopeful entrepreneur is for them to have a product to show and to be able to explain your product and its importance. After the first open-call, if the producers feel that you are worthy of the next audition, they will contact you and ask for a video of you further elaborating on your start-up. Next comes a long series of paperwork, phone calls, and interviews, where the producers confirm your legitimacy and commitment to being on the show. Then comes the dry-run, where you pitch your idea to producers who then give feedback.

The night before the big filming day, participating entrepreneurs will be flown out to LA. and. Past participants have described filming day as particularly gruesome, as it begins with long hours waiting in the dressing room for the producers to call your turn. On television, it seems like the pitches last ten-minutes tops. In reality, these pitches and question and answer sessions can last for over an hour. At the end of the hour, judges will choose whether or not to make an investment proposal. On screen, it may seem like a sizeable proportion of pitchers strike some sort of deal with the investors. In reality, the process is far more complex than what is shown on cameras. This past year, out of the 200+ deals that were made on screen, roughly 40% of them fell through. 

Some other interesting facts about the show are that there is an on set psychiatrist, there is no communication between sharks and contestants before the pitches, and only about 25% of the filmed pitches make it on air.

This infamous production is far from its reality, but that is not necessarily such a bad thing. Those that have participated in it have stated “You should try to do everything you can to try to appear on Shark Tank” and that there is “no other way for a start-up to get the kind of exposure that they offer” (Ann Crady Weiss).

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