Shark Tank Is Literally the Best Show on Television
by Jia Tolentino
SHARK ATTACK! Welcome to Shark Tank, literally the best show on television.
I started watching Shark Tank apropos of nothing a few months ago and have since then become hooked to the point of backtracking through the entire series on Amazon Instant Watch. It’s a magnetic proposition, to watch a person in a candy-striper costume walk up to a panel of millionaires and ask for $300,000 in exchange for 20% of a company devoted to making doggie ice cream. It’s even more appealing to believe that American entrepreneurial success can be stripped down to a 15-minute distillation of a person’s pitch, personality, and business plan.
The five people you see standing in front of the jet/American flag and behind the two Ferraris are your Sharks, the “self-made millionaire and billionaire investors” who are cultivating their personal brands through appearing regularly on Shark Tank. You, the entrepreneur, can come here seeking money for your business, and the Sharks will either personally invest or eviscerate you for being too soft for the game.
The Sharks are called sharks because they are mesmerizing on camera and deserve a full week devoted to their exploits. Let’s meet them!
(For a first-time viewer, it can be difficult to keep all 5 sharks straight, so I have included helpful look-alikes to increase their memorability.)
First up is Kevin O’Leary, a very impatient venture capitalist who calls himself Mr. Wonderful and reliably makes it rain with incredible analogies like, “I send my money out to war every day. I want them to take prisoners and come home so that there’s more of them.” He might have a torture dungeon in his basement. Who knows?
Next is Lori Greiner, the friendly and luxuriously-maned “Queen of QVC.”
Now we have Daymond John, the dapper and affable man responsible for FUBU.
Then Robert Herjavec, who is vaguely fancy and looks like Surprised, European Robin Williams as Patch Adams.
Last but certainly not least comes Mark Cuban, who owns the Mavs. CLASSIC CUBES.
First into the tank are two cool-looking dudes named Taylor and Jayson. They stride in wearing red and blue t-shirts that say LIDDUP. They are seeking 100k for 10% equity in their company, and this is their $1 million idea:
Coolers that light up.
Jayson launches into the origin story of LIDDUP. He was camping. “Four hot dogs deep,” he went to the cooler to look for a beer. He sloshed around in the dark and ended up retrieving a soda instead.
“OH, BRO,” says Cubes, empathy coursing through his body.
Incredibly, there are no other light-up coolers on the market, which makes me ashamed of the market.
“Let’s get LIDDUP,” Jayson and Taylor shout, cracking open a beer and crouching like boy band members. “Because it’s awesome.”
Daymond calls them rude and selfish, making Taylor and Jayson poop their pants until Daymond explains he only said that because he wants a beer. Taylor and Jayson immediately give out beers.
Why don’t the sharks always drink on this show?
Mr. Wonderful calls bullshit on the $1 million valuation for a company that sells light-up coolers. Taylor and Jayson string together several dozen buzzwords and Daymond John interrupts them. “Those words just mean I don’t have any sales, right?”
Taylor and Jayson admit that he is right. So what’s with the $1 mil, guys? “Well, we had to start somewhere, so that’s where we started,” says Taylor. The sharks find this honesty extremely hilarious.
But Taylor and Jason are still trying to make their case. They have intellectual property rights! Because the item in question is a light-up cooler, the sharks find this statement funny too. But really, the bros say, we’ve got three patents on this!
“So no one can put an LED inside a cooler except you two dudes?” asks Mr. Wonderful.
“Correct,” says Jayson.
The Sharks go back to being intrigued.
But then the Sharks think back to the prep binder that their assistants handed them in the makeup room while they were getting their pre-show orange on.
“The cooler industry is just a few manufacturers, isn’t it,” says Robert.
“It’s a zero-sum game,” says Cubes. “Either you get the big boys to play ball, or you have to spend an obscene amount of money getting shelf space.” Cubes continues spitting wisdom. LIDDUP’s real play is to make a deal with one of the major manufacturers and get paid a few dollars (if they’re lucky) or a few cents (if they’re not) every time a light-up cooler is sold. The sharks all nod in agreement.
“So why do you guys even need us?” asks Lori.
“Because all roads lead to Mr. Wonderful,” says Mr. Wonderful.
“For a million dollars, I got a guy in the hood who will follow you around for the rest of your life carrying a flashlight for your beer,” says Daymond. “So I’m out.”
Lori is also out because anyone with a brain could stick a tap light in a cooler.
Robert Herjavec says he’s BFF with the biggest cooler manufacturer in the world. He’s ready to set up a meeting bro-to-bro. Here’s his offer: $100k for a 25% stake in LIDDUP. He swigs, waiting.
Mark Cuban volunteers the information that he is out. “Thanks for the beer, and take Robert’s offer,” he says.
Mr. Wonderful, who is now calling himself “Uncle Kevin,” makes a counter offer. He’s also ready to put up $100k, but he doesn’t want any of the equity. Instead, he wants a third of LIDDUP’s royalties, forever.
What are you going to do, Taylor and Jayson? They ask for a minute to study the offer and Robert becomes offended. “If his offer is appealing to you, I’m out.”
Looks like LIDDUP is in business with Mr. Wonderful! They hug it out.
Here’s the next guy, who appears looking extremely ill at ease:
Meet Dave Alwan, who is “hoping to whet the sharks’ appetites with his quality meats.” He wants $300k for 20% equity in his meat company. He wants “help with the e-commerce.” He’s a “third generation meat man.”
Dave walks over to the sharks with a tray in hand. “Ladies first,” he says, offering meat. The sharks munch on beef stuff and they’re loving it. But then they find out he has no business plan whatsoever, and then Dave says the word “maybe” and they recoil as if touched by a Poor. “Good luck,” they say, waving his sweaty visage into the reject bin.
Here’s the next guy, who studied mechanical engineering at Yale.
“My business doesn’t just sell a product, it’s more of a lifestyle,” he says in his staged introduction. “It’ll take any experience and make it incredible. I think it could be the next social phenomenon, and I think there’s something a little mysterious about it.”
Yale comes in, says “ROOT SUIT,” and then in marches an army of fetish warriors.
“ROOT SUIT gives you instant charisma,” says Yale. By charisma, he means attention, but these days it’s the same thing. Good on you, Yale — you’ve distilled your generation’s need to simultaneously conceal and construct the self in public into one terrifying array of ROOT SUITS.
Then the show is interrupted for a shark attack!
AHH! The sharks love it.
Yale says Root Suits sold $525,000 last year and made $140,000 in profit, all through online sales. Very impressive.
Robert Herjavec delivers the unnerving information that his son and his friends all wear suits like this out to nightclubs. “Are they wearing your suits?”
“Maybe. We have competition. We were the first, though,” says Yale.
Robert says that the concept is “super hot” (??) but he doesn’t like that there’s no visible brand name on the product. He’s out. Lori says there’s too much competition. She’s out. Mr. Wonderful is also out, leaving only Daymond and Cubes.
“I’m going to give you a sharky offer,” says Daymond. “I’ll give you the $100k, but for 50%, contingent on us getting this into retail.”
Cubes is interested, but he’s waiting to see what Yale says before he makes his offer.
“I’d love to work with both of you,” says Yale.
“Yeah, I may take my offer back,” says Daymond.
Mr. Wonderful drops the classic analogy of Yale being like a dog with a bone in his mouth. He’s looking at his reflection in the water and thinking that he can get a second bone out of this, when all he’ll do is lose the first bone in his greed. “Bone-in-mouth syndrome,” says Mr. Wonderful.
Aroused by Mr. Wonderful’s usage of one of his favorite phrases, Yale is sweating. He’s taking too long for Daymond, who suddenly says he’s out. “I don’t like indecisive people,” he says.
Cubes says that Yale’s going to make a boatload of money off of ROOT SUIT.
“You wanna get some of that?” asks Yale, suggestively.
No. Cubes is out. But he’s rooting for him! All the sharks say good luck. The fetish suit army, who have been standing as immobile and terrifying as statues, take Yale by the arm and walk him offstage.
Next into the tank is Rusty Allen, who looks like a guy I used to hook up with and has designed some water bottles he’s calling GOBIE.
Rusty says that his GOBIE technology filters 99.99% of contaminants out of any water, no matter how dirty. He puts potting soil in a water bottle, shakes up the liquid till it’s pitch black, and then impressively filters the water clear and drinks it from a wine glass. He brings over a bunch of bottles to the sharks, also saying “Ladies first,” a topic which I will discuss at length in my forthcoming 20,000-word think piece on whether saying “Ladies first” is feminist or anti-feminist or something in between.
But okay, Rusty — what makes this water bottle so special? Rusty starts spewing indecipherable nonsense about soft shells and hard shells. He is unraveling fast.
Daymond comes to the rescue. “This is a sexy water bottle,” says Daymond.
“I appreciate that,” says Rusty, blinking back tears.
Let’s get to the facts. These water bottles cost $10 to make and they sell for $30. Over 17 months, GOBIE has done $285,000 in sales. “But how are you worth $3 million today and more tomorrow?” asks Mr. Wonderful.
“Every human being on this earth, from the richest man in Beverly Hills to the poorest man in Kenya, both drink water,” says Rusty, forgetting how to say words.
“That’s just a HORRIBLE sales pitch, Rusty, COME ON,” says Cubes. He’s very out.
“That was a really convoluted presentation, my friend. I mean that was just so bad,” says Robert. “You’re going to get crushed, my friend. Crushed. I’m out.”
So Rusty turns his attentions to Daymond.
“I sleep on a pad next to my desk and I wake up and I start working. I do not stop working, dude,” he says. “I will work so hard for you. So hard.”
Moved by this manic assertion of personal work ethic, Daymond offers $300k for 40% of the company.
“Twenty percent,” says Rusty. Daymond says no. Rusty goes to the back room to call his business partner, then returns. He launches a Hail Mary effort to form a three-way partnership with Daymond, Lori and Cubes all at once.
Daymond says hell no.
Rusty looks longingly at Cubes and Lori, then turns his eyes on Daymond like he’s the sloppy girl draped over the bar at last call. But Rusty is a gentleman. “You’re the man, Daymond,” he says.
The two of them hug as Rusty hisses at the sharks, “You’re going to regret this, I swear.”
After Rusty leaves, Mr. Wonderful looks at Daymond and says, “I was waiting for you to say no so I could get in the royalty game with him. Squeeze his head like a teenage pimple.”
And so — one light-up cooler, tray of meat, fratty bodystocking, $30 water bottle and five white male contestants later — ends this week’s Shark Tank: Parade of Bros.
See you next time!