I don’t even know where to begin… This has been a most unusual year for me. Invented a product, launched a viral crowdfunding campaign, was diagnosed with cancer, had two surgeries, beat cancer, filmed Shark Tank, got a colonoscopy, a double hernia and repair, nearly died from pneumonia and kidney failure, visited China, got a deal on TV with Robert Herjavec, partied with 300 of my favorite people at a Shark Tank viewing party, and still made it to the skatepark with my son, the gun range with my buddies, and the gym by myself. For those wanting to know more about our Shark Tank experience, I am writing this post.
Back in April 2016 I was fortunate enough to get a call from a Shark Tank casting director named Lauren expressing interest in having our little start-up LOCTOTE audition for Shark Tank. After confirming it wasn’t a set-up or joke by the guys in my office, I returned the call and began the audition process. Our first audition video sucked so badly that Lauren sent us back to the drawing board for a second try. She could have just sent us away at that time, but she believed in us, and didn’t. After half a dozen Red Bulls and lots of coffee Adam and I filmed video #2, which got us cleared past the first hurdle. I would honestly be embarrassed to share that video with you. It was bad. By June, we were assigned a team of two producers, Kate and Ali, who became our facilitators, advisors, and friends throughout the remainder of the process. Over the next month we filled out a lot of paperwork. Mostly questions about us us as entrepreneurs and our business. It is true that the Sharks know nothing about you or your business before you enter The Tank. They never saw us, and we never saw them in advance. What you see on TV is real. If you do make a deal, afterwards they are given a copy of your paperwork as a starting point for the due diligence process.
In July, I was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma (aka nasty cancer), and for a period of about three weeks I wasn’t sure if I was going to see my next birthday. I told my Shark Tank producers that I was out! Yes, Shark Tank was on my bucket list, but I had more important things to put in my bucket in the potentially short period before I kicked it. Kate convinced me to stay in, and she said she would make every accommodation necessary to work around my situation — which she did. I had my first surgery in late July, and then another one on August 22nd. We filmed Shark Tank on September 22nd.
There are horror stories written by entrepreneurs who have said they weren’t treated well or respectfully by the network when going through the Shark Tank process. Our experience was nothing like that. Every step along the way we were treated with respect. Yes, the legal documents you have to sign to be on the show are horrible and one-sided, but think about it. They have to protect themselves against every ill-intentioned unscrupulous low-life who is considering Shark Tank for all the wrong reasons. Go ahead and google how many times people have complained about being screwed by Shark Tank’s onerous legal documents. You won’t find anything. The Shark Tank folks proved to be good reasonable business people who are just out to protect their brand and product.
As I said, our producers made every accommodation to work around my cancer treatment schedule. They ultimately gave us a slot for the very last week of the season’s filming. Shark Tank travel services were also accommodating and well run. They let us pick our flights, and let us pick the only non-stop from Columbus (CMH) to LA (LAX), even though it probably cost them more. They put us up in a nice place, and gave us an adequate daily per diem for meals. We arrived on a Sunday night, and were told where to meet early Monday morning. Monday was spent together with all the other entrepreneurs who were going to film that week. You sit through a lot of meetings, briefings, and information sessions, and ultimately get to see “The Tank” for the first time. No sharks are there, but for someone like me who has seen every Shark Tank episode since it started, the experience was almost religious. The rest of the week is spent prepping and rehearsing your pitch up until your film day — which could have been Tue, Wed, Thu, or Fri. We practiced hard, knowing that we could get a call any one of those evenings in our hotel room telling us that we were on first thing the next morning. Adam and I rehearsed our pitch non-stop. We had a little game in the hotel that any time one of us would say “Go!” we had to drop whatever we were doing and run through the pitch. Shower, brushing teeth, eating, on the phone with mom… it didn’t matter. When we heard “Go!”, we went!
By our film day, we knew our pitch cold. Many of the producers had to spend a lot of time with their entrepreneurs that week getting them ready. Not ours. Ours knew we had it cold. Her confidence in us really helped our confidence in us. Film day for us was also relaxed and well organized. We got a call the night before telling us we would be in the “after lunch group”, and what spot in that group we would be. Pitches can be all different lengths, so they obviously cannot give you an exact time, but we had a reasonable estimate. It’s a little stressful waiting around to be called to pitch, but there was plenty to keep us occupied — make-up people, hair fixing people (ok, not so much for me except for a little eyebrow maintenance), wardrobe folks making sure our stuff was pressed, and of course each other screaming “Go!” every few minutes.
When it’s time to pitch, the world becomes a blur. Just a flurry of activity — straighten this, tweak that, get wired up for the mic, powder Adam’s forehead because sweating, check the props, find my boxcutter, go go go go! Once you’re out there, it’s exactly like what you see on TV. The only difference is that we got nibbled at, and deflected sharks, for about an hour and a half, and about 8 minutes of it makes it to TV. That said, it’s all real in The Tank. No stop, cut, pause, re-do this or that. You just go. For us, I really thought that what was shown on TV was actually very reflective and a fair representation of our time in the tank. We think the editors did a great job. If you saw the show, you know the outcome. It really was that quick and surprising! I thought we were just seconds away from Kevin saying “I’m out, you’re dead to me”, and then Robert really did jump in from out of nowhere. No magic of Hollywood there. That’s how it was.
That’s about it for now. In a future post I am going to talk about our lessons learned, and my best advice for being successful in The Tank, and business in general. Until then, thanks for reading this, and stay healthy.