Friday, January 20, 2012

Our Day on the Set of Shark Tank

Photo by Pop Culture Passionistas

The season three premiere of Shark Tank is tonight and you know what that means? We finally get to talk about our set visit to see the show. We are fans of the series — both for the drama of watching which entrepreneurs will get their investment and for seeing how the Sharks' minds work to make the best deal. And at our set visit several months ago, we got a big taste of both.

While we still can't reveal the details of the pitches or who walked out of the Tank with new business partners, we can say that we witnessed some of the best and worst pitches in Shark Tank history. We saw would-be business owners with embarrassingly bad ideas and an entrepreneur who walked away with the biggest payout to date on the show. It was edge-of-the-seat drama in the studio, promising for a great third season.

What surprised us most is that the show is shot in real time. The entrepreneurs come in cold and pitch their idea on the spot. The Sharks listen, ask questions and make an offer. There's no mulling it over, no conferring with advisers, no number crunching with accountants. In approximately fifteen minutes they decide whether or not to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.

After watching several segments tape, we got the chance to walk down the aquarium-lined Shark Tank hallway and into the Tank itself. Then we sat with the five Sharks — Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary and new series regular Mark Cuban — as they talked about why they invest in a business, what entrepreneurs should use their money for and how much they like to screw each other.

Here are our favorite excerpts from the lively Shark discussion.

On What They Chose to Invest In
Kevin: "There's a million deals to make and a thousand more that you haven't seen yet and a thousand more after that. So I never get emotionally involved. I look at how much cash flow a thing can potentially generate. I don't want to pay more than five times that. End of story."

Mark: "Which is great because he's so short-sighted about everything he looks at, any of us with any vision at all, we get all the good deals.

Kevin: "That's the difference between being a disciplined investor versus being an emotional investor."

Mark: "It's the difference between being able to add value, see the future and make it happen or having no vision and only looking backwards."

Kevin: "And making money."

Robert: "Mark, what happens to businesses that go with Kevin?"

Mark: "He's the undertaker. They go away to die."

Barbara: "Contrary to Kevin's philosophy, if you'll always notice, he's always focused on the money, the money, the money. If I hear that one more time. Contrary to him I never focus on the money. I focus on the individual. And I have invested in so many businesses where the business was off, but the individual was so strong that we reinvented it and we've made a ton of money."

Mark: "If you get a good jockey, you can replace the horse. But when you have a good horse, and don't have a good jockey, it doesn't matter."

Kevin: "So at least you see we have a different style of investing. I'm right. They're wrong."

On Regretting Not Investing in a Shark Tank Deal
Kevin: "As soon as they walk past those doors, if I haven't invested in them, they're dead to me. I don't care."

Daymond: "I don't regret any businesses, either, that I haven't invested in. Even though I've made the wrong decision and not invested in some that have really, really paid off, I just don't regret it… Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda."

Mark: "It's like thinking about your sixth grade girlfriend. What's the point, right? They're gone."

Barbara: "I've regretted a few businesses I haven't been able to get, quite honestly. Because I could clearly see the potential. I know they married the wrong guy as they marched down that Tank. I'm thinking, 'That poor sucker.'"

On Advice for People Making Pitches
Mark: "When you walk into the room, the Shark Tank or any room, you better be the smartest person in the world about your business and your industry… Because if there's someone else out there that's smarter, they're going to kick your ass."

Barbara: "Coming into the Shark Tank the best thing you can do is pitch to your mother-in-law and let her rip your g*d d#@n thing to shreds because you're going to get better at pitching. People just really haven't done a great job pitching, because they pitch to the people that love them what are they going to tell them? 'You're great, you're amazing.'"

Kevin: "This format is on all around the world. Before I started working here I said, 'Show me the tapes.' And I tried to find the three attributes that every successful pitch had — success defined by getting a check from one of the Sharks. In every case these three things are there. Number one, you're able to articulate the idea in less than 90 seconds so it's right away obvious that you can make money as an investor. Then they need to spend about three to four minutes articulating how they were the right driver and they can execute the business plan, that was number two. And number three, it was clear from those two that they were leaders, whether you liked them, you didn't like them, every single time those three things came together. Every single guy or women who got the dollars, had those three things."

On Season Three of Shark Tank
Kevin: "There's so many great entrepreneurs out there. There's so many great people. The longer we stay on the air, the better the ideas get, the more hope the people need, the better the businesses get."

Barbara: "And the more successes we have, which is really bottom line, half of the charm of the show."

Robert: "And they get to know us, which makes it more challenging. Having Mark on this year added a whole other element."

Barbara: "It's been a big help quite honestly. He's got too much money."

Robert: "It's not the money, Barbara. You now what it is? It's his clever ways to cut us out. He's made it a lot harder up here. I have to work now."

Kevin: "Without question Mark is the richest shark. And I have just enough money to screw him up."

On The Competition Between the Sharks
Daymond: "Sometimes people get a deal because I can screw one of these other guys. That happens very rarely, but as soon as I can screw them the deal goes through."

Mark: "It's not that you'd get a deal because you can screw somebody else, it's that if you're on the fence, you don't quite know if you really like it. But then Barbara likes it and I like it a little more. It's almost a confirmation. If they like it, okay it's not so bad. So maybe that will put me over the top."

Daymond: "It's worth $100,00 just to put some venom in [Mark Cuban]."

Robert: "It does feel good to screw the other Sharks."

Watch the premiere of Shark Tank tonight at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. Central on ABC.

For related stories check out:
Our Interview with Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary and Robert Hernavec
Best and Worst Reality Shows of 2009

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