Each week at The Comeback, we review some of the top reality competition shows on television. Check out our recaps for The Bachelor and our Top Chef reviews. We even dabble a bit in Dancing With the Stars.
But here, we go swimming in the Shark Tank. Let’s jump in!
The Shiver: Tonight’s group of sharks: Dallas Mavericks owner and tech-sector maverick Mark Cuban in his usual stage-right chair, real-estate impresariess Barbara Corcoran, venture capital mogul Kevin “Mister Wonderful” O’Leary, QVC queen Lori Greiner and at the end of the line, infosec entrepreneur Robert Herjavec.
The Bait: Alpha-male hair care, sweet succor for women struggling through PMS, not-hand-written hand-written cards and Invisible Fence for human beings.
Company: Aaron Marino, “Pete and Pedro”
Seeking: $100,000 for a 10 percent stake
We have a repeat pitcher! Marino has been on Shark Tank before… turns out the Sharks were right that his instructional DVD series on how to be MOAR ALPHA wasn’t a viable product:
“You gave me something more valuable” than investment, Marino says: Good advice. He came back with a manly hair-care line that has… something to do with a donkey? And vaguely Hispanophonic sensibilities? “Pete and Pedro equals bueno hair,” Marino claims.
“You’re in a very exclusive club,” says Mister Wonderful. “The number of people who get back in the Tank is very small.” All the Sharks want to know: How can they be confident this product will actually sell?
Because it’s actually selling.
The Pete and Pedro line of pomades and putties is selling $55,000 in product a month right now, and growing at about 15 percent per month. “I’m a savage on social media,” he says, and attributes the bitchin’ growth to his rockstar YouTube channel:
Marino drops a whole lot of turbo-manly adjectives and metaphors in his pitch, and begins waxing about his online personal mojo brand, “alpha m” and how he uses it to hawk a variety of products and sponsorships. O’Leary is not impressed.
“Why would I want my one of my entrepreneurs spending any time doing anything other than making me rich?” Mister Wonderful wants the whole enchilada: Pete and Pedro, but also Marino’s full time and attention, online and off.
Time for a DRAMATIC COMMERCIAL BREAK.
We come back to O’Leary’s offer: $100,000 for 20 percent—a “haircut” from what Marino’s asking for. Lori doesn’t get what makes this product great; she’s out. Barbara comes in with an offer—but it’s a twist: She offers $100,000 for 10 percent of just his alpha m persona:
Robert thinks Marino’s loyalty will have to be split. Marino counters Kevin’s offer: $300,000 for 10 percent of the combined companies. Robert jumps in with a hybrid offer of his own: $100,000 for 10 percent of all alpha m-related products, essentially turning this guy’s YouTube channel into a brotastic mini-QVC.
As the numbers fly and the Sharks hem and haw, Marino turns to Barbara and asks if her offer is still good.
Swim or chum? “You’re a great guy, you’re smart, you make good decisions, you’re good-looking, and we’re gonna make good kids together.” SWIM. Barbara’s referring to the Beyond the Tank episode that aired Friday, in which she said watching Shark Tank businesses grow and be successful is like watching kids grow up…
… I think.
Should you buy? The hair-care line is nothing special, and I don’t get the branding. (What’s with the donkey?) Your mileage may vary, but I’m also not going to be watching AlphaM for him to sell stuff at me. SHOULD NOT BUY.
Company: Tania Green, “PMS Bites”
Seeking: $50,000 for a 20 percent stake
“My back is killing me, I have a splitting headache, I’m so bloated this dress may pop off, and I’m exceptionally hot!” This is an odd way to start a pitch. Green is talking about the obnoxious symptoms of PMS. She asks Mister Wonderful how HE would handle 122 days a year being even crankier than usual:
Her solution: All-natural, vegan, gluten-free donut-hole things laced with herbal supplements to help ease PMS symptoms. She counts exactly $13,400.07 in sales over seven months. She’s sold over 7,500 individual donut hole things made of dates and brown rice and almond butter and other things that are yummy, but don’t mess with your blood sugar.
She’s hustling up orders herself, making them herself in a rented commercial kitchen and delivering them herself. But like this. it just won’t scale. Even in that context, though, sales are disappointing. The Sharks debate whether, in lack of actually being able to prove the bites ease PMS symptoms, she’s got a clever hook to sell bon-bons—or whether she’s just limiting her business.
— BostonBaking (@BostonBaking) May 20, 2016
“Couldn’t you take and make these for everybody,” Lori asks, “and call them something else?” Spoiler alert, Green will end up taking this advice: While the show aired, the official @PMSBites account teased the upcoming “Hangover Bites.”
Lori thinks a product like this has a simple three-point litmus test: “Is it something people need and want, can you make it for an affordable price, and is there a mass audience for it?” By cutting children and men out of it, she’s cut her audience by at least half. Lori’s out. Robert and Kevin just think the numbers are too small right now. Barbara doesn’t feel enough drive from Green; she’s out.
“I think you made a mistake by focusing specifically on retail,” Cuban says, “especially coming on here!” Why come on Shark Tank if you’re not going to push online sales? He just doesn’t think her business instincts are there.
Swim or Chum? “I feel like I have a lot of work to do,” Green says, “but I know they enjoyed the product.” CHUM, but it’s clear she’s onto something.
Should You Buy? These are yummy healthy desserty craving-satisfying munchie things that are around 50 calories a pop. If you don’t mind that they probably won’t cure PMS, you SHOULD BUY.
Company: Tomer Alpert, “Felt”
Seeking: $200,000 for a six percent stake
Everyone loves a personal, hand-written note, because it takes time and effort to send it. Felt takes the time and effort out of it!
— Shark Tank (@ABCSharkTank) May 21, 2016
“Think about how wonderful it feels to get a hand-written note in the mail,” Alpert says. It’s a great experience! But sending them is a terrible experience—so you download Felt, pick the card, then use your finger or a stylus to “hand-write” a message on it. It’s sort of like Instagram for Snapfish. Or maybe Snapfish for Instagram, I dunno:
“Felt is actually a marketplace,” Alpert says, “where designers can upload and ship out their own designs.” That’s a clever wrinkle. Robert professes his love of taking time out to really send real cards to people, which surprises the Sharks:
— Barbara Corcoran (@BarbaraCorcoran) May 21, 2016
— Daymond John (@TheSharkDaymond) May 21, 2016
The hand-written addresses stay persistent afterwards—so you can send wedding save-the-date cards, then effortlessly re-use the same addresses for formal invitations, thank-you cards, holiday cards, etc. Felt has been on the App Store since 2013, and has 60,000 downloads.
“60,000 is nothing,” says Cuban, “and that’s why you’re here.” Alpert just can’t reach the bridal market he knows would be the perfect solution for Felt.
“You know I own Honeyfonts,” Mister Wonderful says. “I have all your customers already.” But to fold Felt into his rich wedding portfolio, he’s going to need more equity: He offers $225,000 for a 10 percent stake. All the Sharks, for the first time in the history of Shark Tank, immediately bow out because Mister Wonderful’s offer is that dang good:
“In seven seasons,” Robert says, “I’ve never seen him make this good of an offer.” It’s a Shark Tank season-finale miracle!
Swim or Chum? “I appreciate the offer,” Alpert says, and for an instant, it looks like he’s about to blow it. “The deal is DONE!” SWIM. His tender, teary phone call to his wife afterward is what Shark Tank is all about.
Should You Buy? This looks really cool? But for eight bucks, you’d better be really, really thankful. SHOULD BUY.
Company: Maneesh Sethi, “Pavlok”
Seeking: $500,000 for a 3.14 percent stake
“Pavlok helps you become aware of behaviors that you want to reduce,” he says. “It releases a mild electric sensation, that—” ah ha ha ha ha ha. Cue Shark chortling:
Okay, so this is a shock collar in a FitBit. Sethi, an adult with ADHD, came up with this idea when he hired a woman to slap him every time he started dawdling on Facebook:
The principles behind aversion therapy are rock-solid, but does HIS actual product actually work? He cites studies — but not studies of his product, just studies of aversion therapy.
“It’s all nonsense across the board!” Cuban says.
— Shark Tank (@ABCSharkTank) May 21, 2016
“If I have the discipline to buzz myself,” Robert says, “do I not have the discipline to stop?” If you can’t be relied on to do it yourself, there’s a smartphone app that will let someone near you do it for you—replicating Sethi’s face-slapping therapy with a little more elegance.
“No one’s disputing aversion therapy,” says Cuban. “But what’s not legit is trying to take credit for other people’s studies.” Cuban rips Sethi to shreds on his pseudoscience and unsupported claims:
The Sharks try to get down to brass tacks. How much does it cost?
$200. That’s very, very pricey—but he’s getting preorders and sales.
— Kevin O'Leary (@kevinolearytv) May 21, 2016
“I’m gonna solve the problem,” Kevin says. He offers a $500,000 loan at 7.5 percent interest, and we go to a DRAMATIC COMMERCIAL BREAK.
“I would take an offer from anyone but Mister Wonderful.” Wait, what? When he makes rejecting a deal more explicitly personal than we’ve ever seen, we get the rawest Shark bite we’ve ever seen:
Swim or Chum? Ha ha ha ha ha ha CHUM.
Should You Buy? Aversion therapy can work, but paying $200 to try and administer it yourself makes zero sense. You SHOULD NOT BUY.