Air Date: 11/3/19
Sharks: Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary AKA Mr. Wonderful, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec and Guest Shark Dan Lubetzky (the Kind bar guy)
On this week’s Shark Tank we saw one of the worst demos in the show’s history, but there were some highlights as well.
This post is part of the ongoing series “A demo/presentation coach reacts to this week’s Shark Tank.” If you’re interested in prior posts, you can find them here. And if you want more info about the criteria I use, that’s available here. On this week’s Shark Tank we saw one of the worst presentations in the show’s history, but there were some highlights as well.
What presentation lessons did we learn this week?
- If you have the right personality, and you go all in, you can pull off making some silly jokes – like Maddox while he was demoing The Measuring Shovel.
- If your demo or presentation lacks any sort of focus or structure, like Jason of Pili Hunters, then the audience won’t know what to make of your pitch.
- If your jokes are too silly or out of left field, then the audience is too distracted to listen to your message.
- If you treat people in the audience poorly, or focus too much on your detractors, the audience won’t like you very much. And you probably won’t get a deal – unless you have lots of sales and Mr. Wonderful happens to be in the room. But more importantly, it’s just not OK to disrespect your audience – particularly when it’s due to your own bias.
Presentation 1: The Measuring Shovel (Currently no website)
Ask: $40K for 15%
This kid had some serious poise. And his dad joke game was stellar. But the Sharks definitely won in the end.
Our first presentation was a 13 year old named Maddox Prichard, who invented (and patented) The Measuring Shovel, a shovel that, as the name would suggest, has measurements on it. It’s one of those ideas that, as the Sharks pointed out, is almost so obvious it’s surprising that no one had a patent on this.
The Pitch: Almost nailed it, but it was too short
Maddox and his family came out smiling, and Maddox instantly started with the confidence of someone much older than 13. Maddox definitely gets a bit of leeway from the Sharks given his age, but Robert was smiling immediately as the pitch started.
Throughout the pitch, Maddox dropped in some choice puns, such as “are you digging what I’m sayin’?” That’s one of those lines that only some presenters can pull off (I definitely cannot), but part of pulling it off is going into the joke 100% – which he absolutely did.
And Maddox closed. He ended the presentation by asking a rhetorical question, but then immediately answering it – “why would you buy a regular shovel if The Measuring Shovel was sitting right behind it? That’s right, you wouldn’t.” Presenters don’t often add a strong close at the end of a demo or presentation, and Maddox made sure that he put his value proposition front and center for the Sharks.
With that said, Maddox had a big miss here – he didn’t really explain the problem. So when Q&A started, Robert’s first question was “what problem are you solving?”.
What could he have done instead?: It’s hard to say if this is a Shark Tank thing or not, but he saved a lot of the “good stuff” for Q&A – they often ask those questions on Shark Tank, but if they don’t give him the question he needs, it could be hard to share the information he’s trying to get to.
He also could have talked more about the use case/how he validated the market (his dad’s business), especially since he is “pre-revenue.”
Q&A: He knew his stuff
The sharks asked lots of questions, but Maddox didn’t lose his poise. He stayed calm and gave confident answers, while not losing his enthusiasm – I’ve seen pros 3-4X his age who have trouble doing that.
Offers: Kevin + Lori, and Dan
Kevin and Lori offered him $40k for 30%, and Dan offered him the $40K for 25%. The deals were fundamentally different – Kevin and Lori were focused on licensing while Dan offered to build the business. Maddox seemed to ignore Dan, and negotiated with Kevin and Lori.
Maddox’s counters included lowering the equity to 25%, or the cash to $50K. Both were rejected, but good for him for negotiating.
The result: Kevin + Lori – $40K for 30%
Kevin and Lori knew that he was going to take the deal, so they didn’t budge. They are definitely in this one for the patent, and are going to make bank. It would have been nice to see them give him a little more cash, but he anchored them to a pretty low number by asking for $40K.
Presentation 2: Pili Hunters
Ask: $325K for 10%
Proof that a little structure in your presentation goes a long way toward resonating with the audience.
Our next presentation to the Sharks was Jason Thomas, who had a business distributing a nut called the pili nut – a nut from the Philippines that’s not well known in the US, but is healthy and tastes good (according to Jason and the Sharks anyway).
The Pitch: All over the place
Jason had a strong start – made some bold claims about the nut that got the Sharks’ attention. Then, when he probably should have given a sample, he decides to show how the nut is opened with a machete. He fumbles a little bit – which happens – but is a good reminder that we shouldn’t do something in front of an audience unless we know it works.
He then showed a video about how the pili nut is harvested, but the Sharks looked ready to move on. He probably should have left that out, or left out the machete bit.
But then, once he gave out his samples, everyone loved it – Robert went so far as to say “I’ve never had a nut this good.”
What could he have done instead? I don’t normally say this, but start with the product. Get a Shark up to the front of the room, have them try it and react to it – and their endorsement would earn some real credibility. Is it risky? Sure. But, in this case, I think it would have been a risk that paid dividends.
Q&A: Things started to get nutty (#dadjokes)
Jason took credit for all of the buzz surrounding the nuts, and claimed that people were “knocking him off.” Dan wasn’t having that – Jason doesn’t own plantations, and his brand had the name of the nut in it, making it difficult to trademark. Jason lost a bit of credibility here.
Things then looked up as Jason told his “hustle story” about his first sale and how he had to package the product in a motel when he started – but why wasn’t this in the pitch?! Sharks love a good and emotional hustle story. But then, he claimed “I’ve created hundreds, if not thousands of jobs.” I was shocked the Sharks didn’t ask him to back that one up.
When discussing his sales, Jason said “40% of my sales – and they’re not a lot – are direct.” This joke could have maybe worked if he delivered the punchline right away, but he waited to be asked what the sales were ($2.5M). At best, this sort of bad self-deprecation comes off as silly, and, at worst, can come off as arrogant (I don’t think he came off as arrogant, but it can easily happen).
Around here is when things really fell apart. After Dan talked about the challenges scaling the business, Jason claimed that he can scale to 10X where he currently is, but then said $100M in sales would “be a lot.” He tried to couch it back to $10M, but he seemed to get uncomfortable at this point. Once the sharks realized he had 14 SKUs, it became much more clear that he was all over the place.
Something else to add here – Jason had a bit of a “catch phrase.” He said “like” and “you guys” over and over, which became a bit distracting. It would have helped him to slow down a bit and be more deliberate about his word choices.
Presentation 3: Supply
The Ask: $300K for 10%
A confusing pitch delivered by a poised presenter
The third presentation was Patrick Coddou and his “better half” Jennifer Coddou, the founders of Supply, a high-end razor company.
The Pitch: Stopping and catching your breath is ok!
The pitch started strong, with tons of excitement about being from Fort Worth (instant connection with Cuban). Very early in his pitch, Patrick lost his train of thought and, instead said “aw shoot, I’m sorry.” It happened twice. This could be enough to throw anyone off their game for the rest of the pitch, but he took a second, caught his breath, and then kept going. That was a pro move, and I think it helped “humanize” him a bit.
Everything seemed to be going well – Patrick and Jennifer were talking about benefits and they had the Sharks’ attention. But then, after Patrick told the Sharks that the shave is “supremely close and comfortable,” Jennifer said “just like my husbands favorite pair of tighty-whiteys.” Um…what?
Then, for some reason, someone dressed up as George Washington came out to talk about how he used a single blade razor. It felt very out of place and, ultimately, distracted from their overall message. Not a pro demo move. (Pro demo moves here)
To close the pitch, the pair donned fake mustaches and said “we mustache you a question.” Cuban then groaned and tilted his head back – as did the viewers at home.
What could they have done instead? Dropped all of the jokes. It’s natural to want to be funny and likable onstage, but the jokes were too silly and distracted from the overall message.
Q&A: All of the good content was here!
In the Q&A section, Patrick showed his expertise in the space. He showed a well-made video that explained why ingrown hairs are bad and how his product works – that video/explanation was better than pretty much their entire demo. He also told the Sharks that he created a “top razor review site” – which, again, gave him a ton of credibility. All of that probably should gone in his pitch.
A couple of other highlights: Patrick identified that his competition is “any product that takes hair off your face.” That was a smart answer. He also, when sharing his story, talked about how his corporate job made him go “in and out of depression.” It’s incredibly difficult to be vulnerable in a presentation (we all want to be our “best selves”), and I applaud him for sharing that with the Sharks (and the viewers).
Offers: Kevin and Robert
Their presentation wasn’t the best, but a strong Q&A and $2.5M in sales led to a couple of offers. Kevin offered $300K for 5% a $1.50 royalty. Robert offered $300K for 15%. After countering with both of them (to no avail), they took Robert’s deal.
Presentation 4: EZC Pak (I refuse to give him a backlink or drive any traffic to his site)
The ask: $125K for 5%
This guy didn’t deserve a deal. He got one anyway.
The final presentation was from Dr. Sarath Malepati, whose company EZC Pak offers a “clinically formulated” supplement that contains echinacea, zinc and vitamin C.
The Pitch: Meh
Sarath came out a bit dry, but dammit Jim he’s a doctor, not a presenter. He tried to explain the problem of bacterial “superbugs” with some bad puns and silly characters – “Barry bacteria” (he’s “Barry bad”) and “Victor von Virus.” For some reason, he showed a video where the “superbugs” were attacking a car. It was silly and a bit off-putting. Just look at Cuban’s face:
Q&A: Strong start, followed by a hard crash
Robert asked Sarath about his medical background, and this is clearly his comfort zone – Sarath did a great job explaining what a general surgeon is, in a way that wasn’t condescending/didn’t assume prior knowledge. This is also where he brought it back to the “so what” – patients need complex surgeries because antibiotics are losing their effectiveness. And, his stat (which probably should have been in the pitch) was that 95% of doctors overwrite antibiotics due to patient request. That would have been a killer open.
But, here’s where things started to go off the rails. Sarath starts complaining about the “consumerization of medicine/giving patients whatever they want,” and complained that his standing is primarily based on patient satisfaction scores – one can’t help but wonder if his patients just didn’t like him.
Mark challenged Sarath’s premise, as he believes it’s about knowing your family/medical history. Sarath looked off to the side and said “I don’t see how any of this is relevant to the patient walking in and requesting antibiotics.” There are countless ways to ask Cuban where he’s going with these questions that aren’t condescending, but that wasn’t one of them.
Things only got worse from there as Sarath walked right into a trap that Cuban laid for him. In their discussion Sarath said “products are marketed directly to consumers, who may or may not have adequate health literacy.” and Cuban responded with “yes! and that’s why this shit (holds up the product) gets sold.”
At this point, Robert and Lori step in to defend Sarath, and Lori discusses the problems associated with antibiotics – but as Lori is talking, Sarath almost looks uncomfortable and won’t really look at her (which Lori calls him out on: “you’re looking at me funny”). She then tells him that she’s very into natural products – specifically Zinc. But then, Sarath comments about how zinc is in the product, but he looks at Cuban, not Lori, even though he’s responding to Lori’s question.
Lori is now visibly angry that Sarath is responding to Cuban and not her, so Sarath decides to look at Cuban and say “Mark, I’m from Pittsburgh.” Sarath is sort of laughing while he does that, and it’s hard to say if he’s trying to make a joke in response to Lori, or if he’s just being clueless, but either way is was probably the worst way to handle that situation – all did was make light of Lori’s comment.
Then Lori drops the hammer – she tells him that she would have been the perfect customer, but because of his behavior, she’s out. After his half-assed apology, Lori goes on to tell him that she senses some chauvinism from him, and as a woman in business, she needs to speak out (and she’s 100% correct). It’s hard to say how intentional his behavior was (whether it was conscious or unconscious bias), but the net effect was the same – he didn’t treat Lori with respect, and she called him out for it.
As the Q&A goes on, he loses interest from everyone but Kevin. He has good sales and great margins, so Kevin is interested. It definitely didn’t help that he’s no longer practicing medicine – hasn’t in 3 years – any credibility he had went out the window at that point.
As an aside – when Mark “there’s no way this works, I’m out” my wife thought he said “you’re the worst, I’m out,” I prefer my wife’s version better.
What could he have done differently? Besides not being a jerk to Lori, he could have known his audience. Cuban never goes for this type of product, and is often openly hostile. So why even present to Cuban? Sarath should have just pitched to the other 4 Sharks instead of letting Cuban derail him.
After saying a few times “maybe this wasn’t the best pitch on Shark Tank ever,” Kevin did make an offer (“I don’t care if I like you, I care about your sales.”) After some negotiation, they agreed on $125K for 5%, plus a $1 royalty until $450K is paid.
The episode ended with Lori called Kevin out on his hypocrisy – he claims to support women, but his actions don’t back up that sentiment.