It was my dream & obsession to get on Shark Tank since I saw the show years ago. After I moved to New York, I founded my first startup (interactive educational iPad books for kids). To get customers & raise some money, I launched a Kickstarter campaign. I did not know then that it’s not how cool or visionary your product is, but how well you can buy & drive traffic to your campaign. I raised only a couple hundred bucks. But something more important came out of this campaign which brings me to point #1.
1. PR. Promote your startup/company in all possible media outlets & ensure to use hashtags as #coolidea, #coolbusinessidea etc as Shark Tank casting associates scan lots of sources for new cool companies. My friend got discovered by a casting member via Instagram. So a casting crew member sent me a private message on Kickstarter “we are a Shark Tank show offspring, launching a pilot for games creators. You have a very cool idea – education in form of games, you are a girl, immigrant, do you want to cast?” I thought it was a scam, but I found her profile on LinkedIn and this was legit. So we made a 1-minute video pitch, then got a Skype session with more producers answering lots of questions, then signed many pages of legal documents. Gotyu made it to the shooting. Couple months later, she messaged me apologizing that the pilot did not get the funding. At least I got great experience!
2. Personality. Several years later I have a new company ( Gotyu smallest GPS tracker with eSIM for bicycle, luggage, pets & kids), so I started applying again. To get in, you as a founder, have to be very unique & cool (girl, immigrant, doing tech in my case) or very bad so that viewers have a laugh. You have to present very well & to radiate great energy! When casting for Shark Tank, I met a gay Asian guy launching a playdate app for pets — that is the sort of entrepreneur that viewers would find inspiring to watch. A girl invented a gadget to rest your head on during a long flight; she even scored a huge pre-order from a major airline, yet she was reading her pitch from a paper & was so boring — she never made it.
3. Perfect show-like Pitch. I started mine with a question on importance of pets & kids to you, then stated the loss/theft problem in numbers, raising emotions of the listener, “I don’t want to lose a loved one, do you?”; continued with great Gotyu orders statistics, finished with a line “help me bring America’s modern family security to the next level”. There was a girl casting with good $0.5M in sales, but she too so self-confident. She walked in with no prepared pitch, just talked randomly… that was not good enough for the show. Also, dress up in your company branded clothing, bring posters, make sure you have perfect sleek packaging – all this will help you sell your company to the casting members. Don’t forget to mention all awards you’ve received!
Nice example: google for “Party On Demand Pitch”
4. Be strategic where to pitch. If you go to New York, or any other large city, you will have maximum 40 seconds as Shark Tank casting members interview a couple thousands people. It will be hard to stand out. In addition to New York, I traveled to 2 other smaller cities to cast (find casting producers on Instagram, follow them closely as they announce open casting calls in advance).
5. Next steps. If you are among the chosen few, next day after the pitch you will get a call 🙂 You have only 2-4 days to make a nice 5 minutes introduction video covering many basics. Clearly describe your product, company, founders, traction, provide detailed financial statement, criminal history, ID copies, patents, and sign about 40 pages of legal documents. Don’t lie, because at this stage it will all come out. Shark Tank lawyers do quite extensive due diligence into your company. Make your video on a nice sunny day with nice background, be very lively! I made mine in front of a beautiful fountain in Washington Square Park in New York.
Also nice example: google for “Eco Flower Shark Tank Submission”
Then you may have a call to fly in to Los Angeles just a couple of days before the actual shooting. Even at this stage, you are not in yet. You fly in and present to ABC directors, they may send you back home. Even after you shoot, they may cut your Shark Tank scene out as they cut out 15-20% of pitches. And even if you made it and got a deal with a Shark, only 40% of those deals go trough. I have a friend who made a deal and it did not go trough, and a friend who was in the room with the sharks for 2.5 hours, did not make a deal and got cut out.
6. Absolutely go for it! The chances of getting in are actually not that bad as the quality of applicants is very average. The casting members are very kind & nice! If you have a great company (not just idea), you are a great presenter – absolutely go for it!
About me: Transacted $750M of commercial real estate in Ukraine, London, New York, tech entrepreneur, @happy_in_new_york