You’ve heard of “Shark Tank,” the uber-popular TV show where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch ideas to established business tycoons in the hopes of securing sizable funding. Several of these moguls-in-the-making get what they came for and walk away with the investment deals they need.
But what happens when the camera stops rolling? Do these businesses bring in the big bucks, or do they go bankrupt? Here are some of the biggest busts on “Shark Tank,” and the million-dollar ventures the investors missed out on.
Read on to learn important lessons that can help you as you try to build wealth in your own life.
Pitched as a way to measure blood alcohol levels via a smartphone app, the Breathometer seemed a promising public safety innovation. All five “Shark Tank” judges put up a combined $1 million investment.
But then the Federal Trade Commission got involved. Citing unfulfilled orders and inaccurate results, the FTC ordered the company to refund customers and cease sales for good.
Toygaroo had all the makings of a million-dollar enterprise. The toy subscription company billed itself as the “Netflix of toys” and seemed the answer to every parent’s prayers, allowing them to rent toys for a month. The founders secured $200,000 from the show’s investors.
But their success backfired. Toygaroo grew too big, too fast. The bubble finally burst under the pressure of high costs and low stock, and the company eventually filed for bankruptcy.
Mike Abbatichio and Shon Lees grew their HillBilly clothing brand to nearly $300,000 in sales before setting foot on the “Shark Tank” stage. Impressed with these stats, three of the judges took the bait and invested in the company.
As it turns out, however, the founders never wanted a deal in the first place. They later backed out, saying they were only on the show for the free publicity.
Like so many parent-discovered solutions, Shelly Ehler came up with ShowNo Towels out of sheer frustration. Fed up with wrangling one child while holding up a towel so another could safely change clothes at the beach, Ehler created this poncho-towel combo.
She secured a “Shark Tank” investor and saw wild success at first. Sadly, ShowNo Towels is now defunct, but Ehler doesn’t seem to mind. In a 2020 blog post, she said she proved to herself what she needed to and then mastered the art of moving on.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Coffee Meets Bagel sounds like the next installment in the hipster brunch craze, but it’s actually a dating app. Founded by three sisters, Coffee Meets Bagel won Mark Cuban’s affection — so much so that he offered to buy the app for $30 million.
Unwilling to sell, the sisters walked and raised $23 million in funding on their own. Moral of the story? Know your worth, entrepreneurs. And investors, negotiate accordingly.
Chef Big Shake
Chef Big Shake founder Shawn Davis thought he’d wow the “Shark Tank” judges with his frozen delicacies. He had shrimp burgers, fish burgers, chicken burgers — all the burgers. He also had $30,000 in sales under his belt. Still, the investors didn’t bite.
In the end, however, it was they who ended up with egg on their faces. Just a year later, Chef Big Shake grossed over $5 million in sales.
Frozen foods couldn’t sway the “Shark Tank” judges, but cake balls sure did. James McDonald and Cole Egger struck a $250,000 investment deal with Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran after presenting their dessert company, Sweet Ballz.
Despite also striking a deal with 7-Eleven, Sweet Ballz eventually turned sour. Egger tried to start a competing cake ball company, which led to McDonald filing a lawsuit and taking out a restraining order on his former business partner.
The Bouqs Company
Designed as a farm-to-table florist shop, The Bouqs Company thought they could impress the judges with their innovative business arrangement. (See what we did there?) Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
But this was only unfortunate for the investors themselves. Founder John Tabis stayed the course, and as of 2019, The Bouqs Company had over 10,000 employees and owned more than 4,000 acres of flower fields.
CoatChex founder Derek Pacque sought to bring coat checking at restaurants and events into the 21st century. Instead of relying on easy-to-lose paper tickets, he proposed using facial recognition technology to simplify the process.
Judge Mark Cuban refused to invest unless he got at least a 33% stake in the company, which Pacque couldn’t accept. Despite walking away with no investors, CoatChex grew, rebranded as Chexology, and has since served big-name clients like Barclays Center and the Modern Museum of Art.
Standing on sustainability as a chief selling point, Proof Eyewear offers spectacles handmade from wood and plant-based plastic. Unsurprisingly, their marketing angle appealed to the judges. Kevin O’Leary even offered to invest $150,000 in exchange for a 25% share of the company plus royalties.
But Proof Eyewear’s founders ultimately turned him down and set out on their own. Perhaps O’Leary should’ve been more flexible: The company later brought in $2.5 million in sales in just one year.
Jack Barringer invented Body Jac so that those of us with no upper-body strength could experience the thrill of doing a complete push-up. Sharks Kevin Harrington and Barbara Corcoran immediately saw potential in his exercise machine and invested a combined $180,000 in the company.
But somewhere along the way, things went awry. The Body Jac website mysteriously shut down in 2012, and Corcoran now calls this her worst deal to date.
Back in 2013, Jamie Siminoff made his “Shark Tank” debut. His big idea? A camera-enabled doorbell that lets people see who is outside their home, and even talk to them, without ever opening the front door.
All but one of the judges declared this invention a dud, and Siminoff rejected the one investment offer he did get. The story doesn’t end here, however.
In a remarkable twist of fate, Doorbot changed its name to Ring and became a billion-dollar success. It also became one of the biggest missed opportunities in “Shark Tank” history.
Some of these “Shark Tank” failures were easier to predict than others — and some would have been easier to prevent, too. But there is a lesson to be learned in each of them.
For starters, all of us can develop millionaire habits, regardless of our income or experience. Taking the right steps can unlock the next tier in our wealth-building journey.
Also, note that we don’t have to marry ourselves to what others think of our entrepreneurial ventures. Many of the people on this list rejected what the experts said, and still became successes. While you’re brainstorming ways to make extra cash, master how to let new money-making methods grow within you.
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