Pitching Your Startup Idea On TV's 'Shark Tank' Is More Complex Than You Think

Television is not as simple as what you see is what you get. Hours of footage is packaged into snack-sized segments, omitting large chunks of context, with nifty editing skill filling in the blanks. But that was a risk Disruptsports.com co-founder Gary Elphick was willing to take when he applied for Network Ten’s Shark Tank.

“The filming was about six months ago now, it’s taken forever to get on and they only confirmed with us the week before that it was going on,” he told us before the episode aired last Sunday.

“We’ve been busy readying our servers and we’ll probably get [lots of] questions from people.

“I think it was the best experience I’ve ever done… and the sharks are really friendly. But it all comes down to the editors and how they cut things.

“What’s done is done now.”

Gary said he spent two days with the crew of the show filming different parts of the business and then the pitch with the sharks.

All that got squished into a 15-minute time slot, of which Elphick said they “could have been kinder with what they cut”.

His strategy for going on the show was simply to create brand awareness. Despite the central premise of the show – the chance to get high profile investors on board – Elphick says he was never going to take the money.

“I’ll be honest about it. I went on the show for awareness,” he said.

“It gets the word out there about what we’re doing, and it makes you actually go through the business and ask what are the numbers to make sure you know everything.

“The challenge is that we were already quite a way through a raising investment round so we weren't ever going to take an offer. It would not be OK with our shareholders.”

Another risk was the lag between filming and broadcast, which meant that in the time that it took the episode to air, the business has moved forward.

“What will come across on the show will be a fraction of what we are now,” said Elphick.

During the pitch he told the sharks the business had $620,000 in total sale in the 18 months since launch, and a valuation of $4.3 million. He would not disclose the updated figures to Business Insider.

“That’s good and bad. It’s given us six months to ramp things up.”

The panel’s reaction to Elphick’s seemingly high valuation was also far from desirable.

Shark Janine Allis, founder of Retail Zoo and Boost Juice, said: “Gary, you’re taking the piss… You’re a great guy, but my god you talk shit.”

What you don’t see is that they all have a laugh at this and Elphick jokes around with her that she’s hurt his feelings.

“It’s probably a good thing (we don’t get to see the episode before it’s broadcast),” he said.

“Every episode is the same, it’s like a sandwich. They make one person look good, one person look bad, and one person at the end look really good. They play with people’s emotions a little bit.

“It doesn’t matter really whether or not you went in there and did well or you got an offer, they just choose how to edit it to get the audience. Which is fine, it’s TV.”

His only concern was the business might look bad.

“I don’t mind myself coming off in a negative light, as long as the business doesn’t come off in a negative light.

“But if your business is good, and your product is good, then people will see if the edits are different to what you want them to be.

“It’s definitely a risk you take.”

But would he do it again?

“Absolutely I’d do it again,” he said, “110%.”

While he didn’t take an investment offered by one of the sharks, there’s already been an uptick in sales following the broadcast.

Elphick said new customers and inquiries have the team “run off our feet” and the social commentary following the episode going to air has 95% positive.

“People love what we do… and a couple of competitors are kicking up a stink.”

Elphick said the opportunity to reappear on the show in 12 months time has given his team a huge boost of motivation.

“Probably the best and most humbling moment was after the episode where the editing wasn’t too favourable,” he said.

“I had 2-3 emails from investors along the lines of ‘Can’t wait to show them how wrong they are’, ‘let’s stick it to them’ and ‘you did me and yourself proud – now get back to work’.

“It’s these surprising moments that bring the bond between startup and advisor/investor closer.”

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.


Comments

    Sorry, but that guy is an asshole, abusing the show just to get brand awareness, taking the spot of someone that really needs the money.

    “I don’t mind myself coming off in a negative light, as long as the business doesn’t come off in a negative light.
    What he doesn't realise is that, as the public face of the business, he is the business. Think about all the companies whose CEOs were are controversial/backwards when it comes to things like gay marriage. The company suffers the backlash. Granted almost all of the people that would dislike the guy probably don't care about customized surfboards, its not like i was going to be a customer of his anyway even if he wasn't portrayed negatively and then say he was never going to take a deal anyway.

      You might have been misled on the point of Shark Tank. It's an entertainment TV show. Business owners have far more realistic and lucrative avenues for investment. The attraction of Shark Tank is exposure. Someone using it for that purpose has a negligible impact on the prospects of other businesses.

      On the other hand, your reaction is a natural one and you may well be right about the backlash. He certainly may have overstated the disconnect between his reputation and the business's.

        Yes its entertainment for us, but for the shark bait its supposed to be about getting money to build a business in exchange for part of said business, most of the deals that go though would be people actually needing the money and/or help from the sharks.

        Then you get assholes like this guy and the people with stupid idea (sharknado theme park), or asking for 5million which is blatently trying not to get funded.

        Perhaps they need to turn the elevator pitch articles from lifehacker into a TV series, they can make it entertaining, and even competitionize it somehow, pit them against each other to win some advertising deal.

    Elphick says he was never going to take the money.

    His company valuation and projections were ridiculous, making management look like starry eyed teenagers. The Sharks also had an excellent point about sacrificing last years revenue to build international capability. You shouldn't need to do this.

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