Although I’m extremely late to Shark Tank (eight seasons late to be exact) the holiday season has given me some time to catch up on the show and find out why it’s so brilliant. While I had read about the show before, I never had any interest in watching it until it was mentioned at my weekly 8150 entrepreneur meeting because I assumed it involved a bunch of rich investors yelling at and/or humiliating people who are looking for a little help launching their businesses. I was wrong. While the “sharks” on the show are tough businesspeople, they also ask good questions, attempt to educate entrepreneurs on why their ideas will or will not work, and provide detailed explanations regarding their decisions to invest or be “out.”
Shark Tank debuted in August 2009 and is a franchise of Dragons’ Den, which originated in Japan in 2001. Because the show keeps the backstories of entrepreneurs to a minimum (as opposed to The Voice, a show I love, which goes into the sob stories a little too much), and the pace keeps the viewer interested for the entire hour, I’m not surprised that is has won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Structured Reality Program twice. I’m also not shocked that the executive producer is Mark Burnett because he is the person responsible for taking Survivor to 33 seasons! That being said, when I first started watching, I found it interesting that the show lacked “star power.” In fact, the only shark I initially recognized was Mark Cuban because he is the owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Now, of course, I know all the main sharks and their tendencies: Kevin O’Leary (the Simon Cowell type who loves the sound of this own voice), Barbara Corcoran (always tough but fair), Daymond John (eternally impeccably dressed), Robert Herjavec (loves a quirky business or product idea), and Lori Greiner (apparently, the queen of QVC) were all new to me. Eight seasons in, these people have become household names and I think a big part of the legitimacy of the show is that the money the sharks invest is actually their own. Of course, they get paid to be on the show which helps with their own exposure, but one cannot expect for that type of expertise to be free.
As I’ve been watching episodes, my only question regarding Shark Tank’s validity is when entrepreneurs get a deal, do they succeed because of the exposure garnered from the show or because they had a truly viable idea. Then I read this: “According to TV Guide, as of December 2012, the show’s panel members had invested $12.4 million in the business opportunities presented to them during that season. Those whose business ideas did not result in an investment from the sharks still benefited from the publicity generated by that contestant appearing on the show. During the show’s 2012 season, 36,076 people applied to become contestants.”
But I guess it doesn’t matter how they succeed because as long as people keep coming up with interesting ideas and products, everyone benefits including the investors, entrepreneurs, and Shark Tank as a business and television show. Also, because each business idea is so different, the format never gets tired. Providing the investors continue to be engaging and respectful, and aspiring entrepreneurs keep bringing their unique personalities and ideas to the show, Shark Tank could probably see the kind of longevity that has made Survivor an iconic show. Looking forward to watching and learning more about the business world in an extremely entertaining way!