My Shark Tank Experience - Failure or Success?
Updated: Sep 14, 2019
Some people see my experience in Shark Tank as a complete failure. I think that is probably true, but it made me grow tremendously, and that is what matters.
It was October 2017 when I was accepted to participate in the first season of the reality show in Colombia. After filling out hundreds of documents, answering thousands of questions, and recording a video pitching our product; my partner and I were finally selected. We were ecstatic and exhausted ourselves preparing for our time in front of the Sharks.
The day before our pitch, we flew into Bogota feeling nervous but confident; then finally, the big day came. Around 8 am, we arrived at the filming studio, which was a big theater decorated with antique objects and big lamps. Upon entering the building, we saw workers walking in all directions, all with an urgent job they were trying to get done. A staff member welcomed us as another took our jackets to iron. The production director took us to a room and told us how to walk and smile while walking into the room so the TV audience can get their first impression.
Within minutes, there we were, standing in front of five wealthy, knowledgable business persons. Someone loudly counted to three, and everything started. I began talking about our educational product for kids and its value proposition, later, my partner spoke about our subscription business model. We answered different questions that the Sharks asked, and two of them made compliments about our products, but immediately they said that they were not interested in investing. One Shark said that creating a new product every month was too complicated, and there will be a moment when we won't have any new ideas. Another Shark noted that one of the ingredients that the box contained, (food coloring) was leaking, and some drops stained the storybook and her fingers. She said we needed to improve our quality control, and for that reason, she did not invest.
We nodded, giving her thanks for the feedback and looked at the three Sharks remaining. One of them asked us about specific figures in our startup. Our minds went blank at that moment, and we gave the wrong numbers. He said: "You do not know the numbers of your business; that is why I am not investing in it". He also mentioned that Fisher-Price was going to launch a subscription box soon, and we could not compete with them.
The next businessman made a strong criticism. He said that he knows a company in the USA that had similar products and the same business model. He said that we were not originals and that we could be in trouble related to patents. I answered that we knew about two other companies in the USA as well as one in India. "We know that we are not the only interactive subscription box for kids in the world, but we create our storybooks, and our industrial designer creates our toys. We are not afraid of having patent trouble with anybody." I said.
The last Shark was Frank Kanayet, a shareholder of a major oil company in Colombia. He liked our business a lot, and he loved that it was about educating children interactively, however, he was worried about the previous comment that his colleague made about patent issues. He was out too.
After our episode appeared on TV, I was so anxious. Some people congratulated us for our presentation but others, especially on social media, made rude comments and made fun of us. I never appeared on national TV before, and this was aired to 14 countries. I reflected on the Sharks' words and the dismissive things I read on the media about us. I remembered something that Robert Kiyosaki says in his book Business School:
"Rejection and correction = education and acceleration."
I needed to be grateful for the rejection I received because it helped me at that moment to correct things about my business and products. It also allowed me to grow in self-confidence and discipline for getting better results. "People who avoid rejection, in the long run, are less successful in life than those who face it. Most are not successful because they have not been rejected enough," explains the author.
From this experience, I took both the great and the dreadful for my personal and professional benefit.