Shark Tank is a television show produced by reality mogul Mark Burnett that’s aired on ABC since 2009. On the show, real life entrepreneurs pitch their businesses, concepts, and products to six mega-successful business people, or “Sharks.” Currently Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, Lori Grenier, and Mark Cuban are on the panel of Sharks. 133 episodes of Shark Tank have aired over its 7 seasons.
2. The Emmys keep coming
Although ABC doesn’t trumpet their own success with the show, Shark Tank has received four consecutive Emmy nominations and won Outstanding Reality Program the last two years.
3. The show actually started in Japan
The concept for Shark Tank originated in Japan in 2001 with a tough love business show called Tigers of Money where entrepreneurs pitched to investors. However, the “Tigers” made a point of being abrupt, rude, and sometimes even sadistic to the contestants, who begged and pleased for money but rarely won it.
4. It quickly spread internationally
After the popular Japanese show, a spinoff called Dragon’s Den started in Britain, and then again in Canada. In fact, the Canadian version featured both Robert Herjavec and Kevin O'Leary, who are now Sharks on the hit U.S. show. Other countries with their own versions of the show now include the Czech Republic, Finland, Poland, Spain, and Ukraine. Australian, Portuguese and Italian versions are in production.
5. It’s more difficult to get on the show than admission to Harvard
It is a long and improbably process for entrepreneurs to actually make it on air on Shark Tank, starting with open casting calls, then a brief live pitch to members of the production crew, followed by a screening round and finally on set. Of the 45,000 people who applied for the show in 2014, less than 1 percent actually got the chance to pitch their business opportunities to the Sharks. But producers and the Sharks themselves also look through social media and crowd funding sites like Kickstarter for promising and exciting young companies who may be a good fit.
6. It wasn’t a very popular show at first
While Shark Tank is a smash hit these days, the show didn't even make the list of top 100 primetime shows in its first season. Only after Mark Cuban joined the cast as a Shark in season two did in the show take off. By season five, the show averaged up to 8 million viewers every week, almost double their first year numbers.
7. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy was a Shark Tank judge
Trying to spice up the format and boost in lagging ratings, Shark Tank had comedian Jeff Foxworthy on the panel of judges in the second season. As you could guess, it was a strange and illogical fir and the experiment failed miserably – and was never replicated.
8. Pitches take a long time
When we watch the show in our living rooms, most entrepreneur pitches take only about ten minutes of edited video. But in real life, they usually last about an hour, with the Sharks carefully scrutinizing and frilling each contestant until they all eventually opt out or someone invests.
There are times when the Sharks dismiss an entrepreneur in only twenty minutes. But the longest pitch in the history of the Show was entrepreneur Michael Tseng who pitched his microwave-safe food cover PlateTopper for two and a half hours before Shark Lori Greiner invested $90,000 in his company.
9. It’s a grueling filming schedule for the Sharks
Filming is not all fun and games for the Sharks, either, and in fact can be downright grueling. They shoot the show within a 17-day marathon session with 12-hour days of listening to 6-8 pitches per day, plus prep and other work.
"We're cold, we're hungry, we're miserable,” says Shark Robert Herjavec, explaining why they could be testy when entrepreneurs don’t get to the point.
10. The 30 Seconds of Silence is brutal
Before each pitch begins on the show, we see entrepreneurs walk down the corridor and stand in front of the Sharks, then a pan of their faces and reactions in silence before they are invited to speak. In fact, the show does this on purpose, mandating that every contestant stand there facing the Sharks in silence for 30 seconds so the camera crew can capture the “stare down” – and the tension.
11. Only a tiny proportion of entrepreneur pitches make it on air
Even if you make it to the round of pitching live on camera to Sharks, at least 20% of those pitches won’t see our television screens as they get cut for being uneventful or other reasons.
12. The sharks back out of a lot of deals
Yes, Shark Tank is genuine. But that doesn’t mean the agreements they enter into on air are legally binding. In fact, after the on-air portion of the show, every deal, company, and shred of data presented it carefully scrutinized and verified by the Sharks. In many cases, entrepreneurs have over-inflated their numbers or outright lied to make their companies more attractive, causing the Sharks to back out, justifiably.
13. But so do entrepreneurs
Surprisingly, a good portion of entrepreneurs get “buyer’s remorse” and back out, even after deals have been set and funding and terms agreed upon. "I would say 90 percent of the time it's the entrepreneur who backs out," says Shark Robert Herjavec.
14. Some contestants come on the show with no intention of striking a deal
Knowing they’ll see a huge spike in sales whether they strike a deal with a Shark or not, an increasing number of entrepreneurs go on the show with no genuine intention of making a deal. Called "Shark Tank gold diggers," they ask for ridiculous terms or vastly over-value their companies in order to NOT get a deal, though the show tries to weed them out. "We're getting better at spotting the people who are obvious about it," Herjavec says.
15. There is a psychiatrist on set
The show actually employs a psychiatrist on set who meets with every entrepreneur right after they give their pitch. Most of them are real people and emotions and pressure run extremely high, as they know a lot of money and success are on the line and it can be crushing when turned down. There have been contestants so wound up that they actually feinted out cold in the middle of a pitch! So now, the show psychologist meets with everyone to make sure they are feeing mentally healthy and have a chance to “debrief.”
16. During the show, the Sharks are communicating with producers
Most people don’t know that the Sharks all wear concealed earpieces during the show, allowing them to get messages from producers. While far from staged, this allows producers to feed them information and suggest questions and prompts about each entrepreneur’s back-story.
17. But it’s their call
Ultimately, it is up to the individual sharks if they want to invest, how much, the terms of any deal, and it is there own money, so the show is an authentic reality experience.
18. Mr. Wonderful (Attendance)
Shark Kevin O’Leary, the self-proclaimed “Mr. Wonderful,” may be known for his bravado and acerbic bedside manner, but no one can question his commitment to the show, as he’s the only cast member to appear in every single episode since its inception.
19. The “Where are they now” segments are extremely valuable
Every episode, they’ll have a brief segment that shows past Shark Tank “alumni” who gained investments, with an update how they are doing now. Apparently, even that small exposure has huge value and the Sharks can offer to pitch companies they have an interest in.
20. Donald Trump was never invited
For years, a rumor floated around that Donald Trump was first cast as a Shark, but turned the opportunity down. There is speculation he even perpetuated the rumor himself, but truthfully, he was never offered a spot on the show and was under contract with NBC when it started.
21. Cuban is the wealthiest Shark
While all Sharks look equal up there on the panel, in fact, Mark Cuban is the wealthiest – bar far. With a net worth of over $3 billion, Cuban actually has more money then all of the rest of the other Sharks combined!
22. Mark Cuban also stood up for the entrepreneurs
For the first four seasons of Shark Tank, contestants who struck a deal on the show had to automatically sign over 5% of their profits, shares, or products to ABC and the show producers. Judge Mark Cuban was always vocal about his opposition to this policy, which he thought took advantage of entrepreneurs who were just trying to get started. So before season 5 began, Cuban demanded that the 5% “Shark Tank charge” be removed, threatening to not participate in the show if it remained. The show’s producers acquiesced and upon Cuban’s wishes, even the contestants from the first four seasons got their 5% back.
23. Sacramento has been well represented on Shark Tank
An entrepreneur named Christopher Johnson – a UC Davis graduate - appeared on the show to pitch is Rapid Ramen Inc. that sells the Rapid Ramen Cooker, and walked away with a successful $300,000 deal with Mark Cuban.
24 Sacramento won’t be bullied
But another Sacramento contestant left the show without a deal, but gained respect and notoriety along the way. Sactown’s Paul Watts actually appeared on Shark Tank during its first season, bringing his vision for the Graffiti Removal Services franchise to the Sharks and asking for $350,000 for a 15% stake in the company. In one of the most controversial and interesting exchanges in show history, Watts had Robert Herjavec and Kevin O’Leary team up to offer the money, but for a prohibitive 75% stake of his business. But the cool, calm, and collected Watts wisely declined the offer; to which O’Leary went on an epic rant that ended with “You’re dead to me!”
But Watts stuck to his guns and declined, and went on to modest but steady success with his graffiti removal service – without surrendering 75% stake in the company.
25. YOU can audition for Shark Tank!
So you have a hit product, ingenious invention, or cottage business that is starting to skyrocket? Why not pitch it to the Sharks on Shark Tank? Like all reality programs, Shark Tank holds open auditions where you can make your case to try and get on the show.
To apply to be on Shark Tank, go here: http://abc.go.com/shows/shark-tank/open-call