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How to Get on Shark Tank: Tips from Someone Who’s Faced the Sharks

The Seventy2 will be featured on the season premiere of Shark Tank on October 1, 2017. This is a guest post by Christian Schauf, the founder of Uncharted Supply Co. and the creator of the Seventy2, about his experiences getting on the show.

Getting on Shark Tank

On November 1, 2016, I launched my very first Indiegogo campaign. And almost one year later, the Seventy2 and I  will appear on Shark Tank. It was a dream come true, since I had been dreaming of Shark Tank since the beginning of my product. Here’s my story from idea to Indiegogo to Shark Tank, and a few pieces of advice that I think can help anyone on the same path.

Making the Seventy2

I’ve spent much of my life dealing with “extreme” conditions. I grew up on a farm, raced snowmobiles cross-country, spent weeks at a time in backcountry Montana and Wyoming, and traveled to Iraq over 40 times on entertainment tours for our troops overseas. In my early 30’s, I found myself living in Los Angeles, where a light rain on a Tuesday afternoon stopped traffic dead in its tracks.

As I sat stuck in my car late for a meeting, I began to think, “This is what happens when it’s drizzling? What if something serious happened?” After all, we were sitting on the San Andreas fault line, in one of the most over-populated places in the world. Disaster could strike at any time. I suddenly realized if people couldn’t navigate a light rain, they certainly wouldn’t be able to handle something like an earthquake, mudslide, terrorist attack or other major emergency.

Would people be willing to invest in their safety? Did the right product not exist? .

This began some extensive market research. Almost everyone I talked to was concerned for their protection, but very few had emergency supplies and nobody had training. It made me realize that presented with the right product, many of these people wouldn’t think twice about buying a kit  that contained everything they would need an emergency. But to date, there hadn’t been anything available like that.

Turning safety into a business

I spent the next 6 months researching, designing and educating myself on what the right product would be. I also studied lifestyle brands like GoPro, Nike, Patagonia, where quality justified the price. I consulted with mentors, subject matter experts, designers, accountants and the like. I decided the right product would combine unapologetic quality components, modern design and a brand that people identified with.

But a business and a product are different things. A great product won’t last if the company can’t stay in business, and considering not only materials, but margins as well, were paramount to creating a lasting business. So through it all, I had Shark Tank streaming in the living room while I worked. I would imagine the day I would stand in front of the Sharks and face the wrath of Mr. Wonderful, and would envision how I would answer the tough questions they always ask the entrepreneurs that appear on the show.

Whether I ever made the show or not, it felt like a great exercise. The sharks ask generally basic, but very important, questions about your product and your company. If you don’t have a good answer for them, you’re likely to have a big hurdle to overcome until you can. And if you can show that your product is different, there is a market, there are great margins, and you can scale – then you have a winner on Indiegogo, Shark Tank and anywhere else.

Tips for succeeding on Shark Tank:

1) Watch Shark Tank as a practice test.

How do your sales compare with those on the show? How do key metrics like cost per acquisition and margins compare? Is your product patented? Were there questions they asked that stumped you about your product or business? I’m always surprised by the people that end up on the show and appear to be hearing these questions for the first time. The only thing worse than not getting on Shark Tank is getting on Shark Tank to be made to look incompetent.

2) Use Indiegogo to build your story

Beyond simply driving sales, Indiegogo can help build your community through email lists, social media followers and brand ambassadors. If you can create meaningful connections with your backers, you can likely convert many of these into Shark Tank supporters. The Indiegogo audience is one that understands you’re chasing your dream. You’re working towards a goal, and they support your journey. This gives you an opportunity to grow an audience that gives you some slack to learn. This opportunity doesn’t exist in most retail situations – like a Dick’s Sporting Goods or Best Buy. Use this, but don’t take advantage of it. A mentor once told me, “Treat your customers as you’d treat your mother.” I think that’s a great perspective to establish early on.  

3) No business like show business

While Shark Tank describes the show as ‘actual negotiations’ between businesses and potential investors, the most important thing to remember is this: it’s a tv show. The network demands ratings and ratings happen when people watch. People watch when there is drama, big characters, excitement, tension and ultimately someone reaching their goal, or failing miserably. It’s important to stand out. Nearly 60,000 applicants tried out for our season (Season 9) and the casting directors are making very quick decisions. Give them every reason to get to know you better.

If you’re at a casting call, show up with lots of energy, confidence and personality. Be unique and memorable. Don’t hold back. If you submit a video, spend some time (and maybe money) on making a video that grabs attention. You don’t have to make a Sundance-worthy documentary, but put yourself in the chair of someone who has to watch thousands of submissions and make something you’d want to see. Then get even crazier.

4) Money talks

When people get on the show with slightly more than the beginning of an idea, their pitches often don’t end well. Don’t get me wrong, an interesting product or business model and big visions for the future are definitely important, but nothing is as powerful as a product which is resonating with a large population. The Sharks and producers want something that’s going to be interesting to millions of people, and there’s no better way to prove that than with great sales figures. Big, impressive sales numbers get the biggest reaction in almost every episode I’ve watched. Our Indiegogo campaign drove over $500,000 in sales to over 70 countries. Those are the kind of numbers that get the Sharks (and casting directors) into a feeding frenzy.

5) There’s more at stake than the investment

The goal for almost everyone that goes into the Tank is to get a deal. But it’s important to think about the whole picture. In our case, we valued our company at almost half what we knew it was worth. Why? Because we knew that simply appearing on Shark Tank is worth millions of dollars in exposure, and we didn’t want to miss that opportunity. Going in the tank doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up on air, so improve your odds at every chance you can. Valuation negotiations don’t make good TV, but three Sharks fighting over owning your company does. Swallow your pride, understand the bigger opportunity at stake and give them an offer they will fight over.

How it turned out

So what happened? Well, I’ve signed way too many papers promising secrecy to tell you exactly what happened on Shark Tank. The good news is that you can tune in October 1st for the season premiere and see it all unfold. To be honest, I have only seen a few pictures to date, so I’m as anxious as anyone to watch the episode. But I can tell you that it was a very fun experience. Standing in front of five famous investors with cameras rolling, and having them all ask hard questions at the same time was intense! But anyone with a strong product and solid sales who understands their numbers and sees a vision for the future stands a great chance of being presented an offer.

Hit me up after October 1 at @christianschauf and I’m happy to answer any questions you may have. Good luck to you all, and please check out the Seventy2 on Indiegogo.

Ready to start a campaign on Indiegogo? Visit Indiegogo’s campaign creation page to learn more.

 

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