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Shark Tank: Should You Audition Your Business Idea?

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

Every small business owner is familiar with the popular reality show Shark Tank, where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a group of “sharks” (or experienced entrepreneurial investors) hoping to land some big funding.

But what’s it like to appear on the show? Whether you win or not, what can being on the show do for your business? Should you take the chance and audition?

What Can You Expect?

It’s a real pitch

Although viewers see an edited version, Shark Tank pitches last an hour or more, just like any pitch you’d make to investors.

In other words, just because you don’t see participants delving into financial minutiae on television, that doesn’t mean you can skip all that preparation before your pitch.

You’ve got to sell it

Grabbing the attention of tired and grumpy investors ain’t easy.

Plus, if your pitch isn’t entertaining enough to make it on TV, it won’t—some 20% of Shark Tank contestants who make it to the pitch stage still don’t get on the show.

Have a thick skin

The sharks need to entertain the crowd, and after all, this is a reality show. Be prepared for tempers to run high and for some insults to be thrown at you. (The show actually requires contestants to meet with an on-site psychologist after they appear.)

If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the Shark Tank.

What Can You Get?

It’s the real deal

Sharks invest their own money—not the show’s money.

In addition, just because a deal gets “sealed” on air with a handshake doesn’t mean it’s done.

After the show, the investors will do their due diligence on your business to make sure everything you pitched is accurate. You, too, have the option to back out of the deal if you change your mind after the glare of the camera fades.

More than money

In addition to providing funding—usually in the form of a flat fee in exchange for a percentage of ownership—the sharks typically serve as advisors to your businesses.

This isn’t just lip service: Daymond John, for instance, says he spends about 12 hours a week helping his Shark Tank investments. Getting a huge name like Barbara Corcoran or Mark Cuban on your side—and getting advice from them—can be worth way more than the money.

Extreme exposure

According to Forbes, Shark Tank has viewership of 7 million—not counting the additional audience for reruns and on subsidiaries.

The massive exposure for your business will help you get attention from other investors and the public: “As Seen on Shark Tank” is a huge selling point. Be prepared to handle the publicity.

If your product is already for sale, make sure your website, fulfillment, and production capacity can take the traffic that’s sure to follow your appearance… 

This entrepreneur sold out his entire first run after appearing on the show.

Should You Audition?

Prepare for the extra attention

If you have a product or service that you can prove will make or is making money, you need financing, and you can “sell” yourself and your concept, giving Shark Tank a shot can’t hurt.

If nothing else, you’ll get valuable experience in pitching your idea that can prepare you for other investor pitches down the road.

Applying for the show

To apply for Shark Tank, you can either send an email or attend an open casting call. You’ll then give a one-minute pitch to the casting team.

If you pass that hurdle, you’ll be called back, interviewed, and asked to make an 8-minute video pitch.

About 1 in 222 applicants actually make it to Shark Tank. 

If you’re one of the chosen ones, you’ll have opportunities to rehearse and hone your pitch before it actually films.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera
Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.
Rieva Lesonsky

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