The best of ‘Shark Tank,’ from 200 episodes deep

We look back at the top prod­ucts and pitches

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - FRONT PAGE - Gary Levin

Se­ries in its 10th sea­son has pro­moted tons of wacky en­trepreneur­ship, from Squatty Pot­ties to ugly sweaters.

The Tank is turn­ing 10. ❚ “Shark Tank,” ABC’s durable re­al­ity se­ries that in­vites bud­ding en­trepreneurs to pitch prod­ucts to in­vestor “sharks,” marked the start of its 10th sea­son – and 200th episode – Oct. 7 (Sun­days, 9 EDT/PDT). To cel­e­brate, USA TO­DAY ex­clu­sively ranks the show’s top-sell­ing prod­ucts, from the Scrub Daddy sponge to on-the-go lob­ster.

The se­ries has fea­tured a thou­sand en­trepreneurs and bro­kered deals to­tal­ing $125 mil­lion in in­vestors’ cash. Along with Bar­bara Cor­co­ran, Robert Her­javec, Kevin (”Mr. Won­der­ful”) O’Leary, Day­mond John, Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner, this sea­son will fea­ture new guest sharks Charles Barkley and Jamie Simi­noff, who pitched the DoorBot home-se­cu­rity sys­tem (now known as Ring) in Sea­son 5 but turned down O’Leary’s roy­alty of­fer.

Simi­noff re­turns as the show’s first en­trepreneur-turned-shark in Sun­day’s opener, af­ter

sell­ing his busi­ness to Ama­zon for more than $1 bil­lion. “Jamie is Shark Tank’s first uni­corn,” ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Clay New­bill says. “He rep­re­sents what the show aspires to be at its best.”

The sharks have fin­ished tap­ing the up­com­ing 22-episode sea­son, with more no doubt on the way. What’s the se­cret to get­ting a cov­eted spot on the se­ries, adapted from the Ja­panese for­mat “Dragon’s Den”?

New­bill says the show seeks a wide va­ri­ety of prod­ucts and fa­vors those with a unique twist. Pro­duc­ers look for prod­ucts at dif­fer­ent points in their life cy­cles, from the germ of an idea to demon­strated sales. But “a huge el­e­ment” is the en­trepreneur: “Do they have pas­sion? The per­son who has that fight and a great back story,” of­ten in­clud­ing set­backs and fail­ure, is key.

Grace & Lace, which pitched lacy leg warm­ers in 2013, was founded by a cou­ple af­ter their baby daugh­ter died at birth and marked “the best ex­am­ple of com­ing out of a pit and mak­ing some­thing for them­selves,” says Cor­co­ran, who in­vested $175,000 for a 10 per­cent stake. “The loss of that baby was the be­gin­ning of their busi­ness,” which has racked up $36 mil­lion in sales.

Cuban, whose top-sell­ing prod­uct is a stand-up pad­dle board, says newer in­vestors rec­og­nize the value of tech­nol­ogy and the chang­ing re­tail cli­mate.

“Many of our great com­pa­nies also have a so­cial com­po­nent that al­lows con­sumers to be proud to do busi­ness with them,” he says of the sharks via email. They in­clude Bom­bas, a sock seller that do­nates a pair to the home­less for ev­ery one it sells, and Sand Cloud, which makes blan­kets and do­nates a por­tion of pro­ceeds to save ma­rine life.

What’s changed in 10 years? Con­tes­tants now tend to be more ed­u­cated and “less needy,” Cor­co­ran says. Of­ten, new en­trepreneurs al­ready have won in­vest­ments through ven­ture-cap­i­tal firms or crowd­fund­ing ef­forts. But she ad­mires “the ex­treme mea­sures” peo­ple go through just to stay in busi­ness. “I love the des­per­a­tion,” she says, not to watch them suf­fer, but to demon­strate that their spot on the show is “well won.”



Sim­ple Sug­ars

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