The best of ‘Shark Tank,’ from 200 episodes deep
We look back at the top products and pitches
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.”