January 24, 2017

Editor's note: We're sharing stories, week by week, of our path towards building a startup. Join us as we share exclusive behind-the-scenes insights into our coffee-fueled evenings, embarrassing screw-ups, and occasional triumphs. Missed our intro to the series? Check it out here. Or sign up for our weekly emails here!

Last week, I auditioned for Shark Tank. It was a ton of fun, and since I’ve had a lot of questions about my experience, I thought you might like to hear about it too. 

First, some background. If you don’t know what Shark Tank is, shame on you. It’s an immensely popular TV show where entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to the “sharks” (read: uber-rich investors) for investment in their companies. It’s immensely fun to watch, and I highly recommend it.

The first thing to understand about getting on Shark Tank is that there are many rounds of auditions. You’re not told what the next round entails until you get past the previous round, so I have no idea what comes next. Around 40,000 people apply every year with just a couple hundred getting on the show, so odds that you’ll actually make it through to pitch the Sharks are pretty slim. 

Shark Tank Line

But even then -  you’re still not guaranteed anything. For those of you that watch the show, you know that about half of the time, entrepreneurs walk away without a deal. But what most people don’t know is: (1) even if you do pitch the sharks, your segment may not air on TV, and (2) even if you DO make it on air, and DO score that elusive deal, you have about 50/50 odds of actually closing that deal (source).

Anyways, all those depressing statistics aside, I had a blast auditioning for the show! I went into the audition knowing my chances were slim, and it really helped ease my nerves. I tried viewing it more as an opportunity to practice pitching my business than anything else -  which will also help with disappointment if I don't make it to the next round. But I really do hope to make it! 

Without further ado, here's a quick recap of the process:

08:45 I show up at the Dallas Convention Center and get in line to receive a wristband for my audition time. As expected, there's a long line that snakes quite a ways around the building.

09:30 I receive wristband number 237 and I'm informed to come back at 11:30 for my audition time slot. Sweet - I’ll take a couple hours to go over my pitch and refine it. So far, so good.

Shark Tank Wristband

11:30  I show back up for my audition slot all ready to pitch. One small problem - they’ve only gotten up to number 160 so far. So it’s going to be a long wait. I find a spot among the waiting entrepreneurs and strike up a few conversations.

I meet one entrepreneur who has created an app that allows you to list items from your garage for rent (I feel like I've heard that one before), another who has designed an interesting home fitness product, and a third who has designed a grill that floats on the water. Not sure that's a good idea, but what do I know?

Shark Tank Auditions

1:30 Remember how I said I wasn’t nervous? Well, that's out the window by now. The longer I sit around and wait, the more I go over my pitch in my head (good!), but the more I critique/doubt it (bad!), and the more I even begin to forget it (very bad!).  

I do the only thing I can think to - I step outside to pace the hallway and practice my pitch over and over (and over again). Repetition is key here. I once won a pitch competition when I was in grad school, and everybody asked me how I did it. It's not rocket science. While all my other classmates fumbled through their ideas (and ended up running out of time), I breezed through mine while hitting all the right points, at the right time, with the right inflection. How? Memorization. Every word, every tone, every hand movement. Brutally rehearsed until it was just right. 

That's also how I created my Kickstarter video. And it's how I approached this Shark Tank audition. I wish I knew an easier way, but it's at least worked for me so far.

2:30 - Still waiting. Still nervous. I meet a couple other aspiring entrepreneurs. One is pitching a children's book, and another is pitching some kind of cat house. Meow.

Shark Tank Tryouts

3:30 - #237 is called! Hooray! I do a little self pep-talk, pray a quick prayer, and head on over to the pitch booth. I run through my mental checklist as I walk in... stand up straight... big smile... eye contact... show enthusiasm. Check, check, check.

It's worth pointing out that when trying out at this stage, the producers aren't as interested in your business concept as they are in you. Will you make good TV? Are you passionate, energetic, enthusiastic? Will you stand toe to toe with the Sharks? Keeping this all in mind, I breeze through my one minute pitch. After that, I only have a few minutes with the judge for Q&A, so I make sure to get in my unique talking points - the parts of my story that are compelling and interesting. 

3:35  The "judge" reviewing my pitch seems to enjoy it, and he's pretty impressed by the Single Edge. He even tries out the blade change himself - perfect change on the first try! Even so, it's time for me to move on. 

My five minutes went by fast, but I felt great! Sure, there were a few rough spots that need polishing, but I got through unscathed while getting my main talking points across. Now all that remains is to wait for the phone call that I'm going on to the next round (fingers crossed!).

Here's the bummer, though. If I do receive that call, I won't be able to tell you about it. The first audition is fair game for public dissemination, but after that, mums the word. We wouldn't be able to share a single detail of the process - or whether we were chosen or not. 

So, stay tuned to ABC! In about a year, you might just see us pop up on Shark Tank. If so, I'm crossing my fingers for a deal - and one that goes through. 

So Mark Cuban, if you're reading this - please pick me. 

Until Next Week,

Patrick Coddou

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