For those of you unfamiliar with the premise of Shark Tank, it goes like this: An aspiring entrepreneur walks into a room and stands in front of five successful investors, all of whom exhibit a sort-of effortless air of superiority—what with their shoulders-back-chest-out posture and their leather chairs, positioned so perfectly equidistant from one another but also on a platform, as if to enhance the act of looking "down" while locking eyes with our suddenly clammy contestant. From here, that suddenly clammy contestant will have to ask if any of the investors would be willing to provide the money necessary to fund his or her big business idea. And for many of these contestants, the outcome is make-or-break.
So, you see, it's pretty easy to figure out where Shark Tank got its name. I recently had a chance to see the process firsthand, so I can plainly say: When an entrepreneur walks into the Shark Tank, things get pretty intense. It's almost too painful to watch, but just painful enough to make for good TV.
But I'm not here to pitch you this show. I'm handing that responsibility over to resident "Sharks" Mark Cuban and Robert Herjavec, who I spoke to while I was on the set. Let's allow them to pitch us an idea for once.
Here are their top five reasons to "invest" in Shark Tank...
It's easy to assume this is all just a scam, set up by producers to create entertaining television, but the guys insist that's not the case.
"When people say 'Is it real?' I gotta tell ya, it's real. We're not trying to make TV. We're, at least I know I am, just really, really into it. I'm trying to get the investment."
"And we know nothing about these companies before those entrepreneurs walk out onto the floor. All that the producers will say before [the entrepreneur] comes out is his or her name. So what's the first thing you see us do? You see us pick up the [notepad] and start writing everything down."
I spent a lot of time talking to Cuban about the "cat guy," as seen in the video below, who he "foolishly" invested in:
How's he doing now? He's made Cuban's money back and them some:
"The reason I invested in him isn't because he was so good at drawing cats, it was because he was so creative and he was technical. Not only has he been able to do the cat stuff, and build it up and pay me my money back, but he's been able to help me with other businesses in terms of the technology."
Another case-in-point: The Tower Paddle guy, who Mark also invested in for his skills with search-engine optimization techniques as well as his involvement with a trending new sport, stand-up paddle boarding.
"Everyone thought I was nuts [when I invested with him], but I figured 'Okay, worst case I end up with a great SEO guy and best case I end up with a great SEO guy and we make money.' But his business has gone from $18k a month to $200k a month, so he's just crushing it."
"When people watch the show and then realize they're going to be on the show, they'll go back and start watching the show over and over—it's like a scouting report on each of us, it's almost like a sport. I think the best way to be prepared is to know your business inside and out. Know your numbers cold. Know why you want to be in this business. Be prepared [to explain] all those different angles."
If you watch the show, you'll be quick to notice the undertones of competition and (sometimes) hostility between the sharks.
"We get competitive with each other. We don't want to have the business that fails."
"I gotta tell ya, that's been one of the interesting dynamics with Cuban on the show. He really brought the show to another level, and I hate to admit it, but I hate it when he succeeds. It makes me... I want to do better. I want to compete."
"Yeah, we're friends, but we're competitive as can be, and it gets feisty. It's almost like family where you get so used to the habits of other people that it sometimes gets annoying. So I have my way of doing things, he has his way—and when you see each other twelve hours a day—especially now because there's so many shooting days, you know..."
"It's remarkable how emotional [we] get about it."
"I think everybody that comes out there has a dream. Fundamentally, the reason this show works is that everybody wants to be successful. I don't think anybody wakes up and says, 'I want my life to suck today.'"
"I've mentioned to the producers that I've reached out on my own to President Obama's group and I've gone out to Romney's group to say, 'You know while you guys are arguing about taxes we've had I don't know how many pitches and taxes have never come up.'"
"You're right, we spend way too much time talking about taxes in this country. It's ridiculous'"
"Business tax, income tax—all of these things that come up politically, I mean we TALK to the entrepreneurs, twelve a day, from every walk of life, every part of the country, every type of business, every size business... just about as wide a cross-section as you can get. Taxes have never come up, because it always comes down to the same thing: Is it a good business and what do you need to be successful? This is what we should all be focusing on."
Hmmm, so things got a little weirdly political at the end, but there you have it: On top of the plans you're obviously already conjuring up on how to sneak these two onto the 2012 electoral ballot, you now have five solid reasons, pitched to you by the Shark Tank Sharks themselves, to tune in.
Have you been convinced?
Shark Tank returns for Season 4 tonight at 8pm on ABC.