Shark Tank has become one of the most addicting shows on television and will wrap up its fifth season Friday (8/7c, ABC). Whether you tune in for the banter between investors, to find out about cool products, learn how to launch a business, to hear Mr. Wonderful say, "You're dead to me," or even to watch a grown man sob on screen, it's no surprise the ABC show has had its highest rated season yet.
"I think the reason the show continues to grow is that it embodies the American dream," executive producer Clay Newbill tells TVGuide.com. "When you hear a description about it, like, 'It's a business show!' or 'Investors hearing pitches!' it doesn't sound like riveting television. But when people tune in for the first time they realize there is so much more there. It's really about fulfilling dreams — it's magical. You watch and get hooked."
But it takes much more than just a good idea to walk through that hall that leads to Marc Cuban, Kevin "Mr. Wonderful" O'Leary, Lori Greiner,Robert Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran and Daymond John. And while the show has grown tremendously, it also makes the vetting process that much more extensive to ensure — if at all possible — the entrepreneurs aren't pulling one over on the show. So what are some of the secrets behind the scenes? And which deals have been the most shocking? Newbill along with casting director Scott Salyers uncover some of the show's mysteries!
1. What they're looking for
A good company plus a good personality is your best bet. "First and foremost we want to find an interesting business, product and idea — I always say those things together," Salyers tells us. "The part people forget is that the entrepreneur needs to be interesting. This is a TV show, and the sharks do invest [often because of] the people. Some of the biggest mistakes people make in open call is they think they can just come in and tell me numbers and that's going to get them on. Or they'll come in and press play on a PowerPoint presentation and walk away. We want to know, 'What's the genesis behind this? Why did you invent that?' We want to get to know the people. Personality is just as important as the business, product or idea."
2. The vetting process
As the show grows, so do the amount of people who are looking for PR rather than a deal. "We have to keep our eyes open for companies that want to go on for a 10-minute commercial," Salyers says. "We do background checks, we ask for a sample, we see if they really need the money because if it's a company that generated $5 million a year in revenue, maybe they don't need our show. We do a patent search because many times [they're] infringing on someone's patent. So we do en extensive search to make sure everything they're telling us is as accurate as can be. We are a head hunter for the sharks and we don't want to put businesses in front of them if there are serious issues we weren't aware of."
3. Biggest mistake entrepreneurs make
It's all about equity and value. Says Salyers, "A lot of times they value their company above and beyond what a shark can even invest in. Be realistic about your ask. You may have a drawing of an idea, so don't ask for $1 million for 10 percent — that doesn't make sense. You also don't have to have sales or patents. If you have a prototype, and it costs you $20,000, but you think it'll make a lot of money, don't ask or $500,000 for 10 percent. Ask for money that will get you to the next level, not what will fund your business, but what you need now"
4. Surprising deals
Newbill admits they're not always right about what makes a good product, so they don't try to guess. "We don't know what they'll like or respond to and some we thought, 'This is going to be a fantastic business; they'll be excited.' And then they found something we didn't think of and pass. But the most surprising [for me] was LA Haunted Hayride. The amount of their ask was $2 million! It was a fantastic company, great entrepreneur, proven track record, but we had never seen a deal that amount. The fact mark Cuban closed that deal by himself is pretty incredible." As for Salyers he adds, "One of the things I was like, 'It's interesting, but I don't get it' is ReadeRest from Season 3. It's a magnet to hold your glasses. I don't wear glasses, so I didn't get it. Lori saw it and liked it and it's made millions of dollars. I was like, 'Are you kidding me?'"
5. Best shark
While picking their favorite shark is nearly impossible, Salyers, like us all, says, "Kevin O'Leary has the best lines." But, he adds, that he also appreciated the addition of Cuban in Season 3. "He didn't play by the other shark's rules. The others were like, 'Let everyone [have] a chance,' and he came in with the 24-second clock. He added some spice that everyone now can't sit back and wait."
6. Biggest misconception
Newbill says, "It surprises me that people still don't realize this, but the sharks know nothing about the businesses before they come in and pitch them. The show wouldn't work if it did [and actually] we go to great lengths to make sure they don't. So all they know is the person's name before they walk in the door." As for how long those pitches and ensuing conversations last he adds, "The longest one was about two hours. I think that was Plate Topper. The shortest was probably 24 minutes, and they average about 45."
The Shark Tank finale airs on Friday at 8/7c on ABC.
Check out Watch This Tonight: Shark Tank below!