Man, Shark Tank is so good — it stinks to see it leave for summer vacay. Fortunately, the ABC reality show about aspiring entrepreneurs will air two episodes back-to-back beginning at 8/7c on Friday, during which Mark Cuban will have a big confrontation with fellow Shark Kevin O'Leary.
Before diving into the finale, however, TVGuide.com takes a look back at Season 4 through the eyes of its Sharks/judges: billionaire entrepreneur Cuban, Canadian tech business manager Robert Herjavec, New York real estate specialist Barbara Corcoran, FUBU founder, president and CEO Daymond John, equity investor O'Leary and "Queen of QVC" Lori Greiner.
When you look back at this season of Shark Tank — what stands out most?
Robert Herjavec: The unbelievable desire of people to better their lives. Times are tough, but people still believe they have a chance at success.
Barbara Corcoran: It's the real weirdos that always live in my mind long after I've left the set. In Season 1, it was the engineer who invented a bluetooth device surgically put into your ear, and must be removed surgically when the battery runs out. In Season 2, it was the wacky dentist who claimed his toothpaste would put you to sleep five minutes after brushing. In Season 3, it was the Rhodes Scholar who swore he could turn seawater into pure gold, if only we'd give him $1 million to build his first water tower. This season, it's a toss-up between Freaker, the real live Gumby-type man that beeped instead of speaking when trying to sell his hand-knit beverage holders, and the energy-charged rabbi peddling a small cardboard amplifier ("SoundBender") that could bend sound for your listening pleasure.
Mark Cuban: How many great companies there were. We have gotten to the point where there are so many amazing entrepreneurs that we can't invest in all the good ones!
Daymond John: The amazing quality of deals that were offered and made stands out the most for me. For example, a product, which I thought, had no value, like Readerest, Lori went on to sell to $3 million on QVC! The diversity of the deals of Sharks' invested in, and products represented this season, was the most impressive for me.
Kevin O'Leary: We're seeing better and better deals coming in to the Shark Tank. Entrepreneurs have figured out that the Shark Tank model works!
Lori Greiner: How much I love the entrepreneurs I made deals with and how much I'm enjoying working with them!
How do I get your attention right away as an entrepreneur? What have the most successful entrepreneurs this year done right?
Greiner: Bring me exciting new products or businesses that I've never seen before. Be able to explain everything I need to know so that I can make an educated decision to invest. Be passionate about your business and a person that I would want to work with.
Cuban: You have to know your product and industry cold and demonstrate to me how and why you will be successful.
Herjavec: Before you sell a product or an idea, you have to sell yourself. If you can't sell yourself, you're going to have a tough time in the Tank.
Corcoran: You have to look the part. I didn't invest in a shrimp business because the guy pitching wore a dirty apron and didn't look like he kept a clean kitchen. All of the entrepreneurs I've invested in immediately looked to me like they who could succeed in the business they were in. The best ones over-prepare for the show. For example, Jim and Sabin of Cousins Maine Lobster watched all three seasons of Shark Tank and wrote down every question each of the Sharks asked in every episode. They then composed three great answers to each question. On the set, they were terrifically on their game. I didn't find out until after I bought the business that they had only been in business three months. Over-preparation got them my money.
Cuban: I was shocked my first season. This is a business show, right? But as I have gone around the country and talked to people, I've come to realize how inspirational the show is. The American dream is alive and well. The show helps people realize they too can have their dreams come true.
O'Leary: Show me the money! Tell me in 30 seconds or less how I can make money with you. If you can't do that, it's usually a sign of bigger problems.
John: Ability to prove your sales/your worth and not just the amount of sales you've done so far. For example, Mission Belt, the founder proved that there was a need for the product in the marketplace after he knocked on 27 doors and sold 20 products. Like Robert always says, "Sales kills all." As for the most successful contestants this year, there are way too many! Mission Belt and SoundBender are two of many this season.
This season averaged 6.5 million viewers per episode, up from Season 3. What do you attribute higher ratings to this season?
Herjavec: Smart TV that engages the entire family. [There are] not many shows that the whole family can watch and enjoy.
Corcoran: Kids watching the show. Now when I travel through airports, most of the people asking me to pose for a quick photo are kids under 12. Most families I meet say they tune in together every Friday night. The older folks also asking for a quick photo tell me they were introduced to Shark Tank by their grandchildren. It's the best family show in the business!
John: In the last four years, many entrepreneurs featured on the show have gone out to different sectors and markets and were able to benefit tremendously — a true snowball effect of people viewing the show.
O'Leary: It's a show that you have to see at least once before you get it. Once you do, you want to keep coming back. I think for that reason, the ratings will just keep getting better as more and more Americans start tuning in regularly.
What were your three favorite products this year and why? Which have had the most success in the marketplace?
Herjavec: RuckPack Energy Drink, The Inventioneers (entrepreneurs for Smart Wheel), and Nuts N' More. I'm not saying that because they were all my investments. OK, I am saying that because they are. The Nuts guys are going nuts.
Cuban: Simple Sugars is a great product, and is killing it. They did 20,000 orders. All my companies are favorites, but towerpaddleboards.com and surfsetfitness.com are all doing very, very well.
Corcoran: Obviously, Cousins Maine Lobster, because I love lobsters, and I've been collecting my money since the first month I invested. The Coop is a children's party business that I love because the girls have enough energy to defeat 10 men in a war zone. My favorite is on [Friday] night in the season finale. Once you watch, you'll be able to tell me why he or she is your favorite, too.
John: Cozy Bug. I saw how versatile and adorable the product was. As a father to two girls, I definitely related to the product. Also, Mission Belt, because how successful it was in the market. Cowboy, because he truly has a heart of gold, perseverance, and motivation. I mean, the man drinks Red Bull to go to sleep.
O'Leary: The first is called Wicked Good Cupcakes — a mother and daughter team that ships top-quality cupcakes in Mason jars nationwide. We've helped them grow their production to a much larger scale, and they've just opened a new flagship downtown store. These cupcakes are the best you'll ever eat. The Mason jars keep them fresh without any preservatives. The second is RuckPack, a caffeine-free energy shot developed and run by active duty U.S. Marines. These guys needed a boost that wouldn't give them the jitters - and it really works! The third is Mee-Ma's Gumbo Bricks, a frozen gumbo kit developed by a very impressive entrepreneur named Carole Foster. I can't say much more just yet but we've been working very closely with Carole, and very soon you'll be seeing that product everywhere.
Briefly, what products have you invested in that made the most profit for you?
Herjavec: Chordbuddy, easily the best one, last season. In a year and a half, we are on track for $4 million in sales.
Corcoran: Daisy Cakes has made the greatest profit and been the most exciting from the get-go. What she's got over so many other entrepreneurs is an amazing ability to get people on her side and to believe in her product. There's no replacement for pure salesmanship when it comes to launching a baby business. Also, her cakes really are the most delicious cakes you'll ever taste — exactly what she says they are.
John: Talbott Teas from last season. The brand did a very lucrative deal with Jamba Juice. Litter SF jewelry. They are doing extremely well and now being sold in luxury stores such as Fredericks of Hollywood. And Mission Belt. The product sold half-a-million dollars of product within five days of the episode airing on Shark Tank.
Greiner: It's hard to pick favorites. I love them all! I can tell you the three most successful this year so far: Scrub Daddy, Drop Stop, and Cordaroys. But all of them are doing great.
O'Leary: Talbott Teas - within just a few months they were acquired by a public company! I still drink their delicious teas in celebration, savoring those profits.
What do the Sharks talk about when cameras aren't rolling?
Herjavec: Barbara's hair, Lori's shoes, Mark's sports team, Daymond's celebrity friends. Kevin doesn't talk — he sleeps.
Corcoran: Everybody brags about why the deal they made is so much better than the deal you made and how smart they are! From what I've watched, the reality is that everybody's got a few winners and a few clunkers in their portfolio.
John: We talk about how each other's deals are going to other business ventures we are all involved to the current market, commodities and our personal interests. Robert talks about racing, Lori about the next big product, Barbara is always rambling about something, and Kevin [talks about] burning the earth, always with an evil attempt.
O'Leary: I like to talk about great music, photography, fine wine and money.
Cuban: When the cameras aren't rolling we are doing emails and calls to keep up with our businesses. And doing the show is easy. It's all the work with the companies we invest in that is hard. I've had to hire 10 people to help me keep up.
Greiner: The winner of the last deal gloats about what a great deal they just made, and the others tell them what a horrible deal they just made. Then we hit the snack table. Lol.
Will the show move to tech systems and entrepreneurial apps — basically stuff seeded in Silicon Valley — instead of just physical products? How much talk has there been about that?
Herjavec: I love tech — obviously because that's my background — but it is often hard to make tech fun TV to watch. But I am hoping.
Corcoran: We've had tech pitches and apps of all kinds pitched on the show. There's no physical product to pass around, taste, squeeze, and quickly understand, like there is when you have a physical object with a pitch to go with it.
John: The show has done several apps already. We had music apps to dating apps. I'm sure we'll see tech systems and app based products in the future seasons.
O'Leary: I'd love to see more great tech deals in the Tank. We've seen a few so far that have done very well, so I think it's a great platform for those kinds of companies.
Has there been talk of a celebrity version of Shark Tank? What about business-savvy celebrity Sharks? What celebrities would you like to see on the show?
Herjavec: What are you saying — we're not celebrities? My kids will be so disappointed. There is always talk of keeping the show fresh and exciting. I would like to see Peyton Manning on the show — see if he can quarterback the Sharks. President Obama would be good — although I think he would like to pitch a healthcare invention he came up with.
Corcoran: I really wanted to see Whoopi Goldberg as a Shark because she's savvy, forceful, opinionated, and would be a heck of a lot of fun! Having a second woman right there on the set with me would also be a hoot. Together, we could probably beat the guys! But the only thing: Whoopi confessed she didn't have a few million dollars to invest over the next season. So she's happy to stay home and enjoy the show as we spend our money.
John: We've already had celebrities like Jeff Foxworthy on previous seasons (a Shark for Season 2). Our producing team is great at what they do, so I'm sure we'll see more celebrities in the future as well.
O'Leary: I'm a financial investor, so I'm here to make money. If it's a celebrity who also knows how to make business deals that work, then that could be interesting. Jeff Foxworthy was great as a guest Shark, and of course Mark Cuban is now a big part of the show.
What's your favorite TV guilty pleasure?
Herjavec: Dancing With the Stars — deep down, I think I can dance. Although I also think I can sing, but the room seems to clear pretty quickly whenever I do either.
O'Leary: Shark Tank of course! Except that I don't feel guilty about it.
John: Two shows that are really women shows. My older girls: Golden Girls. Younger: Sex and the City. I think both shows are hilarious.
Cuban: Law & Order replays.
Greiner: WHAT? There are other shows besides Shark Tank & QVC??! Lol.
Shark Tank's two-hour season finale airs Friday at 8/7c on ABC.
Will you be watching the Shark Tank finale?