What Lies ‘Beyond’: Is the Future of ‘Shark Tank’ in Its Spin-Off Specials?

Do we really need to see how well Mark Cuban's ventures are going?

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We’re gonna need a bigger tank. (ABC)

Being in the presence of a successful entrepreneur can influence one’s mien and mood. We are enamored by the idea of success and successful people. It inspires television shows such as Shark Tank on ABC. The show’s premise is straightforward: aspiring entrepreneurs try to attract an investor into striking an investment deal for their business or product.

The show features a panel of judges that are self-made millionaires and billionaires working in different industries from cyber security to fashion. The six sharks include Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Lori Greiner, Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, and Kevin O’Leary. Each shark gravitates his interests towards their niche. For instance, Daymond John, founder of FUBU, gravitates towards fashion and apparel items. The excitement lies within guessing which shark will invest in the product. After watching a few minutes of the presentation, the outcome is predictable. You can tell if they’re in or out. Bad pitches leave eyebrows in a furrow and makes you question the sanity of the person. That’s the thing about money: it drives people to do crazy things.

The setup for each pitch follows the same cadence each and every time. The aspiring entrepreneurs walk down a progressively expanding hallway, often times matching the beat of the music and try not to tremble in fear of messing up their pitch. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have edited out people who have fainted in the presence of the sharks. Delivering the perfect requires confidence and poise. Before stepping into the tank and on to the infamous oriental rug, many entrepreneurs have already determined which sharks they want to sway.

In addition to adding entertainment value, a reliable narrator adds impact to any competitive reality television show. “You’re dead to me,” is one of Kevin O’Leary’s signature lines in Shark Tank.  Since its inception in 2009, the show has always had streaks of snark. Kevin O’Leary is considered the most ruthless out of all the sharks. His colorful comments might turn off some viewers, but it adds fuel to the fire when he’s budding heads with hopeful entrepreneurs. Feedback adds honesty and humanizes the purpose of the entrepreneurial experience.

Starting a business and developing a profitable creative concept and product is difficult. Aspiring entrepreneurs often break under pressure and self sabotage their pitch by appearing too desperate. The sharks are able to discern good judgement. Of course, they’re the ones signing the check with their own money at the end of the day. There are times when good ideas leaves the show, but the exposure and support from fans helps the healing process. Sure, ridiculous pitches that leave brows in a furrow. There’s a communal and participatory element that engages the viewer beyond the screen. Fans go out of their way to purchase and try the products they see on-screen. Back in February, I visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York and witnessed a customer engaging with a product called the Lumio, a folding book lamp. I didn’t think anything of it except admiring the interests of a few tourists from a few feet away. A few weeks after the Lumio encounter, I found myself watching the presentation on Shark Tank and wasn’t surprised when all sharks wanted in.

According to Mark Cuban, 40% of the deals don’t close after the episode airs. What happens to the entrepreneurs after they leave the show?

Last week, producers of Shark Tank premiered its companion, Beyond the Tank. The show captures the nit and grit behind the entrepreneurs endeavors after they have left the show. Examining the successes and pitfalls failures  In the first episode of Beyond the Tank, viewers followed the progress track behind a gaudy novelty sweater company called Tipsy Elves, a 16-year-old business owner of The Define Bottle, and a former NFL football player’s deboned baby back rib business.

After striking a deal with Robert Herjavec on Shark Tank, the creators of Tipsy Elves ran into a series of problematic hurdles. Nick Morton, one of the co-founders of Tipsy Elves didn’t want to leave his job as an orthodontist to pursue the company full-time. It created a conflict between the two founders in the communication department. At the expense of the entrepreneurial dream, the pursuit can take a toll on personal relationships, especially when money is involved. Out of the three updates, this one was the least interesting to watch. The segment for Tipsy Elves was drawn out with reenacted dialogue and voiceovers, making it hard to pay attention.

Carter Kostler, 16-year-old business owner of The Define Bottle, left the show devastated when he didn’t strike a deal with any of the sharks. One of the biggest turn-off for the sharks was when he announced in his pitch that his parents took out a $300,000 mortgage to pursue the vision of his company. It was astounding to see how much money his parents gave him.

He took matters into his own hands and didn’t dwell on the rejection. He gets a lot of credit for prospering for such a young age and paying his parents mortgage back for the success of his company.

Al “Bubba” Baker, former NFL player for the Cleveland Browns, faced a co-packer problem when it came to packaging his De-Boned Baby Back Ribs. The distributer he worked with bailed and didn’t have enough equipment to meet the high demands after the show aired. We follow his journey as he tries to get a hold of a reliable co-packer and does it successfully. Boneless baby back ribs are a golden idea and is one of the best investments Daymond John has made on the show. During the episode, Daymond John pays a visit to Al in Ohio dressed in comfortable clothing. It’s always refreshing to see a shark in normal clothing.

So far, Beyond the Tank doesn’t carry the same level of emotional gratification as Shark Tank. The progress of the show is to be determined as the season stretches out. For some, the idea of watching the companion show might be abandoned altogether.

Selling the dream in front of an intimidating panel of critics with deep pockets is a difficult feat. Some may consider it a victory. And isn’t that good enough for one franchise?

What Lies ‘Beyond’: Is the Future of ‘Shark Tank’ in Its Spin-Off Specials?