In four seasons of ABC’s reality pitch show “Shark Tank,” we’ve seen some doozies. Hopefuls have pitched selling “pairs” of socks in threes (because you’re bound to lose one), a portable urinal that looks like a golf club, and flatulence-scented candles.
With an average viewership of six million and airtime that’s worth about half a million dollars to the aspiring entrepreneurs who make it on, you’d think every pitch would be thoughtful, well-rehearsed, and airtight. But you’d be wrong.
Andrew Figgins, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and owner of the fan site InTheSharkTank.com, says nearly half of the hundreds of pitches that have been made on the show have been awful. The most common problems? Far-fetched ideas, wacky personalities, and lack of basic business knowledge. “The people who have gone on the show and don’t know their numbers get chewed up and spit out,” says Figgins.
Ahead of the fifth season’s premiere on Sept. 20, Figgins combs the archives to make his picks for the worst “Shark Tank” pitches of all time.
1. Michael J. Desanti pitches a bird feeder that zaps squirrels.
Episode 423: “Squirrel Boss”
In the most recent season, Desanti says his interactive bird feeder is the first of its kind, designed to keep pesky squirrels away. The remote-controlled feeder allows owners to “zap” critters with a harmless static shock.
Desanti demonstrates his invention by shocking Mark Cuban.
In the demo, most of the Sharks feel the shock themselves, and more so when Desanti asks for $130,000 for a 40% stake.
The Sharks aren’t feeling electrified enough to invest.
The Sharks are split between thinking the invention is cruel, crude, or just bad business. When they find out that the product hasn’t been patented, they pass.
2. Johnson Bailey presents the Man Candle in the second season.
Episode 207: “Original Man Candle”
Bailey wanted a candle that could freshen his house but keep it smelling like a man. And so, the Man Candle was born.
It comes in scents like pot roast, draft beer, and BBQ.
Other manly aromas include football, golf course, and popcorn, and his best-selling candle, Bailey says, smells like farts. That should help him secure his request of $50,000 for a 25% stake.
The Sharks just don’t think the world is ready.
Some say it’s too gimmicky, and others say he doesn’t have the cash or customers to make it work. They ultimately decide the deal stinks.
3. Mark Sullivan asks for cash to build a generator that uses the spin of the earth to create electricity.
Episode 311: “The Sullivan Generator”
Sullivan explains he’s designed a vortex chamber that harnesses the earth’s rotation to create electricity.
Oh, and the byproduct of his energy-creating invention is gold.
The waste product from his generators could be as much as $96 billion in gold, he says, so he feels justified in asking for $1 million for a 10% stake.
It’s too rich for their blood.
The Sharks aren’t following. They pass.
4. Matty Sallin presents an alarm clock that wakes you with the smell of bacon.
Episode 201: “Wake N’ Bacon”
On the premiere episode of the second season, Sallin asks for $40,000 to fund his invention, an alarm clock that wakes you with the alluring aroma of cooking bacon.
The Sharks decide it’s a fire hazard, and sort of gross.
Does the bacon sit inside of the alarm clock all night? Wouldn’t it make your bedroom smell like bacon all the time? Not only does Sallin not know the cost of production, this is a serious fire hazard.
5. Mary Ellen Simonsen pitches a sticky note holder.
Episode 102: “Sticky Note Holder”
Simonsen shows off her invention in the first season. It’s a sticky note arm that attaches to your laptop and folds inside when you close the computer.
At $10 each, it’s meant to organize the Post-Its on your computer.
She asks for $100,000 investment in exchange for a 20% stake in the company.
There’s an app for that, the Sharks explain. Buh-bye.
Simonsen has no customers, no sales, and no deal.
6. Ryan Custer pitches an energy drink he calls the “Cougar Lifestyle Shot.”
Episode 315: “Cougar Limited”
It’s perfect for middle-aged ladies who are on the prowl, Custer says on a season-three episode. Functional and delicious.
The Sharks shoot it down, not back.
Custer says he’s done $60,000 in sales over three years, and wants $150,000 for a 30% stake. The Sharks say it’s a small market, and most in it would likely be insulted by the product. No deal.
7. Kim Preis created T-shirts that advertise pregnant women’s due dates.
Episode 208: “Samson Martin”
Preis presents her designer tees for expecting moms that have the baby’s due date printed across the chest.
Preis even copyrighted the words “due in.”
In six years, she'd done $1.4 million in sales out of her basement, but business took a nosedive during the recession. She asks for $50,000 for a 15% stake.
There just isn’t enough demand for this supply.
The Sharks say the market is too niche, and they doubt women want their due dates so front and center.
8. Ben Wood pitches a clothing line with sweat-activated technology.
Episode 311: “Viewsport”
Wood presents his line, Viewsport, in season three. When a wearer perspires, a motivational saying appears, such as, “No One Has Ever Drowned In Their Own Sweat.”
The Sharks aren’t sweating it.
The technology isn’t patented, and when Wood asks for $500,000 for a 20% stake, the Sharks are out.
9. Stacy Irwin claims his special fitness power bands will help people lose weight while multitasking.
Episode 203: “Fitness Stride”
Irwin says he has a new concept: You wear his Fitness Stride band wherever you go, so you don't have to set aside time to get in shape.
He straps all the Sharks in.
After demoing his creation, Irwin asks for $140,000 in exchange for 15% of his company.
The Sharks say no thanks.
Rubber bands were invented circa 1845, and they’ve seen this infomercial before.
10. James Lavitola and Brian Pitt present a Fast-and-the-Furious style motorcycle movie.
Episode 424: “Track Days”
Lavitola and Pitt pitch full-length action film "Track Days” about motorcycle racing. They want $5 million for a 34% stake.
They reveal their action-packed movie trailer.
They don’t have a script, actors, or backers. Oh, but they do have a trailer, complete with sounds of motorcycles whooshing around a track and photos of downed rigs. They hand out popcorn for the Sharks' viewing pleasure.
The Sharks bow out on principle.
Motorcycles are dangerous they say, and so is investing in an actorless, scriptless motorcycle movie.