These are Shark Tank’s greatest tech successes … and flops
Image 1 of 29
Welcome to the Shark Tank
We’re big fans of ABC’s Shark Tank here at TechRepublic. The show makes something of a game out of the hidden, business side of companies, offering plenty useful of lessons about innovation, planning and execution.
The show has been featuring an increasing number of tech start-ups lately, so we thought it’d be fun to share some of the most intriguing and successful companies Shark Tank has to offer.
So here they are … with a couple of tech flops mixed in for good measure.
Aerospace engineer JD Claridge and business partner Charles Manning set off a huge bidding war in the Tank with their drone company XCraft.
The Sharks liked the company’s $1,800 high-performance model, but were even more excited over its coming Phone Drone product, which turns smartphones into drone-powered recording devices.
A $6 million frenzy
Rather than pick a winner, XCraft instead proposed a deal involving all five Sharks that put a $6 million valuation on the company.
You can find XCraft’s current line at the company’s website. Several models are available now.
Initial Ask: $500,000 for 20% equity
Final Deal: $1,500,000 for 25%, closed with all five Sharks
Matt Alexander and Michael Kannely had a simple idea: Wouldn’t going to the bathroom at night be easier if your toilet lit up?
Their Illumibowl concept was a hit on Kickstarter before they entered the tank, but the company’s real success didn’t happen until after the show aired …
Over a million orders later ...
The company fielded more than 1.3 million orders after appearing on Shark Tank. That’s no small feat when you consider that each Original model Illumibowl retails for $9.99, but costs just $3.98 to make.
Illumibowl also hit store shelves in Bed Bath & Beyond on the day of its Shark Tank airing.
Initial Ask: $100,000 for 15% equity
Final Deal: $100,000 for 25% equity, closed with Kevin O’Leary
Trunkster is more than just luggage. It can charge your smartphone while waiting in the airport and tell you its own weight. It even has GPS tracking capabilities.
The concept was a huge hit on Kickstarter, where inventors Jesse Potash and Gaston Blanchet raised nearly $1.4 million in funding. But in the Tank…
A successful loan-for-equity deal
Previously, you could buy your own at the Trunkster website, but now its homepage just redirects to a page indicating Trunkster is out of stock and asks visitors to enter their email addresses for an update. No word on when, or if, Trunkster will be back.
To make matters worse for Trunkster, Kickstarter backers are still complaining of not having received their backer orders as of March 2019.
Initial Ask: $1.4 million for 5% equity
Final Deal: $1.4 million for 5% equity (money to be repaid in 24 months), closed with Marc Cuban and Lori Greiner
Nothing’s off limits to the Sharks when it comes to making money — not even dog urine.
Earlier this year, Petnostics founder Stephen Chen entered the Tank looking for an investment in his smartphone-enabled home pet urinalysis tests.
A full-priced, two-Shark deal
Petnostics appeared on Shark Tank just a few months ago, but already, it’s experiencing a post-show boost.
You can find the Petnostics Urine Test Kit for $14.99 on the company’s website.
Initial Ask: $300,000 for 10% equity
Final Deal: $600,000 for 20% equity, closed with Kevin O’Leary and Lori Greiner
Meet Trobo. He’s a plush and cuddly interactive toy that tells stories and teaches kids lessons in science, technology and math.
Founders Chris Harden and Jeremy Scheinberg took heat in the Tank over Trobo’s $69.99 price tag. Still, Robert Herjavec was willing to make a deal … with a very big contingency attached.
No love for robots
Sadly, despite appearing to be a winner on the show, the Trobo deal died. As Scheinberg exlpained to the Orlando Business Journal: “You either have a situation where everyone wants to move forward or not. We did not.”
Trobo is no longer in production.
Initial Ask: $100,000 for 10% equity
Final Deal: No deal.
Brian and Julie Whitman’s photo book subscription service, GrooveBook, is built around innovation — a grooved, flexible spine allows each book to be mailed at a significantly reduced rate than those with stiffer spines.
Mark Cuban joined Kevin O’Leary to close a deal. But that was only the beginning …
A multi-million-dollar payday
Less than a year after appearing on Shark Tank, GrooveBook was sold to Shutterfly for $14.5 million — the first-ever Shark Tank business to be acquired by a publicly traded company.
Find out more about Groovebook’s service on its website.
Initial Ask: $150,000 for 20% equity
Final Deal: $150,000 for 80% of licensing rights, closed with Marc Cuban and Kevin O’Leary
This startup attracted a lot of interest with Brightwheel, a high-tech approach to preschool management. It allows teachers to check kids in, log activities, send updates and photos, and manage their business, all from the same mobile platform.
Making a deal wouldn’t come cheap, though — entrepreneur Dave Vasen entered the tank with a $10 million valuation for his company…
A nearly full-price deal
The high price didn’t scare away Marc Cuban and guest Shark Chris Sacca. The duo entered into a joint deal at a $9 million valuation.
“My kid’s preschool desperately needed this exact type of software,” Cuban told Business Insider.
Schools interested in partnering with Brightwheel can schedule demos and learn about pricing on its website.
Initial Ask: $400,000 for 4% equity
Final Deal: $300,000 for 3.34% equity (each), closed with Marc Cuban and Chris Sacca
There’s no shortage of exercise and training apps on the market. But Sworkit stands out with personalized workout programs from trainers, all with high-quality demonstrations and an ad-supported platform.
It was enough to capture attention from Marc Cuban, who structured an unusual deal for CEO Ben Young and COO Greg Coleman …
This million-dollar deal fell apart
Sworkit’s deal fell through months later. Young explains to Washington Business Journal: “[Cuban] didn’t like some of the things we wanted, we didn’t like some of the things that he wanted, but at that point neither party wanted to give in on those things.”
Sworkit is available for iOS and for Android as a free download.
Initial Ask: $1.5 million for 8.5% equity
Final Deal: No deal.
With so many of us using our smartphones on the toilet (come on, admit it), entrepreneurs Wes Barnes and Dan LaPorte saw big opportunity. Their PhoneSoap product sterilizes phones with UV light, helping prevent the spread of disease.
PhoneSoap drew interest and an offer from Marc Cuban, but Lori Greiner bid aggressively, scoring a deal with the company that was just under the initial asking price …
A QVC success story
After Shark Tank, PhoneSoap has sold over 100,000 units on home shopping channel QVC. Greiner has also negotiated a deal to get the tech inside Bed Bath & Beyond stores soon.
PhoneSoap units start at $59.99 and can be purchased on its website.
Initial Ask: $300,000 for 7.5% equity
Final Deal: $300,000 for 10%, closed with Lori Greiner
Smartphone-powered breathalyzer company Breathometer made history during its Season 5 appearance on Shark Tank: It was the first-ever company to seal a deal with all five Sharks.
Reinventing itself around bad breath
Since appearing on Shark Tank, Breathometer has been ordered to offer refunds to all customers after reaching a settlement with the FTC due to inaccurate readings.
Breathometer has since decided to shift its focus away from detecting blood-alcohol readings. The company’s new product, Mint, monitors oral health by measuring the organic compounds released by bacteria.
Breathometer’s website indicates that Mint is available in the US, UK, and Ireland, but its store appears to be offline as of this writing.
Initial Ask: $250,000 for 10% equity
Final Deal: $1,000,000 for 30% equity. Mark Cuban gets a 15% stake, the other 4 Sharks split the remaining 15%.
Smart lightbulb maker iLumi followed up its $200,000 success on Kickstarter with an even bigger win in the Shark Tank. The company’s smartphone-controlled light bulbs attracted offers from three Sharks.
Founders Corey Egan and Swapnil Bora closed a deal with Marc Cuban, in part, because of his extensive business connections …
The future looks bright
Since appearing on Shark Tank, iLumi returned to Kickstarter to raise money for its new iLumi Smartstrip product. That item, along with the rest of the iLumi catalog, can be ordered from the company’s website.
Initial Ask: $350,000 for 15% equity
Final Deal: $350,000 for 25% equity, closed with Mark Cuban
Entrepreneur Robbie Cabral pitched the BenjiLock as a smart padlock that opens with both a key and up to four stored fingerprints. It’s rechargeable, and if it detects an unauthorized fingerprint, the onboard system wipes all stored fingerprints in order to prevent tampering.
Locked in for success
Along with securing his desired funding, Cabral made a mint by selling the patent rights to BenjiLock to Hampton Products International shortly after the episode aired.
Cabral has earned money from his sale, too: He earned his first royalty check of $100,000 in late 2017.
BenjiLock can be purchased on its website, as well as in several brick-and-mortar stores.
Initial ask: $200,000 for 10% equity
Final deal: $200,000 for 15% equity, closed with Kevin O’Leary
Bitsbox is a subscription service that delivers monthly kits to help teach kids coding. Each kit contains materials for multiple projects and access to a kid-friendly code editor on the Bitsbox website.
The founders of Bitsbox got a lot of encouragement from the sharks, but only one gave them an offer.
No deal, but still a success
The Bitsbox team tried to counter an offer that gave them a valuation they thought was too low, but in the end they lost out when Chris Sacca withdrew his offer. That hasn’t stopped Bitsbox from becoming a success, though.
In a blog post written shortly after the airing of its Shark Tank episode, Bitsbox founder Aidan Chopra revealed that the exposure the company got from being on TV brought in lots of additional backing, more subscribers, and enough money to greatly expand its operation.
Parents interested in Bitsbox can find out more, and get a subscription starting at $16.95/month, on its website.
Initial ask: $250,000 for 3% equity
Final deal: None
Photo booths are as popular today as they ever have been, especially at social events like weddings and big parties, and those events are where MirMir comes in.
These state-of-the-art rentable photo booths don’t just come with a blemish-covering algorithm that produces the perfect picture, they also come with a couple employees to make the whole thing go off without a hitch.
It’s a tempting prospect for the Shark Tank, and could earn a hefty backing.
Double their money
tMirMir was a huge hit with shark Robert Herjavec, getting double what it asked for.
tMirMir’s success hasn’t ended there–apparently it’s a fixture at parties thrown by the Kardashians, and companies like Amazon, Google, and Netflix are regular rental customers–Google has even purchased a few of MirMir’s machines to keep in their offices.
tDon’t assume that the price of a quality photo booth comes cheap, though: A four-hour rental reportedly starts at $2,750.
tInitial ask: $350,000 for 10% equity
tFinal deal: $700,000 for 20% equity
- How television show Shark Tank can guide your project vetting process (TechRepublic)
- Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec: Cybersecurity at work is everyone’s responsibility (TechRepublic)
- ‘Shark Tank’ start-up credits social media, analytics for its millennial success (ZDNet)
- The 18 best Shark Tank success stories (ZDNet)
- More Photo Galleries from TechRepublic (Flipboard magazine)
Editor’s note: This gallery was originally published on August 11, 2016. Brandon Vigliarolo contributed additional slides and updates to the gallery in March 2019.