What we learned from ABC’s Shark Tank: Swimming with Sharks

This week’s orgy of Shark Tank PR, which included an AP story about a special, concluded with last night’s broadcast of that special.

Although it was produced by ABC News, it was not, you know, news, and didn’t really live up on its promise to look behind the scenes and see what happens after deals close. The updates were similar to the ones the actual show airs, and most of the rest of it was recappy-happy fluff.

But it was watchable enough for a Shark Tank fan, and did offer some insight:

  • The “piece of crap sponge” made $16 million. Scrub Daddy is the most successful product in the show’s history, despite Kevin O’Leary’s mocking description (I even referenced it last year when the show won the TCA Award). Lori Greiner said that she expects it’ll make $30 million next year. I wonder how many of those people are using it the absolute wrong way.
  • Contestants stand silent for five minutes before pitching. That’s while the crew is “adjusting the lights,” Daymond John said. Barbara Corcoran said that entrepreneurs “stand there for five minutes, being looked at” and she uses it to size people up, because some “start shaking, people start sweating … I just watch and see how good they are under pressure.”
  • 35,000 applied to be on last season. By comparison, Survivor gets maybe one third as many applications.
  • Mark Cuban redefines “gold digger.” Mark Cuban revealed that when he calls someone a “gold digger,” he doesn’t mean the traditional definition, but instead uses it to refer to a kind of entrepreneur who “comes in just for the pr, not really looking for a deal.” The wine-by-the-glass company Copa Di Vino, whose founder appeared twice and rejected offers twice, was the show’s first gold digger, Cuban said.
  • Mark Cuban does a great Robert Herjavec impression. The sharks shared what they thought of each other, and that was mostly mild, but Mark Cuban did a hilariously cutting impression of Robert’s emotional origin story: “When I say the word Croation, I have to cry.”
  • Kevin’s “worst deal.” Kevin and Mark invested in Toygaroo, which later failed Mark said “I loved it, my kids loved it” but Kevin said it had a “complete collapse of management” with lots of infighting, and became “the worst deal I’ve ever done.”
  • How Mark Cuban earned back his Simple Sugars investment. We learned that Simple Sugars has earned millions in revenue, and its 20-year-old founder gave investor Mark Cuban a check for $200,000, doubling his investment with that single payment. At the same time, she said she received a check for $339,000.
  • The show’s popularity hasn’t affected one shark’s humility at all. Robert Herjavec said, “We are the Mick Jaggers of the business world.”

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.