Shark Tank is unquestionably one of the best broadcast reality TV shows on today, and on Friday night, it got even better by wading into both emotional and newsworthy territory during its final segment. Mark Cuban’s addition to the show has made it consistently must-watch television.
The final presentation of the episode was Sparta, North Carolina, resident Donny McCall, who invented the Invis-A-Rack, which transforms a pickup truck into one with a rack in 30 seconds. He wanted $100,000 for 10 percent in his company, and although his product was cool, his major focus was on using his company to support his economically devastated region.
Although he started with something absurd (“the lord handed me this idea”), his focus on wanting to “bring some jobs and some hope to my small town” created one of the most interesting segments in the show’s history. Essentially, the sharks argued that he had to agree to manufacture overseas to do it cheaper, which is the only way he could build his company and thus have a positive impact on his family and community.
They didn’t really discuss the possible consequences of manufacturing overseas, where labor is cheaper. Some of those consequences were revealed in two stunning, must-read stories last week, in which The New York Times focused on Apple and revealed How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work and how, In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad.
I love my iPhone, but these stories make me sick. Apple defends its behavior and its CEO claims they do more than most companies, which is perhaps true, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation.
Anyway, the profit-first, everything else second argument from the sharks was slightly more nuanced than you expect. It was also emotional, thanks to Robert Herjavec, whose family emigrated from Yugoslavia to Canada, and whose father worked in a factory and faced discrimination but loved his job. It seemed to me like he was torn between understanding creating opportunity for people in the United States and also helping those people by creating a strong company that can survive. At the end of the episode, though, Robert summarized his objection, “If you could make it cheaper and build the business, would you do it? And he said no.”