Shark Tank is arguably the most popular business reality show ever created. The first episode aired over ten years ago and there have been some incredibly successful products that have come out of the show throughout the past decade. One of the most notable of those products is the Scrub Daddy. This smiling scrubber that changes texture based on the temperature of the water is in millions of kitchens across the country. As of 2020, it has amassed over $50 million in total sales.
Every year, more entrepreneurs pass through the tank and find success. Even some of the products that never secure a deal end up being successful, such as Copa Di Vino. Founder and owner James Martin appeared on the show on two separate occasions and didn’t land anything but the opportunity to hear Kevin O’Leary’s famous line, “You’re dead to me!” — Twice.
On top of the successful products, the show has also had some scandals. Gayla Bentley was the show’s first scandal, featured in the ninth episode of the first season. She came on the show as a fashion designer with a great message. She made plus size clothing and her impassioned pitch explained how hard it was for roughly 60% of the women in America to feel at home in a clothing store and to find fashionable pieces for their own wardrobe. She was asking for $250,000 for a 20% stake in her company.
After a tumultuous interview, she landed a deal with Daymond John and Barbara Corcoran in which she signed over 50% of her company for the initial ask of $250,000. Daymond John has been on record saying that this was the worst deal he’s ever done in the tank because after they funded her, he claims that he never saw her again. Her website remained ‘Under Construction’ for several years and she never opened the flagship retail store she secured the investment for.
Another Shark Tank fail actually began as one of the biggest deals ever made in the tank. Season five saw Charles Michael Yim come through with his groundbreaking product, Breathometer. This was a breathalyzer device you could plug into your smartphone to check your blood alcohol level to make sure you were safe to drive home. All five sharks came together to put up a staggering $1 million for just a 30% stake in the company.
The product did well at first but, it wasn’t long before the FTC took issue with the accuracy claims that the device was making. There was a lawsuit that ended up costing the company $5.1 million because the FTC asserted that the device was deceptive and causing threats to safety. The company opted to settle out of court and issue all of the refunds that they were ordered to. It was able to bounce back a little bit and change directions in the end, though, which means that it wasn’t a total failure.
Of course, Shark Tank has seen plenty of actual failures. Some businesses have gotten funded and then struggled to get off the ground. Some of them haven’t even gotten that far. Some entrepreneurs get in the tank and they don’t have all of the information that the investors need. There are businesses that are in the early stages and the sharks don’t want to get involved yet and there are some who don’t really need an investor. However, there are some… that just don’t make sense. Some products are just so outlandish that it’s incredible that they made it to the show. While it was certainly entertaining to watch Kevin, Mark, Lori, and Daymond put these entrepreneurs through the wringer, it’s hard to believe that they were even serious. So, here is a look at the ten most ridiculous Shark Tank pitches ever.
In the sixth season of Shark Tank, we were introduced to two interesting entrepreneurs named Lei Yu and Tyler Freeman. They founded a wearable technology company that had raised $74,000 on Kickstarter, which absolutely blew their $35,000 goal out of the water. The product? DrumPants. The tagline for their product was “a band in your pocket.”
Part of the problem with this product is just the utter silliness of it. It was marketed as being an entertainment product for adults; however, it seemed like it would just be another thing to stick in the closet a few weeks after the holidays. The product is a set of Bluetooth speakers that use your smartphone to create different drum sounds from your pockets or sleeves.
Another problem with the pitch was that these entrepreneurs were seeking a $150,000 investment in return for just a 5% stake in their company that had no sales. The company had nearly a quarter of a million in pre-orders but they were not yet manufacturing or selling their product. Even with those issues, a few sharks were interested. Where they really dropped the ball, though, was in their inability to take the offers that were given. In the end, the sharks found them disrespectful and not really willing to make a decision. They were forced to walk out of the tank without an investment.
Shark Tank’s fifth season is where this ridiculous pitch comes from. Jason and Amanda Adams aren’t marriage counselors but they came up with a couples communication tool that was designed to help married couples address the elephant in the room, literally. The premise of their product was pretty simple. You would take the elephant out of the box it was displayed in and place it somewhere prominent in your home. The logic was that your partner could bring it up when they were ready.
They were seeking a $50,000 investment in exchange for 20% of their company, which is a comparably reasonable valuation in the tank. Unfortunately, that was where the logic and reason seemed to stop. They wanted to sell this product for a whopping $59 apiece and it cost them $22 to make. This is an exceptionally high cost to them considering the simplicity of the product and an almost laughable price for consumers to pay for what is, essentially, just a stuffed animal.
The magic of editing didn’t really help the entrepreneurs behind Elephant Chat, making the entire debacle just that much more ridiculous. The idea was great in spirit but the way that they executed it and the unseen inner-workings of their business that led them to pay $22 for just a toy didn’t sit well with any of the sharks. They left the tank without a bite from the sharks and it wasn’t long before they abandoned the business idea altogether. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it as a couple either, with their update explaining that they divorced.
The year 2009 was a different time for technology and it was a time when everyone wanted to be the next pioneer in the tech space. That seemed to be the dream for Darren Johnson, whose ridiculous pitch was featured on the pilot episode of Shark Tank and has gone down in history as the worst. Ever. His product was called Ionic Ear and he was seeking an investment of a million dollars in exchange for 15% of his business. The tank has seen some massive deals over the years but, at the time, this was unheard of.
Ionic Ear was a Bluetooth device that would need to be surgically implanted into your ear. The idea was that this device would completely obliterate the use of headphones or other Bluetooth headsets. This device would require the user to insert a needle into their ear every night to charge the device as well. Unsurprisingly, the sharks were horrified at his valuation of over six million dollars and even more horrified at the device itself. They did their best to remain respectful, but no one took the bait.
On top of the fact that this device was questionable, to say the least, Johnson didn’t do a good job of pitching his idea, either. His delivery wasn’t enthusiastic, he didn’t make it clear how much progress he had already made on the device, and his defense of the device left a lot to be desired. In the special 100th episode of the show, several of the sharks recalled this as the worst pitch they’ve ever seen.
Another ridiculous pitch from the early days of Shark Tank is the Man Candle from season two. Johnson Bailey came into the tank to give an impassioned pitch about how most candles were designed for women and there weren’t a lot of options for manly smells on the market. Of course, Yankee Candle already had a line of more masculine scents on their shelves when this episode aired, but that wasn’t mentioned at all. Bailey was willing to give up 25% of his company for $50,000.
The scents that the Man Candle brand offered were what struck the sharks as ridiculous first. His best-seller was reminiscent of flatulence but he also had popcorn, golf course, football, new car, and bacon scents. The business was still small, leaving him to pour every candle by hand while balancing his college classes but sales were still nothing to turn your nose up at. He had made $53,000 over the past year. The sharks weren’t impressed.
Kevin claimed that these candles were more of a gimmick for tourists, Barbara felt that Man Candle was too small of a company, and Daymond didn’t think there was enough cash flow or a customer base to make it work. Overall, Man Candle was a product that wasn’t fit for the tank in any way. In a tumultuous turn of events, Man Candle did secure a $65,000 investment from a viewer but eventually failed and Bailey filed for bankruptcy.
Van Gould and Chris Sheldon are another pair of entrepreneurs that ended up on the wrong side of Shark Tank history with their pitch. The product was called NoPhone and it was just a simple piece of plastic that was the same size and shape of the average smartphone. They were seeking a $25,000 investment for a 25% stake in their company.
The big problem with their pitch wasn’t the numbers. In fact, they had sold a fairly impressive amount of the hunks of plastic for what they were. The margins were also great. Each NoPhone cost them less than three dollars to make but were sold for $12 for the standard device or $18 if you chose to buy the selfie upgrade, which included a mirror on the front. Instead, the issue came when they switched gears from a gag gift to a legitimate device to help curb phone addiction.
The pitch was disorganized and despite their relatively healthy numbers and the fact that they had secured a patent on the device, none of the sharks were interested. Each of the sharks had their words about the product, calling it stupid (Mark Cuban, Daymond John), and really bad (Kevin O’Leary). NoPhone walked out of the tank without a deal and the entrepreneurs have been called disrespectful for taking the airtime away from a more sincere product, and otherwise criticized across multiple media outlets.
Pavlok is one of those Shark Tank pitches that most people will never forget. Entrepreneur Maneesh Sethi came into the tank seeking $500,000 for just 3.14% of his company. At a valuation of nearly $16 million, it was hard for the sharks to believe that he even came in seeking a deal rather than just the publicity. Featured on season seven of the show, this was a bracelet designed to shock the wearer whenever they participated in a bad habit that they were trying to break.
Part of the issue with Pavlok came when Maneesh thought it would be prudent to describe the science behind the device. Pavlov’s dog isn’t something particularly new or novel and all of the studies that he referenced were existing studies that had nothing to do with his product. Mark Cuban went as far as calling him a con artist. Slowly but surely, the sharks kept dropping off.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this pitch was who stayed in. Kevin O’Leary was interested in the product based on its sales (near a million) and his experience with aversion therapy. Kevin offered exactly what Maneesh was looking for with a few repayment conditions that should have been a non-issue if his projections were correct. Instead of jumping at the offer, Maneesh declined based on his opinions about Kevin. At that point, he was cussed out the tank and forced to leave empty-handed.
In season three of Shark Tank, we met Mark Sullivan. He is an inventor that claimed he had created a generator that could be placed in the ocean and harness the rotation of the earth to generate electricity. While that sounds incredible, that’s not all! The way that the machine worked would also produce the most valuable waste product possible, gold. He offered the sharks the opportunity to get in on the action by asking for a healthy $1 million in return for a 10% stake in his company.
When he appeared in the tank, Sullivan had only come up with conceptual drawings of the machine and had no evidence to contribute to the validity of how it would work. According to him, the machine would produce roughly $100 billion worth in gold over the course of a few years. A few curious souls across the internet have tried to make sense of his claims but the general consensus is that the energy required to power the machine would exceed its output and render it useless.
No one could really tell how viable the generator was back then, either. Whether we’re all just incapable of thinking at his level or Mark Sullivan was absolutely insane, we will probably never know. The sharks won’t either, as they were all very quick to drop out.
Technology Enabled Clothing
Some ridiculous Shark Tank pitches have less to do with the product and more to do with the person and that is absolutely the case with Scott Jordan. In fact, his pitch is one of the most famous in the show’s history. He came into the tank seeking an investment of $500,000 in exchange for 15% in his company, TEC. This was the licensing arm of his primary business, ScottEvest.
It turns out, he had strategic reasons for not mentioning his primary brand on the show. He was concerned about a clause in the show contract that would allow the sharks to collect revenue from any company pitched on the show. However, the sharks weren’t interested unless ScottEvest was part of the deal. That company had already amassed $5.1 million in sales and had a solid projection of $12 million for the year.
When Jordan refused all of the offers and even consulted with a close friend (Steve Wozniak of Apple) just to come back and decline the last offer on the table, things took a turn for the worst. Scott Jordan is regarded as one of the most arrogant entrepreneurs to ever enter the tank and, despite the success he had after the show, he and the sharks never did start getting along. This pitch is so ridiculous based solely on Jordan’s attitude and the controversies that bubbled to the surface long after he left the tank.
It wouldn’t be a complete round-up of Shark Tank’s most ridiculous pitches without mentioning Track Days, a motorcycle riff on The Fast Saga, which was pitched by James Lavitola and Brian Pitt. These two came into the tank seeking an investment of $5 million in return for a 34% stake in the film. They were the first only people to appear on the show to pitch a movie.
After showing a hard-hitting trailer, things started to unravel fast. Track Days didn’t have a script, actors, or any other investments so far, nor had they secured a production company to help bring their dream to fruition. All of the sharks dropped out at an incredible pace. Mark Cuban refused to even listen to the pitch before they got started.
As the pitch continued, Lavitola himself said that films are a “crapshoot” for investors. The next one to sour on the idea was Daymond John, who had previously failed on a film investment in the past. Kevin, Barbara, and Robert were soon to follow. Despite all of the grand plans laid out by the pair, they had to walk away without a deal. As for Track Days the movie, it doesn’t seem like it will be hitting even the small screen any time soon. They were forced to abandon the project because it couldn’t be made without any financial backing.
Wake ’N Bacon
Bacon was all the rage back in 2011 when the second season of Shark Tank brought us the final entrepreneur on our list. His name is Matty Sallin and he’s a man of simple pleasures. His favorite way to wake up is to the scent of frying bacon. Living alone as a bachelor, the best way he could think to satisfy this desire was by creating an alarm clock that would slowly fry bacon and fill your bedroom with the smell.
Matty was seeking a $40,000 investment in return for a 20% equity stake in his company. Wake ‘N’ Bacon was just an idea at this stage. He didn’t have anything but his original prototype and a less-than-stellar grasp on his numbers. He didn’t know how much it would cost to further develop the product, to produce it at scale, or how he was going to price or market the device.
The sharks entertained him for a short while, asking him a few questions about the business and the product, how he thought of it, and what his plans might be for the money if he was funded. Unfortunately and unsurprisingly, he wasn’t funded. All of the sharks backed out on the simple fact that Matty had overlooked the key flaw in his dream to help America “rise and swine.” The product was a serious fire hazard. Nothing was heard about Wake ‘N’ Bacon after the episode aired but the product lives on in infamy as one of the worst pitches in the show’s history.