It's an age-old question, "Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?"
Because I help run a service that matches upstart entrepreneurs with seasoned mentors, I've seen the explosion of entrepreneurship in the past handful of years--both in the number of people in the entrepreneurship eco-system and the passion of those coming to it.
Why the change? It's difficult, and maybe even impossible, to say for sure but I believe at least one reason is the 'shark tank factor.'
The success and impact of ABC's "Shark Tank," on entrepreneurship have been so immense that it's time to give the show at least some credit for sparking a cultural "entrepreneur age."
Here are six reasons why I think that's exactly what's happened.
Pitch Competitions Growing. Like the art and life questions, it's difficult to say which came first or which inspired the other. But there's no doubt that pitch competitions are popping up like weeds. Any almost any given day from coast to coast there are platforms for start-ups--and even specific demographics such as women and grade-school students--to pitch their business plans to investors for seed funding or prize money.
People Understand. "Shark Tank" has made it easier to talk to non-entrepreneurs and investors about entrepreneurship issues. To laymen, it's now easy to say "like Shark Tank" when you're talking about making a business pitch or an investment. What was a foreign concept to most Americans five years ago is a now a shared experience with a common language.
It's Great Advice. The Sharks actually know what they're doing--they are not actors. As a result, they can offer good advice. It's part of the reason entrepreneurs love the show. In addition to the entertainment, a viewer can pick up insight about running or investing in a company.
Getting Sharked is Becoming Fun. What used to be humiliating and deflating to an entrepreneur--being told everything that is wrong with you and your idea--is now fun. Or a little fun. More importantly, the acceptability of being sharked has made it easier to give and get good, honest advice.
"As an entreprenuer, or anyone for that matter, receiving negative feedback is never easy to hear. At the end of the day, you have to take the good with the bad, figure out what will make your product better, and move forward knowing that you are never going to please everyone." Says Eventzee Director of Marketing & Business Development, Cody A. Robertson
It's Weakened the Impact of Failing. Not being destroyed by failure and rejection, being able to keep going, is absolutely essential to success. By seeing entrepreneurs succeed and fail every week on national television, viewers can literally see that being rejected by one set of sharks isn't the end. In the big picture, if you believe in what you're doing, you keep going. That's what entrepreneurs do.
"Innovation by definition has a high failure rate," says Diamondere Co-founder, Anish Godha "If you try an idea and it doesn't work, you need to be willing to try something else. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who view failure as a learning experience. This keeps them moving forward in places where others give up"
Success Stories Motivate. In the same way that it's important to show that failure isn't the end, those who succeed on "Shark Tank" are great motivation for everyone. Watching people innovate, create, struggle and invest their time, money and passion--and see it pay off--is a great emotional reward for those on the same path. Actually witnessing someone 'make it' is catnip for struggling entrepreneurs.
Much like historians divide time into eras or dynasties, business historians are likely to look back at the time we're in now--starting about six years ago--as the "Shark Tank" era of entrepreneurship. Let's hope it's the start to a new golden age of innovation and success. It looks like it may be.