For a while there, Shark Tank was cool, or at least interesting. I only found the show after it had been on a few years, and there was a steady stream of reruns on CNBC. I binge-watched for a while. 

About five years ago I even compiled data for Inc.com on every pitch in the show's history until then, and figured out how some people boosted their odds of getting a deal.

Now, the show is in roughly its 247th season (I didn't check, but it feels like that), and it was renewed for another season in February. Maybe you're still a fan. 

But recently, the Wall Street Journal examined one of the big, unappreciated pitfalls of going on the show, whether an entrepreneur gets funding or not: copycats.   

  • Nicki Radzely, CEO of a company called Doodle & Co. that makes child pacifiers that pop closed if a child drops them toward the ground, said about six months after she appeared on the show, she started seeing knockoffs on Amazon.
  • Lani Lazzari, founder of skin care line called Simple Sugars, said she's been battling knockoffs ever since she appeared on the show in 2013.
  • Rebecca Rescate, who has pitched two companies on the show, said that after she pitched "HoodiePillow" on the show, she was both accused of ripping off the idea for a pillowcase cover that comes with a hood, and also saw others rip her off.

You will note two things, perhaps. The first is that there's no real proof that Shark Tank caused these entrepreneurs' problems, as opposed to simply suddenly having a lot of people know about their products. But they assume this, so we'll go with it for now.

And the second is that all of the entrepreneurs the Journal cited in this article are female, and overall the show has been pretty good about highlighting women entrepreneurs. 

On that, I have to give the show credit. I'm not sure it's exactly reached 50/50 parity, but there are a lot of women entrepreneurs. Also, one takeaway I saw five years ago is that the sharks were partial to businesses that seek to target women customers.

But honestly, however, I'm kind of done with it--and if one of the big risks of being on the show is that your business might simply get ripped off, you might have to wonder if it's worth the risk.

My apologies to fellow Inc. writers who follow it and write about it -- but I think it's jumped the... Well, you know.
 

Published on: Apr 29, 2019
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