Pitching the stars of Shark Tank can be a scary moment for entrepreneurs, but it's nothing compared with swimming with actual sharks. During a special episode of the show on Wednesday, it was the Sharks' turn to dive into the tank--literally and figuratively.

As part of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, Barbara Corcoran, Mark Cuban, Daymond John, and Kevin O'Leary each spent time with real sharks--both in tanks and in the open ocean--to learn about various issues facing the predatory fish and then pitch one another on which oceanic organization was most deserving of a $50,000 donation. Robert Herjavec, the only Shark who didn't have to go underwater, joined the group on the set of the show to help decide on a winner.

It was the first time in the show's almost 10-year history that the Sharks had to show off their own pitching skills instead of judging pitches from budding entrepreneurs. Thanks to all of the Sharks' experience--and their fierce competitive streaks--the episode showcased their talent for landing deals. 

Here's how to pitch like a Shark:

1. Daymond John: Lead with compelling data.

John was the first into the water, hoping to win the $50,000 for the Bahamas National Trust after diving at its shark sanctuary on the island of Eleuthera. He opened his pitch with a shocking statistic that immediately grabbed the Sharks' attention.

"Sharks kill six people a year," John told his fellow investors. "And we kill 1,000 sharks an hour." John argued that replicating the Bahamas National Trust's standards for shark tourism in other countries could allow more humans to swim with sharks, generating more revenue for this niche industry that depends on their well being.

2. Kevin O'Leary: Present a problem and a solution.

Mr. Wonderful traveled to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to swim with 40-foot whale sharks.

"This is an endangered species," O'Leary told his fellow Sharks. "If we don't do something about this, your grandchildren will never experience these fish." O'Leary explained that the whale shark population has dropped in half in the past 75 years, and that the aquarium makes money to support whale sharks through ticket sales. The $50,000 would go to researching the animals in the wild and understanding more about their habits and why their numbers are shrinking.

3. Barbara Corcoran: Sell the individual, not just the business.

Corcoran was pitching University of Miami professor Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, who works with the university's shark research and conservation.

"You all know how important it is to have an entrepreneur to build a business," Corcoran said. "Dr. Neil is just like the entrepreneurs we all dream about: He's passionate, he believes in his cause, and he's making a change." She explained how Hammerschlag tags sharks off the coast of Miami, allowing humans to track them for safety reasons, while simultaneously giving scientists the opportunity to study them. 

4. Mark Cuban: Create a moral imperative.

Cuban pitched Shark Allies, an organization that works to protect sharks from threats like finning, where fishermen cut off their fins and throw the sharks back into the water. Unable to swim, the sharks quickly drown. About 70 million sharks die every year from finning, Cuban explained.

"If we don't partner with Shark Allies and stop this, there won't be any sharks to tag, there will be no sharks left in the aquarium, there will be no sharks for people to go and visit in the Bahamas," Cuban said. By outlining the principle that finning is immoral, Cuban appealed to the other Sharks' sense of right and wrong.

In the end, the Sharks decided to award the $50,000 to the Bahamas National Trust, with Daymond matching the contribution to bring the total to $100,000. While swimming with real sharks might seem scarier than pitching the hosts of Shark Tank, Corcoran noted that the experience was much more intimidating than she expected.

"I'm very nervous going in there, and I'm pitching four of my good friends," she said. "I can't even imagine being an entrepreneur and pitching us."

Published on: Jul 26, 2018