Shark Tank has some competition in West Texas. 

CNBC's new reality series West Texas Investors Club takes the Shark Tank model of entrepreneurs pitching business ideas and adds a crucial new ingredient: beer.

The one-hour show stars self-made millionaires Michael "Rooster" McConaughey (older brother of Matthew) and Wayne "Butch" Gilliam, two veterans of the oil-and-gas pipeline industry who listen to startup pitches mostly while drinking Miller Lite.

The first season of the show premiered on Tuesday, August 4 and will run for eight episodes.

One big difference between West Texas Investors Club and Shark Tank is how McConaughey and Gilliam test out the startup models before deciding to invest.

For example, in the show's first episode, the pair brought entrepreneur Adam Garfield's drink-ordering app SpeedETab to a local bar to see how it would be received by customers. 

"For every entrepreneur that comes to us, we're going to try to figure out a way to put them in a real-life scenario," Gilliam says. "We want to put them under the gun and see what their character is all about."

In the case of SpeedETab, Garfield passed the test. Not only was he able to persuade the bar's patrons to download the app, but the majority of customers found it useful in ordering drinks without having to wait for table service. After a tough negotiation with McConaughey and Gilliam, Garfield won a $500,000 investment for 40 percent of his company. 

Another difference between West Texas Investors Club and Shark Tank has to do with the show's third co-star, American Music Hall of Fame singer/songwriter Gil Prather. A friend and mentor to McConaughey and Gilliam, Prather picks up the entrepreneurs at the airport and gives them a mini-interview while driving them to their pitch.

"We're thinking when these entrepreneurs see Gil, they'll let their defenses down a little bit and open up to him," Gilliam says. "That way we can quiz Gil and see what the person is all about." 

So far, Gilliam says he's been satisfied with the quality of most of the startups and founders that have pitched him on the show.

So what's his most important lesson for entrepreneurs? Business owners who view making money as their number one goal will face their greatest challenge after becoming financially successful.

"It's one thing to make money," Gilliam says. "To hang onto it is going to be the most difficult task of all."

 

Published on: Aug 11, 2015