What It's Like to Swim in ABC's 'Shark Tank'

job interview While some reality shows may be scripted or staged, ABC's 'Shark Tank' is the real deal: real entrepreneurs investing their own real money in the dreams of real Americans.

About the only things that are not 100 percent authentic are the piles of money you see laying around the set, and the shark tanks that line the hallway that leads hopeful entrepreneurs, eager to make their product pitches, to the panel of hungry "tycoons." What appear to be aquariums full of hungry predators are actually digitally projected images. And that's a good thing. There are more than enough sharks on hand already.

AOL Jobs was recently invited to go behind the scenes of the popular ABC TV show that is currently in its second season, airing on Fridays at 8PM. This time around, to give the show a little diversity, billionaire Mark Cuban is sitting in on a number of episodes, as is entrepreneurial entertainer and investor Jeff Foxworthy.

The day AOL was on the set, Cuban was jovially upping everyone's game, handing out million-dollar investments like Halloween candy. The other sharks, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary and Robert Herjavec, had mixed reactions to his exuberance. They were gratified to see that more business ideas would be funded, but bemused about the fact that Cuban was raising prices and snapping up some of the best investment opportunities. The competition between the sharks is real, too.

A Cuban twist

"I love this stuff!" Cuban enthused. "This is what I do all the time. I've invested millions just from e-mails. Here on 'Shark Tank,' I get to meet people I'd never come in contact with otherwise." He wasn't joking. Shortly after making that statement, he offered one person four million dollars.

You can't help but be intrigued watching teachers, firemen, housewives, etc., being made millionaires in a matter of minutes. That's how long it takes some people to accept the sharks' offers, but the actual presentations last much longer than what you see on TV. Some people are on the hot seat, fielding razor-sharp questions, for more than an hour, as the sharks grill and probe and calculate every detail of their ideas.

Each episode is not shot individually. The sharks are required to wear the same outfits for several days, because no one knows which segments will be combined into which episode. There might be several rejections in a row, or several million dollar deals in a row. Producers like to mix them up. Wearing the same clothes for days on end is especially trying for Corcoran and John, who are the most stylish sharks in the tank.

The sharks have many faces

job interview "This is the 'American Idol' of venture capital," says O'Leary, who made his fortune in educational software and sold his company to Mattel for $3.7 billion. If that comparison is accurate, he would be known as the Simon Cowell of the group, as he'll take pot shots at the other sharks, as well as the contenders. He likes to think he's just calling it as he sees it.

It would be unfair to compare Corcoran with any of the female judges on 'American Idol,' however. The real estate magnate and author built her $5 billion business from the ground up. She started her professional life as a waitress, and had 20 different jobs by the time she was 23. She's known for going on instinct, by heart more than head. The others say she's a "softie" but she's also known for bringing more successful businesses to fruition via 'Shark Tank,' than any of the others.

Daymond John is perhaps the coolest of the sharks, and has the most expertise in bringing retail products to market. He began his career selling caps on the street in Queens, and went on to found the uber-successful FUBU clothing line. Now he's internationally diversified. He's calm but deadly. "I don't feel bad about going for the jugular," he says. "If they walk out of here with anything, it's 100 percent more than they had when they came in."

Robert Herjavek makes hundreds of millions in high tech and owns his own island off the coast of Florida, but, as the son of Croatian immigrants, he's surprisingly down to earth; while not as saber-toothed as O'Leary, he does enjoy mixing it up with him every now and then. "The insults are sincere," he says. "We always try to beat each other to the punch."

All the sharks are surprisingly focused on the business at hand. You would think people of their stature would spend their breaks barking into cell phones, doing million dollar deals and retreating to luxurious trailers at lunch. But this is not the case. They eat with the rest of the crew, standing in line for their chicken and salad, and they wait on themselves, instead of commanding a troop of assistants.

They take their jobs on the show very seriously, but the glints you see in their eyes are not always calculating. Sometimes they're eyes are sparkling because they're having the time of their lives making people's dreams come true, and making a decent profit in the process. "That's the beauty of this show," beams Cuban. "That's why America is great!"

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On Oct 31, 09, I posted some thoughts to an article on AOL that day re. the unfortunate, but likely cancellation of the first run of 'Shark Tank'. (if interested, see link- Shark Tank cancel or keep? | TV Series Finale#comments and scroll to "comment 11").
A somewhat unrelated story, save tangentially per enterprise aspect, (and the pitfalls you need to be careful of), after coming to realize that I, the largest shareholder by far, with some 1,100,000 shares, (such shares eventually worth approximately the same as the equivalent number of sheets of toilet paper) and 162 other investors, (read: victims just like me), had been scammed by a sophisticated, serial con artist under the pretense that we would be part owners of a new energy drink, I have since sic'd the Feds and a couple state AG's after the crook, (maybe he'll end up sharing a cell block with Bernie Madoff soon). And as a ironical consequence, having necessarily learned so much about the beverage business myself over the several years it took to 'turn the lemons into lemonaide', as I sought to recover what I and the other victims lost to the criminal, I founded, then coalesced essential ingredients, including initial players, marketers, etc, for a unique beverage company and the startup is coming together well. The professional phony will be going to jail and we, his assumed victims, are actually going to come out the winners afterall. More recently, the serendipitous, albeit, orchestrated/constructed by intent, arrangement whereby I and others, now look to profoundly and most effectively capitalize on specific gold, silver, precious and rare earth metals as a solid venture, (to wit: candidates for same be-- proven, historic/long standing, formerly or currently functioning as profitable operations of size, presenting with thoroughly documentable legitimacy), ALA profitable application of new, highly efficient refining technologies.... is also proceeding to fruition. Such reference is not intended as an investment offering, but I, Gary Engen theloanarrangers aooooo, will say here that if you either have access to larger mines with provable, chain of custody assayed deposits and/or substantial, already traditionally worked tailings therefrom, that largely regardless of per ton assessment and additionally, of any resultant traditional refining processor's critique/argument as to their tech's impractical/unprofitable application thereto, it could very well be mutually beneficial for us to speak.

March 26 2011 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


March 26 2011 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Really to bad not to mention Kevin Harrington. He is one of the Sharks not talked about in this article.

March 26 2011 at 6:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
The Darb

Shark Tank is an excellent show. You will learn a lot about investing in anything. The Sharks are brilliant, successful, and cautious. Watch and learn, as well as be entertained.

March 26 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hi I watched this show last year and fell in love with it. I was so disappointed when they took it off. Very happy they brought it back. I am not looking for any kind of shark money. I am in my 70's and don't need to do this but so enjoy the whole concept. Tell them all to keep up the good work and I will always be a fan and watch the show.

March 26 2011 at 5:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I sure love that show wish we could get our product grout sensation on there, we have two major hotel chains and several hospitals. What we need is one big hit to put us over the top so we can start looking at a profit structure. My partner has every cent of his invested in it. I have over 3 years of my time and some money in. Everyone who tries it loves it, Every single hotel or hospital that asked for a sample has ordered this great product. Go to usachemicalcorp.com and watch the 2 videos one on grout sensation and the other RG-50 we actually take a lit light bulb and drop it in a bucket of water and then splash it around with our bare hands.

March 26 2011 at 5:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Check this product out, will be featured on Shark Tank soon!

March 26 2011 at 4:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply


March 26 2011 at 4:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

love that show!!

March 26 2011 at 3:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Encouraging show too.

March 26 2011 at 2:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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