By Steve Winter
Bryan and Brandon Myers spent six hours on Friday, Jan. 7, waiting to deliver a four-minute pitch to reviewers from the popular ABC-TV show Shark Tank in the hopes of landing an opportunity to submit their product to the Sharks – Robert, Lori, Barbara, Mark, David and Kevin – sometime later this year.
Exhibiting clear across town in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center at CES, the family-owned company transported their 250-pound opticwash device – affectionately known as a “carwash for cellphones, eyewear and jewelry” — to the Sands Expo Center for the presentation.
The father-and-son team then showcased their product to panelist Erica Brooks and her production team, yielding a reception that Bryan Myers described as “promising.”
Was it worth the wait?
“Absolutely,” Bryan Myers said. “We feel we are an extremely attractive target for Shark Tank because we are not a concept, an idea or a prototype … we’re an actual, living and functioning product, currently operational in the marketplace. We’re seeking $5 million in funding, solely for kiosk production.”
Opticwash and roughly 300 other companies sought their fortunes during the first of 12 national open calls Shark Tank will host this year. While several CES exhibitors waited in line for their turn to present, dozens of burgeoning companies travelled from across the country to pitch their inventions. Ben Davila journeyed from Dallas with business partner Adriena Romero and niece Brandy Carvahlo to present Don’t Bug Me, a collection of brandable container covers designed to shield bottles and cans from airborne intruders. “I love the product because I hate bugs,” said nine-year-old Brandy. “They’re gross!”
For Shark Tank, CES represents the ideal forum through which to uncover diamonds in the rough such as Don’t Bug Me. “CES is a great way to see what’s up and coming, to see what startups are here and what younger demographics are bringing to the table,” said Shark Tank Supervising Casting Producer Mindy Zemrak. “This is our third year here and we’re very excited.” The open call can also resemble, to some extent, those legendary game shows of eras gone by, with contestants dressed in costumes and outrageous regalia.
“People come as though we are the Sharks, Zemrak said. “They love to pitch us and they come to the open call with their pitch just like they are on the show, prepared to tell us how much money they’re looking for and how much they’re willing to give away.
“People take this seriously, and we do as well.”
Each year, more than 40,000 people apply for a slot on Shark Tank through a combination of online applications and national open calls like CES, and the process is a lengthy one. “We don’t place quotas on the number of companies we select, so this is not a matter of selecting two or three finalists from among these applicants,” said Zermak. “We review the presentations of everybody who comes out and our judges in Los Angeles make the call on who will advance to the next steps. It’s a process that could take as long nine months “
For the hundreds of competitors who spent the day at Sands, the Shark Tank open call was an opportunity to chase their dreams and pursue their vision; and why not? After all, while there’s no guarantee that any company that presented at CES will advance, we do know for certain that roughly 100 companies from across the country will survive the nearly year-long ordeal to present to the Sharks during Season 9. Any one of these companies can certainly become the next Scrub Daddy, which parlayed the investment they earned on Shark Tank in 2012 into what is now a $40 million company.
Steve Winter is president of Brotman|Winter|Fried, a Sage Communications Company, which is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.