Shark Tank fintips: entrepreneurs share their best advice for getting bites from investors

- March 14, 2023 5 MIN READ
Shark Tank
Fins have emerged from the water again as Shark Tank announces its return to Australian television after a five-year long hiatus!

The highly anticipated return of Australia’s beloved business reality TV show can be make or break for those businesses who get the opportunity to swim with sharks.

Based on the Japanese Dragon’s Den format, Shark Tank first aired in the US in 2009, with the Australian version launching in 2015. Aspiring entrepreneurs pitch their business idea and funding requests to a panel of high-profile Australian business owners and investors, who in a feeding frenzy, fight for a slice of the best business ideas – or stay tellingly silent when a pitch fails to impress.

Judges or ‘Sharks’ have to date included Janine Allis (Boost Juice), Naomi Simson (RedBalloon), Glen Richards (Greencross) and renowned investors, Steve Baxter and Andrew Banks.

Several members of Entrepreneurs’ Organisation (EO) – a 16,000+ member entrepreneur community spanning 60 countries – have successfully obtained investment or mentoring opportunities through their appearances on Shark Tank, including Be Fit Food founder Kate Save, and Andy Eastoe, co-founder of The Pole Room.

We spoke to them on their tips for getting sharks to vote with their wallet:

Be prepared and pitch ready

Kate Save, founder of Be Fit Food says, “I watched literally every episode of Shark Tank ever made in every country, wrote down every question ever asked and wrote down the answer for my business. Public humiliation on national TV could destroy a brand. By being prepared, more than just securing investment, you’re showing the viewers that you’re serious about business, you know what you’re doing and you’re there to achieve something – not just pie in the sky talk without action.

“Prepare for your one-minute pitch, but also be prepared to walk out onto the red carpet and talk for one minute while they capture all of your face changes, but also prepare for the 2+ hours of filming and being asked every imaginable question that follows! No breaks, no looking at notes or phone a friend – you need to know every single detail off the top of your head, otherwise you’ll be annihilated! No breaks, no water, no toilet, so make sure you’ve been to the bathroom and had a drink because you are there to make great television!

“After an intensive interrogation, we landed a deal with Janine Allis, which overnight skyrocketed our business by 1,500 per cent.”

Andy Eastoe, co-founder of The Pole Room says, “In the lead up to the pitch I met with a number of people, such as my accountant and coach, to determine what type of investment we should be asking for. I had watched the first two seasons of the show and knew the format and structure of the show. This meant when preparing, I knew what information was relevant and what things to watch out for. On the flip side, my partner Jasmine did no preparation and went in with a positive attitude and a great story to tell.”

More pitching tips from KBB TV:

Know your numbers

“Numbers are everything,” says Janine Allis on Shark Tank; something every viewer now understands. The difference between revenue and turnover, the accuracy of your business valuations, and how quickly and precisely you can retrieve your last month, quarter, and years’ figures, will be essential to know if you’ve captured interest in your idea.

“People underestimate that the Sharks’ business investment is all about getting ROI (return on investment),” says Kate Save. “It’s all good and well to have a vision and a great concept, but if you don’t know how to make that into a viable business model, no one’s going to invest in it.

“Make sure your numbers are right, because whatever you say on national television, the deal is structured around this verbal commitment, and when they do due diligence after the show, if your numbers don’t stack up or you’ve got something wrong – it’s going to create issues with actually securing funding after the show.”

“The Sharks are business-savvy and can smell BS from a mile away,” Andy Eastoe adds. “I didn’t want to inflate the numbers or make a huge valuation in case they called me on it. This was one of the mistakes I saw many people in the prior seasons make, with unrealistic valuations and profit expectations. Instead, I had a very justifiable number that would make the Sharks interested and allow us to explain the business opportunity clearly.”

Know who you’re pitching to

Before appearing on the show, doing your due diligence is essential, as is going in with a clear plan.

“I made sure I researched the five different Sharks, their previous ventures and what other businesses they’d invested in to make sure there were no conflicts of interest,” says Kate Save. “You really have to know in advance who you will accept an offer from and at what amount, because you will be put on the spot and forced to make a decision on national television.

“You need to go in prepared with an answer for each of the five Sharks, because you may not get an offer from the one you anticipate,” she adds. “We did, fortunately, but we also got an offer from Steve Baxter, which in hindsight is incredible because he is a tech investor and has a lot of knowledge in that space. However, they made a combined offer as well as individual offers, which you need to be prepared for – how many additional shareholders do you want in your company?

“I think for us, when they both made a combined pitch it was very exciting, but in the end I was so clear going into the show that if we had investment from Janine, that would be the ultimate goal. So, I turned down the partnership with Steve because I was clear about what I wanted from the outset.”

Andy Eastoe similarly sought out a single Shark, sharing, “While we were open to advice and feedback from all Sharks, we only wanted Janine Allis from Boost Juice to invest in the business. We wanted her franchising expertise and networks, so the pitched was centred around franchising growth. When on the set we talked to her directly.”

Have a clear point of difference

The unfortunate reality of business is that copycat businesses are everywhere. While imitation is the best form of flattery, Sharks need convincing that those with deeper pockets won’t be able to immediately replicate your idea to equal or greater success.

“You will 100 per cent get asked by one of the Sharks, ‘Do you have a patent? Do you have a trademark? Is this exclusive? How do we know someone isn’t going to copy this?’. So, make sure you’ve done everything you need to do to really be able to guarantee them that you do have the permission to create or use things like your website domain, have your trademark, have your company names, make sure there is no trademark infringement,” says Kate Save. “The legal side of things is really important to be across too, because those are the things that will fall down easily at the due diligence process if you haven’t done them.”

Entertain and engage

At the end of the day, it’s a TV show and a pitch. You’re there to put on a show and make sure they leave not just hearing about your idea, but experiencing it in some way. It’s an opportunity to get creative and leave an impression on the Sharks and viewers alike.

“We knew we were going on TV, so we flew in a number of instructors and stage poles so they could perform on stage. This allowed a visual component to the pitch, which added a bit of fun and excitement. It also allowed a few Sharks to get on stage and give pole dancing a shot,” says Andy Eastoe.

Kate Save, who also offered food samples and visual elements, stresses the importance of being prepared in how you will come across on TV. “You need to practice in front of a mirror, practice at the dinner table, practice in front of friends, practice in the shower – just don’t be nervous, because if you are nervous it may look like you aren’t as authentic or sure of yourself and your business. You want to inspire confidence that you do believe in yourself and have a viable business model, so practice and go out there confidently!”

If you’re ready to get your entrepreneurial ideas out there, you can apply for the next season of Shark Tank now. If your ideas or pitch need some polishing and feedback from peers, groups like Entrepreneurs’ Organization can connect you with other successful founders making waves in the business world.