Once people learn that I work in the field of entrepreneurship, it doesn’t take long before they ask the familiar question, “so do you like Shark Tank?” I respond that what I like most is the fact that it has made entrepreneurship a family-friendly word.
Having peaked their interest, questioners often follow up with, “What is the biggest benefit entrepreneurs gain from appearing on Shark Tank?” Certainly, a potential investment from one of the renowned investors or ‘Sharks’ is appealing. But, as for the additional benefits, I thought it might be best to ask someone who has experienced it firsthand.
Stephan Aarstol, founder of Tower Paddle Boards, appeared on the show during season three and had a memorable showing, but not for the reasons he would have preferred.
“I’m known for having the worst pitch in the history of Shark Tank,” Aarstol said. “After I stumbled for a couple of minutes, one of the guys asked, ‘What does your company do?’ I thought, maybe I should start over.”
Despite the stumbles, Aarstol caught the eye of one particular Shark, Mark Cuban, who ended up investing $150,000 in Aarstol’s startup. It was quite a nice finish after a rocky start.
I asked Aarstol how he benefited from Shark Tank beyond that, and found he had spent a lot of time pondering the same question. While Mark Cuban did receive equity in Tower Paddle Boards at a discount, Aarstol believes the program’s benefits extend well beyond his own organization.
While it might sound counter-intuitive, Aarstol also says the constraints that an investor like Cuban imposes on a startup can ultimately be the company’s greatest advantage. Cuban’s investment led Tower Paddle Boards’ team to think more strategically and creatively, which has helped them outlast a host of competitors.
Beyond providing Aarstol’s startup with increasing structure and focus, Cuban provided additional financing at a critical juncture. Aarstol says in situations of opportunity, it’s all about presenting the right business plan supported by the accurate details.