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Posts Tagged ‘Shark Tank’

The Shark Tank

I’ve become an enormous fan of ABC’s Shark Tank. If you haven’t seen it, let me briefly explain the premise to you: Five ultra successful entrepreneurs (the sharks) sit in big, comfortable chairs and entertain business ideas from would-be entrepreneurs. And, well, basically, that’s it. It’s not exactly a premise that I would have signed off on if I were an executive producer, but then again I would have had my reservations about Seinfeld as well.

Sometimes one or two of the sharks jump on board and agree to put their own money on the line to buy themselves a portion of these new ventures. Sometimes they get into a bidding war with each other. Most of the time they examine the business inside and out, only to ultimately turn it down, agreeing that it’s not a worthy investment. But, like I said, there’s little more to it.

The first time I saw it, I was convinced that there would be follow up and we would hear more about the ventures discussed with the sharks, and there would be heart-warming stories of the sharks’ involvement in these people’s lives. But, as far as I can tell, we don’t. And I’ve come to realize that I love the show exactly for this reason: there is no gimmick, no heart strings being pulled, no phony crying. Instead we get a close-up, raw look at capitalism and, in particular, venture financing.

It’s fascinating to see the ideas that are presented, and to see the different ways that individuals attempt to bring products to market. Most of them have a cottage industry running out of their garage or basement and have already spent their life savings attempting to make it work. In many cases entirely families are brought in to the operation and have taken on a roll in the company. In this sense you can see capitalism working as we would hope, in that it taps the creativity and potential of people who are not politically connected or of any particular esteem, but who have an idea and a will. In some cases you also see poorly thought-out ideas getting hit by the light of day, as the sharks dismiss them in rather shark-like fashion.

When the show is at its best, you see the sharks attempting to bluff disinterest in an idea, hoping to ward off competition, only to eventually make a casual offer that betrays their demeanor. When it turns out that two or more of the sharks are bluffing, things really get fun. In some cases the sharks go after each other, occasionally getting heated up in the process. Often, however, their differences are resolved in a partnership that satisfies both competing interests. The sharks are never moved by sympathy for the presenter; they only proceed on the basis of whether or not there is an opportunity to add to their already vast fortunes. It’s not exactly a model of Christian virtue, but again, that’s not the point of the show. It’s because they are heartless that the best ideas get financing and the rest don’t. (One of my favorite scenes involved a kind-hearted college kid who had invented glutton-free play-do, and he wanted financing to build a manufacturing plant. The sharks asked him why he didn’t just sell the idea to one of the three big toy manufacturers and he replied that he wanted to create jobs in his community. The look of incredulity that this statement was received with was absolute television gold). Many people do get helped, but only in a manner that Ayn Rand would approve of- they are helped on terms that help the helper. It’s a reality show that actually feels realistic, it’s raw capitalism, it’s fascinating and it’s entirely entertaining.

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