Is Shark Tank a Scam? I’m Starting to Wonder

by Darwin on May 2, 2012

I first tuned into Shark Tank at the end of last season and it instantly become one of my favorite shows.  I loved the business ideas, the pitches, and of course, the wheeling and dealing from “the Sharks”.  It was both entertaining and somewhat educational from a business savvy standpoint.  However, as the episodes progressed and I started talking to some other people, I’ve started to wonder if Shark Tank is a scam.

  • Many “Deals” Are Never Consummated – This is the most appalling part of the show in my opinion.  I was initially a little suspicious when I would visit some of the company websites where “deals” were struck during the show only to find no mention of a partnership or investment from any of the Sharks on the show.  I figured surely these segments were filmed months in advance, so it would seem logical that by the time the show aired, there would be mention of a deal in the “About Us” or “Investors” sections on company websites.  But more recently, I was talking to a friend of ours who is an angel investor.  He’s often doing this sort of thing for real, where entrepreneurs pitch their business, deals get done, etc.  He said it was his opinion that the thing’s a total farce. Anecdotally (and this is his experience, not mine), he said two of the companies that pitched to him made it on to Shark Tank and struck deals and neither ended up going through.  He concurred with my hunch that many deals that are agreed on the show never actually happen.  He said in one company’s case, the Shark never even called them after the segment!  They were waiting around for a call and it never came.  That’s crazy!  I could understand that perhaps some deals don’t happen because of some critical flaw discovered during due diligence, but to not even call?  I wonder if there’s a statistic out there somewhere showing the actual percentage of deals consummated vs. claimed “deals” on the show.
  • Contestants Clearly for Entertainment, Not Real Businesses – Some of the contestants clearly don’t belong on the show and seem to be there more for entertainment purposes than for an actual business deal.  I guess this is kind of like American Idol letting the really bad singer on as a joke or whatever, but in one example, this guy was completely pitching a scam energy bracelet thing which anyone with the slightest analytical ability would realize is purely a scam, yet the producers let this guy on.  Mark rightfully called it out as a scam, but why did they even waste viewers’ time with that one?
  • No Rules – I find the utter lack of rules on decision making and deal-making to be relatively annoying as well.  I’ve seen some segments where a Shark says they’re out, then they come back in.  WTF is that?  Then on other occasions, a shark says they must decide immediately, within the next 5 seconds and then another shark yells out an offer and it goes to a commercial.  Then the entrepreneur gets to hear the pitch from the other shark.  On a recent episode with some wine in a glass company, Mark was about to do a deal and then withdrew his offer because the guy waited too long to decide (even thought he threw out no time limit and just pulled back his offer).  The only logical conclusion I can draw from such cavalier and random offers and withdrawals is that perhaps none of the sharks are serious most of the time.

I’m starting to wonder if the show’s nothing more than a crappy reality TV show.  If you were a shark and didn’t really plan on doing deals anyway but just wanted to make for some good entertainment, you could undertake all kinds of antics with no risk to yourself.  It would be for great television but not be authentic.  Is this really just a showcase for the Sharks to get publicity for their brands and the contestants to get on television so they can attract customers and investor attention after the show airs? Is that what’s going on here?


What Are Your Thoughts About Shark Tank? 

Realistic, Entertaining or Just Another Reality TV Scam?


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