If you've ever been unable to wake up from a bad dream, realizing with horror that the nightmare you're enduring won't end anytime soon, you might have a sense of how things played out on the TV show "Shark Tank" for #besomebody founder Kash Shaikh.
The company launched in Austin but left for new digs in Boston in May. It mixed branding with an experience-based app that allows people to book training and adventure activities with "Passionairies." For a time, the #besomebody hashtag was featured on billboards and buildings in Austin and though it has continued to have a loyal following, some incidents that occurred before the company relocated left it with something of a reputation here.
That said, if I'm being completely honest, I was still rooting for #besomebody to blow away the Sharks and reach its goal of a $1 million investment on the show. Why is that? For one thing, I've always admired Shaikh's passion. As a guest on an early episode of "Statesman Shots," he was friendly and very committed to helping out people break out of their shells and take their lives in new directions (which is a very Austin thing to want to do). And as an entrepreneur of color, Shaikh has had to deal with online abuse and preconceptions in ways that other founders of startups might not.
For me, then, the "Shark Tank" appearance was incredibly painful to watch. After a strong start featuring a ninja trainer on a giant wheel (as one critic pointed out, that doesn't seem very stealthy), Bollywood-style dancers and World Cup soccer winner Kristine Lilly, it looked as if all Shaikh had to do was close the deal after a dynamic start that clearly delighted the six Sharks on the show.
But then things went very, very badly. Even on a show where a lengthy pitch session might be edited down into a tightly edited few minutes, it was clear that the Sharks were unimpressed by Shaikh's pitch and business model, seemed convinced that he wasn't listening (and that he'd keep on talking), and concerned about liability insurance issues the startup might have.
When the app was building up momentum in Austin, that also seemed like an ongoing refrain: people hearing the name or seeing the billboards, but being unclear on what the company was trying to do or what it was trying to sell, exactly. That was a messaging problem the Sharks harped on again and again.
Mark Cuban in particular did not seem very happy with Shaikh, a veteran marketer from Procter & Gamble and GoPro. Shark Barbara Corcoran cited what she called Shaikh's "abrasive" personality as a reason for not investing. In even ended with a dismissive "Go be somebody." Ouch.
In an interview, Shaikh said his company has stopped taking a cut of fees on experiences booked through the app and is working on a new app to debut early next year.
To get the full-bore experience, you should really watch the episode, which is available on the ABC website for cable/satellite subscribers.
For #besomebody's part, they have not shied away from the experience. In fact, Shaikh promoted the episode before it aired last week and in a follow-up website post, the company thanked the show for the exposure:
We really loved our Shark Tank experience, and we are truly grateful for the added exposure and interest it’s generated in our company, our mission and our movement. Shark Tank is an award-winning Reality Television show, and the producers work hard to cut and edit hours of footage into a short, compelling segment that provides the most entertainment value to viewers. Given the amount of buzz our episode generated, it's clear they delivered on that goal.
If you're still curious and can't log in at ABC's site, you can find a YouTube upload of the episode below (It starts at around the 32 minute mark):
News on Open Source is free and unlimited. Access to the rest of 512tech.com comes with an American-Statesman digital subscription, which also includes myStatesman.com and the ePaper edition. Subscribe at statesman.com/subscribe.