None of the investors on Shark Tank are hurting for cash. Part of the appeal of the program is watching the mix of entrepreneurs at different stages of success, pitching the value of their businesses to investors who don’t really need to make any more money. If there’s a likeable entrepreneur, sometimes viewers secretly plea for the investors to take a chance on them — even if their business prospects are iffy at best.
When Chris Sacca, who guest-starred on Friday night’s program, first caught a glimpse of Shark Tank, he thought it paled in comparison to real-life venture capitalism. As Sacca revealed in a July blog post, he saw the show as a kitschy version of high-stakes investment. That’s why he’d always answered no when asked if he’d even consider taking up a spot in the deep leather chairs.
“It struck me as a dime-store version of my current job. A circus of kitchen gadgets and stocking stuffers optimized for infomercials.”
Sacca did not make his money off of kitchen gadgets — although some people who have would argue there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, Lori Greiner invested in cleaning sponge Scrub Daddy through Shark Tank, and as of April 2015, had tallied $50 million in sales, according to Business Insider.
Sacca is a former lawyer and Google executive who invested early in Twitter, Uber, and Instagram. According to a Forbes profile, Sacca is a billionaire known for his “brash opinions.” His investment philosophy is based around the quality of the investment and the impact he might have.
“I ask founders two things. Can I affect your outcome, and will I be proud to say I backed you?”
He visited the Shark Tank set as a guest of Daymond John and witnessed one of the show’s frequently panned pitches, “Cowboy Ryan,” which confirmed his feelings about the show. He later happened to catch an episode featuring the Carsik Bib, another cringe-worthy investment. Sacca then began to tease John and his friend Mark Cuban over Twitter.
Cuban and John retweeted his message and Sacca was greeted with a sea of backlash from Shark Tank fans. As he continued his friendly back-and-forth with Cuban, he admitted his eyes opened up just a little bit.
“[I]t became clear to me that I had underestimated the impact of the show.”
Later, Sacca and Cuban messaged privately, and the Dallas Mavericks owner admitted the Shark Tank impact had surprised him. But far from being just a television show, the program had become a “movement.”
As Sacca chatted with his investing partners and Wall Street colleagues, he learned they all watched Shark Tank — usually with their families.
“I came to see that ‘Shark Tank’ embodies the American dream. It is crispest illustration of how ingenuity, determination, storytelling, and a dash of luck can lead to spectacular success.”
But it would be the magic of Halloween that would get Sacca on the road to becoming a Shark Tank guest star. While trick-or-treating with his children, he ran into a fellow parent. That parent turned out to be Clay Newbill, the executive producer of Shark Tank. Tempted by questions about how he might make Shark Tank better, Sacca agreed to meet with Newbill, and Cuban, and eventually he received an offer to appear on the program.
He said he agreed because he likes the “purity” of Shark Tank that reminds him of his early investing days. At first glance, it’s all about the idea and not about the politics.
Now that Sacca has taped his Shark Tank episodes, he’s had another revelation: that he can encounter a wider range of people than he would only investing in Silicon Valley.
“‘Shark Tank’ has introduced me to entrepreneurs that I would never otherwise meet inside the tech bubble. As you have likely read or experienced firsthand, Silicon Valley startup founders tend to be male, and many ethnicities are very underrepresented in our industry. Yet, ‘Shark Tank’ has already given me the chance to mix it up with brave women and men from across the country and from staggeringly diverse backgrounds. It has been so refreshing.”
Sacca tweeted on Friday that he would be featured on more upcoming episodes of Shark Tank. The program airs Friday nights on ABC.
[Main photo by Alison Buck/Getty Images Entertainment]