Jeff Overall, whose Shark Tank pitch began with a close-up shot of his bare feet in flip-flops, started Polar Pro after his GoPro video of a ski trip was overexposed. The bright lights of the slopes were apparently a common issue for skiers, who’d begun a makeshift process of taping camera filters onto their GoPros to rescue their footage. Eventually, Overall started producing his own homemade filters for GoPro cameras, selling cut-up polarized film packaged in plastic bags for $10 each. He had modest sales, but steady interest in the niche market.
At a trade show, he had what seemed to be a fortuitous meeting: representatives from GoPro approached his booth and discussed a possible partnership. Envisioning a sale to GoPro just one year after inception — Polar Pro was founded in 2011 — Overall was delighted. But he soon experienced a devastating entrepreneurial blow: just three months later, at another trade show, he saw GoPro selling its own camera filters. But as Overall told the OC Register last week, they decided to stick with the company despite their doubts.
“It was such a disheartening experience. We asked ourselves, ‘Should we just pack up and go home now?'”
They did not pack up and go home. Polar Pro used the time it took for GoPro to get its filters to market to continue to sell its product and to create new offerings. As viewers of Shark Tank saw, the company sells filters for drones and tripods and sells cases with the battery charger built in.
As a result, the company has made big profits, but reinvested the money into research and development. It was the huge discrepancy between the projected $5.6 million revenue for 2015 and the modest profit of $300,000 that concerned Kevin O’Leary during the Shark Tank pitch, as Business Insider reported. Overall said that Polar Pro spends about $1 million annually keeping ahead of the technology curve.
Polar Pro has grown from selling about 75 filters a month back in 2011 to about 19,000 filters a month, in addition to the company’s other products. The company survived despite GoPro’s own filter launch, in part because of Polar Pro’s cheaper price point.
A Shark Tank audition happened as the result of a Thanksgiving conversation with Overall’s family. He drove to Los Angeles from Newport Beach for an open audition in December 2014. He got through that and another seven call backs before getting to make his pitch on the Shark Tank carpet. But Polar Pro was not relying on its television time to get an influx of cash. It’s gone to Kickstarter with a couple of products. The battery-integrated GoPro extension pole was a Kickstarter “staff pick.”
When Overall finally made his way, without socks, to the Shark Tank stage, he was poised to create excitement. Polar Pro eventually got an on-air deal with Robert Herjavec and Mark Cuban, who each put in $500,000 for 10 percent of the company. That deal had followed a bidding war between all of the sharks except O’Leary, who seemed concerned about the company’s thin profit margin.
If both deals survive due diligence, it will be a nice fit for Robert and Mark. Both men put money behind xCraft drones, which pitched earlier this season on Shark Tank. xCraft promoted its value to photographers who use drones. The machine’s innovative design results in better pictures. All five sharks were involved in that deal, for a total investment of $1.5 million.
Shark Tank airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. on ABC.
[Main photo by Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images Entertainment]