‘Pavlok’ Entrepreneur Maneesh Sethi Doesn’t Regret Refusing Kevin O’Leary’s ‘Shark Tank’ Deal

When Maneesh Sethi, the man behind behavior modification device Pavlok, was asked to pitch Shark Tank late in 2014, he might not have imagined how it would go. Sethi’s nearly hour-long pitch was edited down to about 11 minutes for television, providing a dramatic Season 7 finale during which O’Leary used some nasty words to describe the entrepreneur after his offer was rejected.

In a new interview with Business Insider, conducted after the finale aired, Sethi says the experience took him aback — but it was the early reaction of another shark, Mark Cuban, to his product that took him the most by surprise. Cuban, whom regular Shark Tank viewers know is often wary of entrepreneurs that claim to improve athletic performance or who hawk similar products, did not mince words on the program, calling Sethi a “con artist” after he left the tank.

Cuban’s comments threw off Sethi, who was in studio to pitch the sharks in September, 2015, nearly a year after a Shark Tank producer reached out to him. The producer had seen Pavlok’s successful campaign on Indiegogo. Pavlok, a wristband that emits a mild shock when one engages in unwanted behavior, received $283,852 by November, 2014, raising 508 percent of its goal.

“I was caught off guard by how quickly and forcefully Mark turned against us, and that really changed the tone of the pitch. The Sharks became so focused on clinical studies, I couldn’t really get a word in edgewise to tell them about the thousands of success stories our real-life users have had.”

According to Sethi, Pavlok was used at a study at the University of Massachusetts at Boston on smoking cessation, but discussion of that study was not included in the pitch that was eventually broadcast on Shark Tank. Despite the grilling Sethi received, the last shark on the panel, O’Leary, offered him a deal. The entrepreneur said explicitly that, although he liked the deal’s structure, he would accept a partnership from anyone except the investor dubbed “Mr. Wonderful,” in reference to the shark’s aggressive on-air persona.

Sethi told Business Insider that O’Leary was not the right fit for the company and he has no regrets about not taking O’Leary’s offer, even if he would do his presentation a bit differently.

“Going in I knew Kevin was not a great investor fit for our company. A lot of people don’t realize investment partnerships are about way more than money. Business style and vision for the company need to align as well. I was concerned he would prioritize monetary returns over number of habits broken, which is our main [Key Performance Indicator].”

Money questioned whether Pavlok would have long-term success, calling it “social-media friendly” but with “loud branding.” It might be a challenge to convince people to use the product, according to the publication.

Sethi says he’s sold 10,000 wristbands since his Shark Tank appearance was taped last fall. He has a current Indiegogo campaign for a Pavlok alarm clock, designed to turn users into early risers, through which he’s already raised $278,948 from more than 2,200 backers.

If Sethi has no regrets about his decision to turn down Mr. Wonderful, he’ll probably get no argument from O’Leary. The investor also spoke with Business Insider, using one of his usual catchphrases to describe how he feels about the entrepreneur.

“The second Maneesh made his refusal he was dead to me. Regardless of his opinions about me, I have absolutely no time for anyone who lets their emotions get in the way of their money, which is exactly what Maneesh did.”

Reruns of Shark Tank air on ABC and CNBC.

[Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

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