Is Shark Tank Good or Bad for Aspiring Entrepreneurs?

I was never really a huge fan of Shark Tank until a couple of seasons ago when I had a few people recommend I give it another try. I did, I liked it, and since then it’s been one of the few shows I subscribe to on my DVR.

The REWORK podcast recently did an episode entitled Life After Shark Tank that explored three companies who did not have great experiences on the show. In doing so, they discussed a lot of the pros and cons that all of the business owners who appear on the show have to face, many of which aren’t obvious if you’re just a fan of the show.

And that sort of brought me full circle and rekindled some of my initial thoughts on the show. I enjoy it because it’s good entertainment and it can be inspiring, but also there are practical things that can be gained. I often put myself in the entrepreneur’s shoes to think how I would react to a line of questioning, or how I would succinctly pitch an idea. They also emphasize knowing your numbers inside and out, as well as the importance of revenue and profitability. All good lessons.

But, they’re still a TV show. What you see is a heavily-edited five minute segment of an hour long meeting. Deals agreed to on the show often fall through. Companies don’t know when or if their segment will air, so they are perpetually stuck being ready for a potentially big wave of traffic and attention that may never come. And, I think the worst aspect of it, is that it promotes the idea that you need outside funding to go big, or that once you get funded you’ve made it and all your problems disappear.

I think those misconceptions can be dangerous for aspiring entrepreneurs, causing them to give up when they shouldn’t, or not appreciate a successful business because it wasn’t accepted on Shark Tank.

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