Making a Splash on Shark Tank

SHARK TANK -

Mike Kannely and BYU student Matt Alexander pitch their product on a recent episode of Shark Tank.

“What’s going on in Provo?”

Mark Cuban, a member of the tribunal of investors on ABC’s hit reality series Shark Tank, spouted this question when yet another Utah-based entrepreneur arrived to bait the sharks: BYU grad Garret Gee, founder of Scan.

BYU student and alumni entrepreneurs are frequent guests on Shark Tank, pitching their businesses for the chance to score investments, new partners, needed connections, or simply great exposure.

The following students and alums swam with the sharks—and made quite the splash.

  1. SubZero Ice Cream (season 4, 2013): SubZero combines flavor and science to build the perfect ice cream. Founded by Jerry Hancock, a BYU chemistry grad, and his wife, Naomi, the company sells customized ice cream that’s frozen on the spot with liquid nitrogen—eliminating the need for freezer space. The creamy creations pleased the shark’s palates, but the sharks didn’t bite; the investors weren’t interested in franchising and agreed that the Hancocks were handling business well enough without a partner. The exposure, however, contributed to sky-rocketing sales, and SubZero is now one of the fastest growing ice-cream franchises.
  1. FiberFix (season 5, 2013): Inspired by medical casting tape, FiberFix is one hundred times stronger than duct tape and fixes anything from leaky pipes to broken bikes. The tape was created in 2012 by BYU students Chris Quinn, Spencer Quinn, and Derek Rowley—on Shark Tank they sealed the deal with Lori Greiner for $120,000 for 12 percent of the company. Greiner’s connections nabbed the product a spot on QVC, where it sold out in minutes. FiberFix now retails in hardware stores throughout the world.
  1. Scan (Season 5, 2013): Garrett Gee developed his mobile QR-code reader in 2011 while a student. In its first three months Scan reached 1 million downloads, ending year two with 25 million downloads. In the tank, Gee requested $1 million for 5 percent of his company—shark Robert Herjavec quipped, “I’ve never had somebody ask for a million dollars in flip flops”—but Gee walked away without a deal. The exposure was prize enough: after the episode aired, SCAN landed at the top of the Apple App Store and, a year later, was acquired by Snapchat for $54 million.
  1. Cerebral Success (season 5, 2014): Trevor Hiltbrand developed brain-booster supplement Cerebral Success while he was a student at the Marriott School. Initially the sharks attacked, tearing apart Hiltbrand’s product and plan—until Barbara Cocoran stepped in. Seeing potential in the young entrepreneur, she offered $75 thousand for a 40 percent stake in the company. The product continues to sell online and recently scored shelf space at GNC.
  1. Lockerbones (season 5, 2014): When business management alum Greg Cronin wanted to help his daughter organize her locker, Lockerbones—a customizable wooden shelf storage system for school lockers—was born. And the sharks bit. After some negotiations, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec together offered $175,000 for 50 percent of the business. While the episode aired, the product’s website logged nearly one million hits. Lockerbones retails at Staples.
  1. PhoneSoap (season 6, 2015): When BYU roommates and cousins Dan Barnes and Wesley LaPorte learned that cellphones have eighteen times more bacteria than a public restroom, they created a device that uses pure UV light to kill all bacteria growing on phones while they charge. After heated negotiations, the PhoneSoap team left the tank with their original proposition intact: a $300,000 investment (from Lori Greiner) in exchange for 10 percent. They now sell directly to consumers and to the healthcare industry.
  1. IllumiBowl (season 7, 2016): A color-changing nightlight for your toilet, IllumniBowl was developed by Marriott School student Matt Alexander with his brother-in-law Michael Kannely to add safety, illumination, better aim—and a bit of pizazz—to midnight bathroom trips (“marriages will be saved,” promises their website). After raising nearly $10,000 on Kickstarter, the IllumniBowl team faced the sharks, picking up a partnership with Kevin O’Leary, who offered $100,000 for 25 percent. When the deal was made, O’Leary pumped a fist in the air: “I’m going to light America’s toilets up!”

Are you a budding BYU entrepreneur? Stop by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology for help finding mentors, cofounders, funding, training, and more.