The Shark Tank team: Steve Baxter, Janine Allis, Andrew Banks, Naomi Simson and John McGrath
Take five self-made millionaires and put dozens of aspiring entrepreneurs in front of them to pitch ideas.
That’s the premise for the reality television show Shark Tank which premieres in Australia on Sunday, February 8.
The show is based on an American concept and it stars entrepreneurs Naomi Simson (Red Balloon), Steve Baxter (“internet pioneer”), Janine Allis (Boost Juice), Andrew Banks (Talent2), and John McGrath (McGrath Estate Agents) as Australia’s “sharks”.
The idea is that the sharks judge the business concepts and products pitched by ordinary Australians and then decide whether to invest their own money to help market and mentor them
In exchange for equity in their existing business, the aspiring entrepreneurs must convince a shark their idea is original and the product worth pursuing.
Simson told SmartCompany she decided to appear on the reality show because she thinks there needs to be more female role models.
In assessing the fledgling entrepreneurs, she says her key concern is whether she could work with the person.
“You look at what is the potential of the idea, what’s the market, the fundamentals of the business; but also if you could work with them, are they coachable?” she says.
“Do they have the grit and persistence to stick with it? Business is a long hard journey.”
Simson says the major hurdle for many of the entrepreneurs in getting funding for their business outside of the Shark Tank is simply that “some of them never asked”.
“Some of the inventions have been in their garage or shed for so long,” she says.
But Simson says Shark Tank offers more to the entrepreneurs than just funding.
“The other thing is that commercialising a product is very different to inventing it and many of them don’t know what the next step is,” she says.
“I think many people came to Shark Tank not just for the money but for the experience.”
Simson says she is “really excited” about what the reality TV show can do for entrepreneurship and innovation in Australia.
“It may well do for entrepreneurship what MasterChef does for cooking in Australia,” she says.
“We want to see lots more great business get up, we have a deep passion for that.”