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Naomi Simson on the “big no no” when pitching your idea

Emma Koehn /

Red Balloon founder and Shark Tank judge Naomi Simson has seen plenty of pitches both in and out of the tank, but as entrepreneurs get more sophisticated in their approach to selling their ideas, there’s one thing that sets alarm bells ringing.

If they only come on [Shark Tank] to get the PR without any intention of getting an investment – we can call it and we can smell it,” Simson tells StartupSmart

If you’re approaching investors for money, you’d best be sincere about the potential funds and where you’re going to spend it, and Simson says the best pitches don’t take that lightly.

“They have to bring us into their world really quickly: They need to make sure they can talk on behalf of their customers or suppliers.” 

While many entrepreneurs on this season of Shark Tank were ready to show in a concrete way how their business ideas were scalable, this season revealed assumptions were often made about investors before getting to know them.

Another big no-no is about assum[ing] what we’ll invest in. People would assume [on Shark Tank] if a food comes on, it’s for [Boost Juice founder] Janine Allis. Well it isn’t always,” Simson says, reflecting that both entrepreneurs and the audience can pigeon-hole the sharks instead of keeping an open mind about what they’d be interested in. 

There were some circumstances where people come in and wanted a particular shark, and it was like, ‘hello, what’s wrong with me…do I smell?’ They’re far more educated on what they want and who they want it from.”

Three seasons in, it’s clear the sharks each have different approaches to investing and different views on the business world, but Simson says there’s a lot to be learned from that very fact.

We’re like siblings, we have a great deal of respect for each other – we all have very different backgrounds. And like siblings, we’ll fight. We can pick on each other…we have a very special relationship.” 

Sibling rivalries will spill onto the screen this season, but Simson says this is because the sharks engage in discussions about their differing points of view, which is a good thing.

“Steve [Baxter] and I get out the fisticuffs regularly, but we see the world differently. For example, he believes any tech company needs a tech founder, and I just don’t,” she says.

He has his way and I have my way, and at every given point we all squabble.” 

Part of the fun of the dynamic between the sharks is learning from each other and getting a fresh perspective on how investment can be done, instead of just sticking to one mindset, Simson says.

“Like, I’ve been really surprised sometimes with Andrew [Banks], he sees things I just don’t see – and that man is Midas. He just makes money.”

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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