Business Advice, Startup News & Analysis

Shark Tank’s Janine Allis on what to do when an investor tells you “your baby is ugly”

Emma Koehn /

If there’s one thing that three seasons of Shark Tank has taught Boost Juice founder Janine Allis, it’s that a good business idea is rarely enough to pique her interest as an investor.

“It’s a hard one — sometimes, you see the best product on the planet, but then you look at the person whose behind it and you go, phwoar,” she says. 

On the flip side, good execution of a product that may not be revolutionary, but does fill a customer’s need, excites her.

“If the product isn’t something you think is amazing but the person is great, then you can think about that. A product does not have to be necessarily new [to succeed],” she says. 

While she always has an eye out for the personality of the entrepreneur, Allis said she landed in the tank for season three of Shark Tank with few other preconceptions about what was going to make her offer a deal.

“I think I came in with an open mind this year, I didn’t have an expectation that it would go one way or the other,” she says.

Allis is tight-lipped on where she’s put her dollars this time round, but says viewers will certainly be surprised at the size of the deals on offer.

“Maybe our ongoing relationships might surprise people,” Allis says, suggesting viewers will see the sharks regularly team up to invest this year.

After three seasons together, Allis says the sharks, including RedBalloon founding director Naomi Simson, The Veneto Group’s Andrew Banks, Greencross founder Dr Glen Richards and tech entrepreneur Steve Baxter, are now “a lot more respectful in fights” with each other.

“I think genuinely we like each other, and we feel very comfortable and we know that whatever is said is never insulting,”Allis says. 

Allis says entrepreneurs have become savvier in their pitches this season and several have tried to anticipate what the investors want, but there’s still a lot to be learned about what you do when an investor tells you “your baby is ugly” the third time round.

“Sometimes people have put their heart and soul into it, and it’s difficult. And we’re not always right, so you might go, ‘bugger it, I’ll prove her wrong’, and you know, you really might,” she says.

However, if the sharks point out a potential flaw in your business plan, a more constructive option tends to be to take the hit and listen to them, Allis believes, because while there might be criticisms to make, maybe these don’t mean the entire idea is a flop.

The other thing you can do is go, “Okay, let’s listen to them. What is Janine saying about what’s wrong with my business?””  

And when the entrepreneurs step off the set and into the real world, Allis says they’ll be faced with phenomenal competition given the size of Australia.

I think our best asset is our competition — we have a very high bar in Australia. You have a small country that’s highly competitive, so it’s all about what you have to do to [excel] in this market,” she says. 

When viewers finally get to see which deals Allis decides to ink in season three, there’ll be one common theme that gets the businesses across the line.

“I like businesses that I look at and say, ‘I can get into this and take it to the sky’. And really, if it’s something that I’m curious about,” she says. 

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is a former senior SmartCompany journalist.

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