Yup, you heard right. That was a voicemail that I received from Catrina who does casting for Shark Tank! As you might have guessed, I was shocked to hear back. I auditioned in DC six months prior, and since I didn’t hear back from them I thought they had no interest in my idea.
As you can imagine, there are thousands of people who apply to Shark Tank every season. So, how did I manage to get call back out of all those people? Once I was in front of the casting person I had 60 seconds to make myself memorable, and that I did. Therein lies the question…how do you make yourself standout from thousands of people? I’m going to share five steps that will increase your chances of getting a call back from Shark Tank. Let’s get to it!
1. Brainstorm a Great Idea or Refine Your Existing One
Coming up with a good idea can be difficult. It’s up to you to develop and idea that solves a problem. Ask yourself, how is this going to improve people’s lives? From there, you need to do some investigating as to how people are currently solving that problem today, and what differentiates your product or service.
In my case, my idea was for a mobile application that allows students to outsource errands and tasks, and post items for sale. The problem I was solving was the lack of income and time college students have. There were similar platforms out there, but none had successfully penetrated the college market. My product’s unique selling proposition was that it was mobile based.Once you come up with your brilliant idea, it’s time to validate it. There are several ways you can do that. For the sake of being brief, I’ll share two.
2. Validate Your Idea
Idea validation will save you a lot of time, effort and money. My method of choice at the time was business plan competitions. Entering business plan competitions is one of the best ways to validate an idea. You receive immediate and honest feedback when you present in front of the judges. They bombard you with pressing questions and pick apart your concept to the bone. Once it’s all said and done, you’re left with a bucket of feedback on your business. One time, the feedback I received completely changed my idea. I took the judges suggestion and shifted my idea from being web based to mobile based.
Won $10,000 for my idea:
A quicker less daunting way to validate your idea is to share it with your network. It’s easy for your friends and family to say your idea is good, but it doesn’t mean anything until they actually pick up their wallets and buy your product or service.
For instance, I came up with an idea for an ebook. When I shared it on my networks and told my friends about it they thought it was a great idea. I got tons of likes but that only resulted in seven sales. Oddly enough, I had several friends share it on their social networks and comment on my post saying that they can’t wait to purchase it. The thing is, why didn’t they just buy it right then?
Anyways, I successfully tested my idea. However, it made me realize that it’s harder to get sales than I expected and that I need to reach the right target audience. I had less than a 2% conversion rate which is not good. I took pre orders so I could gage interest before investing the time in crafting the book. I created a simple sales page and the lack of preorders showed that I should reconsider pursuing the idea.
Validate your idea before you take it to the casting team. Chances are if your network and your target audience do not think it is valuable or compelling enough,the judges probably won’t either.
Also, it will increase your chances of getting a call back because you now have traction in your business. If you have already made a few sales or received funding, that will grab their attention.
3. Get an MVP or mockup
The judges want to see something tangible. It’s easier to sell the dream if they can actually see it. For instance, imagine trying to explain an iphone to someone for the first time without showing it to them.
One might say: It is a really amazing phone, you can dial without a keypad, play games, download apps, and use it as a GPS. It’s like having a computer in your pocket.
Ok so that’s not the best description, but bear with me. My point is that it’s completely different if someone is describing an iPhone, then proceeds to pull one out of their pocket for you to touch and play with yourself. They can see the touch screen, download apps, use siri, browse the internet, etc.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you stressing out trying to get your idea 100% developed. I want you to get an MVP (minimal viable product) or mockup. You can even create a Slideshare presentation of your concept, or just do a rough sketch.
My app wasn’t completed at the time, but I had pictures of my logo and mockups of the user interface:
4. Craft An Epic Elevator Pitch
No matter how good an idea is, if not conveyed properly you can miss out on tons of opportunities. This is where you need to be creative. Try watching a few episodes of the show to get your creative juices flowing.
Remember you only have one minute to wow them, and they are seeing hundreds of people per day. During my audition, there were other people presenting at the same time. That was a bit nerve-racking. A man performed a full martial arts routine with his students. The most important thing to do in this type of situation is to have tunnel vision and be confident. When crafting your presentation, brainstorm interesting things about yourself that you can leverage. In my case, I had one differentiating factor. I had previously met and pitched my idea to Mark Cuban while I was in college. I decided to paint the scenario that I wanted to make a comeback since the last time he did not invest in my idea. I then proceeded to tell the judge that I am specifically coming back for Mark. See what I did there? I made a connection, and gave them a storyline they could run with (at the end of the day, it’s a television show). Then I gave my pitch.
Video of me pitching to Mark Cuban:
I recommend that you audition in person. You will have a better chance of being accepted to the show if you apply during an open call. You can find out when they are having open calls by checking here: casting website.
Bonus: Keep in mind that it’s not difficult to find the casting directors for the show, do some research and get on their radars.
*** Next Steps ***
Go ahead and apply! Nothing ventured, nothing gained right?