We’ve seen hundreds of entrepreneurs walk through the doors at Shark Tank to meet the Sharks (a.k.a. the investors) and pitch their product ideas. Some ideas the Sharks love, some they hate. In February of 2017, Bitsbox (Boomtown fall 2014 cohort), made it onto the show.
Bitsbox is a monthly subscription service that teaches children to code. First, a spoiler alert, they didn’t accept funding from any of the Sharks.
We had time to sit down with Bitsbox co-founder Aidan Chopra to go behind the scenes at Shark Tank, find out what it takes to get on the show and we asked the big question – would the team do it again?
Boomtown (BT): Tell us how this SharkTank opportunity happened.
Aidan Chopra: People were telling us Bitsbox was ripe for Shark Tank. We had a consumer product and we were ex-Googler dads who quit our jobs to make the world a better place. So in April of 2016 we heard there was an open call in New York. We were going to be there anyway for an event, so we thought why not try.
BT: What was the audition process like?
AC: They handed out wristbands so you didn’t have to sit around all day. When it was close to your time you were in an area with other people wearing t-shirts like me to someone wearing unicorn costumes, it ran the gambit.
Then they called me up. The producers were just sitting at tables. The person we spoke with asked us some questions. She was impressed with our revenue. They seemed to really want to see traction. Then they contacted us about two weeks later and asked us to submit a 5-10 minute video.
BT: Was the video a big project?
AC: Shark Tank told us not to spend a lot of of money on the video so we decided to shoot it on my iPhone. We spent one to two days storyboarding, then we ran around Boulder for another two to three days getting the shots we needed then we paid a professional editor a few hundred dollars to edit the video, which was done in a day.
We didn’t hear anything for a few weeks, but then we were notified we were moving on in the process. We had to sign a contract and were assigned a pair of Shark Tank producers. It’s their job to get you on the show. Our producer had a good success rate. By August we were told to plan on being on the show, but at the same time, not to get our hopes up.
BT: Once that happened, when did you tape your segment?
AC: We got travel dates about three weeks out and taped in September. There was a last-minute live audition we didn’t know about and we saw people leaving the set before they ever went to tape.
We were given some notes which included being told we needed more energy. Five minutes before we walked through the doors on the set, we got some information that make us rethink our numbers. It threw us for a loop which is why you saw us holding a piece of paper. We weren’t allowed to have a calculator on set with us. They didn’t show the entire offer, it was complicated. We were told in advance not to accept an offer if we didn’t think we would be able to close the deal after the show. So we didn’t take the deal.
BT: Did anything else happen in this process you didn’t expect?
AC: With our product, we make big use of stock imagery. It’s licensed for the way we use it in our product, but it probably didn’t allow for broadcast on TV so we had to spend a week making a dummy set of our product for the show.
BT: When did you find out your episode would actually be on the air?
AC: About three weeks before. So we contacted other contestants to find out how to prepare, for example, we wanted to know how much web traffic we should expect. Some said we would get 50,000 visitors others said a million and a half. We shut everything down and made a battle plan to prepare for the Shark Tank episode.
BT: Once the show aired, how did business go for you?
AC: We got 50,000 visitors in the first two days, but our conversion rate was higher than we were expecting. Fewer people were coming to the site but a higher percentage were buying. We more than doubled our active subscriber number. We’re still seeing five times our pre-Shark Tank sales volume almost a month after the episode aired. We have a few investor inquiries, but tons of schools and grownups are asking about the product.
BT: Did your Boomtown experience prepare you in any way for Shark Tank?
AC: It taught us to be vulnerable, ask a lot of questions and call upon your community. We were able to bring people in (including our first investor who is not afraid to speak his mind) and do a mock Shark Tank for practice.
Boomtown also taught us the process of honing a pitch. The techniques we learned during our Boomtown experience, we employed for Shark Tank.
And with all of the discussions on investment that happened at Boomtown, that got us ready to take the Sharks’ questions.
BT: Would you do Shark Tank again?
AC: Yes, if they would let us!