Vinny Lingham bites… again
This week in M-Net and Telkom SA’s Shark Tank South Africa, the sparks flew as some over-confident business owners stepped into the tank with some strong opinions aimed at the panel of skeptical Sharks. For one company however, the enthusiasm for their brand did not cross the line between confident and arrogant, and as such, tech guru Vinny Lingham took the plunge and struck the only deal of the episode – and a sweet one at that.
Capetonian Anton Fester, accompanied by one of his employees, James Peters, entered the tank with their unique ice cream selling business called “Ice Cream Ninjas”. The “Ninjas” have a unique way of selling their ice cream by using skilful demonstration styles to engage with their customers and create unique flavour combinations that will never leave their clientele bored or dissatisfied. They mainly take their demo-style ice cream gigs to events around the country, and this part of their business has been very successful over the past three years. Anton came into the tank hoping to obtain capital from a Shark in order to open his own line of kiosks in shopping centres around South Africa.
Most of the Sharks had some serious reservations, however. Gil, Romeo, Dawn and Marnus were all unanimous in their opinion that this new business direction of Anton’s was simply not scalable. Accountant Marnus, who has been involved with a big frozen yoghurt chain recently, pointed out that there are simply too many competitors coming into the retail space that Anton was looking to conquer too. All four of these Sharks declared themselves out, but Vinny Lingham – who’d remained quiet until then – finally chipped in. “So, where the other Sharks don’t like risk, I do like a little bit of risk,” he told Anton. “With good risk comes good rewards, so I want to give you a chance. I will give you the money to roll the kiosks out slowly and steadily and together we will follow the processes that will make this business scalable.” Surprised but still on his game, Anton tried to give Vinny a counter-offer but Shark Marnus warned him that Vinny’s deal was an excellent one that he shouldn’t hesitate to take. With that, the deal was swiftly settled.
Other entrepreneurs were not as lucky as Anton. When Dave Pons, who was Durban’s Chamber of Commerce “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2014 entered the tank, there were high hopes for him and his invention called “Ceiling in a Can”. Dave has developed a mix of polymers which, when blended together, dry into a board that acts as insulation that can be installed easily into any ceiling. His product is cost effective, fire retardant and waterproof and, as he pointed out to the interested Sharks, a much-needed product for low cost housing in South Africa.
Clearly very interested, Marnus asked Dave about his business case. “The plan is to grow this business within three years and then to sell it. The idea is to create employment for contractors to buy the product and use it themselves,” Dave explained. Tech guru Vinny immediately shot back at Dave: “I really like the product and the idea, but I’m annoyed by entrepreneurs who come in with a short-term view of what they’re doing. I like to invest in people with long-term views. I’m out.”
Marnus also felt that the investors would have to put in much more than just their money in order to get the product off the ground and get a return on their investment, at which point Dave accused Marnus of being greedy, and only being interested in the money. As tensions rose between them, with Marnus firmly telling Dave to rein is attitude in, the rest of the Sharks declared themselves out one by one. Businessman Romeo, who really liked Dave’s invention, told him: “There are parts of your pitch that I buy into, and I buy into your product. But I don’t buy into you. So I’m out.” Marketing expert Gil Oved concurred with Romeo. “I want to support you and your product. I like your nuttiness and inventive spirit, but I’m very concerned about your demeanour. I’m afraid that we’ll get into fist fights and I want to work with people that won’t cause that kind of friction. You’ve hit your ceiling with me. I’m out.”
Another entrepreneur who fell short of nabbing a deal tonight was microbiologist Barend Carven, who came to the Sharks looking for an investment in his app called “Timewise Parent Control”. His product is a tool that assists parents to teach their kids a responsible usage limit on their devices. It consists of two separate apps: one for the parent and one for the child, whereby the parent can remotely control how much time their child spends on their devices. Unfortunately, Barend also required too much secondary support such as marketing and tech expertise in order to get the business running effectively. As Romeo, who has already invested in one app this season with fellow Shark Vinny said: “I recently went to a talk at my son’s school about this, and I think that there is a big need for this type of product. I want to support you and I want to make you an offer but I can’t see how we’re going to monetise this business.” Tech specialist Vinny also had reservations because Barend did not have a technological co-founder in the business. With that, all of the Sharks declined to invest.
Lastly, a father and daughter team with an idea designed to hook a hungry Shark came to the investors with their invention called the “Groove Knitting Needle.” Jeff and Samantha Neiman had invented a knitting needle with a catchment zone groove that has been patented so that knitters never drop a stitch again. Their pitch showed much promise as they revealed that they currently have a signed contract with the biggest knitting needle manufacturer in the world. The “Groove Knitting Needle” was still a prototype, however, and their business has yet to be started. Marnus summed it up by telling them: “All of your projections for this business are simply guess work. You have no guarantees or commitments from your distributor at this stage.” All five Sharks felt that it was simply too high of a risk to invest at this early stage, and declared themselves out.
To find out more about the businesses that have been featured on the series so far, especially if you’re interested in supporting them with an order or purchase, go to www.mnet.tv/sharktank or follow the conversation about the show on Twitter @MNetSharkTank with the hashtag #SharkTankSA.
Shark Tank SA, sponsored by Telkom SA, is screened on Sundays between 18:00 and 19:00 on M-Net 101. This corresponds with the timeslot on a Sunday when all DStv customers can get a taste of what’s available on M-Net 101, so if you’re not a DStv Premium customer, you can also go to channel 101 to watch Shark Tank SA. The series will also be available on DStv Catch Up and streamed live on DStv Now.