Hopeful entrepreneurs were offered the chance of a lifetime Friday — to pitch their business, product or idea to casting directors from the critically acclaimed, business-themed ABC show “Shark Tank.”
San Diego State University students, faculty, staff and alumni came prepared with one-minute pitches, eager to impress casting directors.
“It was so much fun,” Chase Fisher with Blenders Eyewear said. “It was so casual.”
Sixth season twist
“We are currently casting for the sixth season of the show,” said “Shark Tank” casting producer Scott Salyers. “This time we are traveling to colleges.”
The casting crew has selected top universities with strong entrepreneurial programs. In addition to SDSU, Harvard and Ohio State University also received visits from the show’s crew.
The show decided to go to colleges to find entrepreneurs because many startups, such as Facebook, have been created by college students, said Catrina Marsh, casting associate producer of “Shark Tank.”
“We really want to get them while they are young,” Marsh said. “We want to get the next big thing.”
Entrepreneurship at SDSU
The spirit of entrepreneurship can be seen all across SDSU’s campus. Originality and innovation are highly valued qualities that are nourished through resources such as the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and the Zahn Innovation Center.
"The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center is the hub on the SDSU campus for uniting students, faculty and the San Diego community in entrepreneurial activity,” said Alissa Thompson, a marketing specialist for the center.
“We develop and execute programs that connect students from all colleges across the campus providing them hands on entrepreneurial experiences. We give them the opportunity to be mentored by local entrepreneurs, visit local San Diego start-ups and provide them the skills necessary to start their own company in the ever evolving global marketplace.”
The perfect pitch
It may sound simple, but Salyers said the key to getting a bite from the Sharks is to “know your stuff.”
Many times, the most successful contestants are the ones who come prepared. Having a patent or prototype is helpful, but being realistic about how much funding one needs for their product is crucial.
“We’re not just looking for great products, we also want a great personality,” Marsh said.
“Shark Tank” success in San Diego
"SDSU Alumni have had significant success on “Shark Tank.” Tower Paddle Boards owned by Stephan Aarstol, SDSU alum, was funded on the show by Mark Cuban. With the investment, support and mentorship from Cuban, Tower Paddle Boards has been able to launch themselves into the market as a strong competitor."
Aarstol, a San Diego based entrepreneur received a rare offer from “Shark Tank” in 2011. He got a phone call from the show, recruiting him to pitch his product to the investors.
After receiving national coverage on the show and endorsements from Cuban, Tower Paddle Board’s sales skyrocketed. The company now sells their boards on Amazon.com.
Success stories like Aarstol’s exist all around the country thanks to the opportunity and publicity the show provides.
About “Shark Tank”
The Emmy-nominated show features the "Sharks" — tough, self-made, millionaire/billionaires who give budding entrepreneurs a chance to make their dreams come true and become successful — and aspiring entrepreneurs with business ideas.
They are: billionaire Mark Cuban, owner and chairman of AXS TV and outspoken owner of the 2011 NBA championship Dallas Mavericks; real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran; "Queen of QVC" Lori Greiner; technology innovator Robert Herjavec; fashion and branding expert Daymond John; and venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary.
The season premiere is set for September, official day and time are to be determined, keep an eye out to see if any of the SDSU contestants made the cut.