by Natalie Miller • @natalieatWIS

IBM-supported entrepreneurs test the waters in the 'Shark Tank' at IBM InterConnect2015

Published February 27, 2015


The Sharks were circling at IBM InterConnect2015 this week in search of the next big investment. During Tuesday’s keynote, a trio of hopefuls took the main stage to pitch their idea to three of the celebrity investors from the prevalent ABC reality show Shark Tank.

A main theme at IBM’s mega cloud and mobile conference in Las Vegas, innovation was on display all week as a critical driver to competitive advantage. The Sharks were invited to hear the pitches of three innovators in IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program—which gives startups access to IBM Cloud offerings, including its Bluemix platform and services and connections into Big Blue’s global network of consultants.

In its 6th season, Shark Tank invites inventors and entrepreneurs to pitch their business to a panel of self-made multi-million and billionaire moguls for a chance to win a deal and take their venture to the next level. On Tuesday, Sharks Barbara Corcoran, Robert Herjavec, and Daymond John took the InterConnect stage eager to meet the three inventors from IBM’s Global Entrepreneur Program and see the innovations first hand.

Unlike the show, the Sharks inside the InterConnect tank were not there to possibly invest their own money, but rather evaluate the business, decide whether or not it’s a sound investment to make, and if they would offer a deal or opt “out” if they were actually on the show. The session audience was also invited to opt “in” or “out” by voting live through texting on their smartphones.

The first entrepreneur into the tank was Nick Nickitas to pitch his online grocery delivery service app Rosie. In a lightening-speed, 1-minute opening pitch, Nickitas, the CEO and Founder of Rosie, explained that with the Rosie app, shoppers can order groceries from their local stores online for delivery or in-store pick up—a platform that not only provides convenience and service for customers, but also levels the playing field and helps local grocers compete with big name stores like Amazon and Walmart.

Sharks share advice for entrepreneurs and innovators>>


“First of all I want to congratulate all the entrepreneurs who had the courage to come up here,” said Robert Herjavec. “You can’t play the game unless you put yourself into a position to win, and that sometimes is half the battle; so I admire that.”

His advice for a solid pitch: “The clarity of your presentation is directly equal to the amount of time. The shorter the time, the clearer the message; KISS IT—keep it simple, stupid.”

Daymond John said the Rosie app pitch stood out among the three for specific reasons. First of all, he said, Nickitas kept it simple, as Robert just suggested. He knew his market and had proof of concept through his existing sales—this gave him the answers he needed to give a solid pitch and adequately answer questions from potential investors. “He starts off with an even playing field and that’s due to just going out and doing it, whether it’s 22 stores or nine,” he said.

Barbara Cocoran said, to add to Robert and Daymond’s sentiments, “you have to look the part ... It’s a very visual thing. People decide not necessarily if they are ‘in’ right away, but I know I decide immediately if I’m ‘out’ based on a visual impression.”

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After fielding questions from the Sharks, Nickitas clarified that Rosie’s differentiator from the dozens of other similar services is its marketing, technology, and data and analytics. Rosie remembers past orders, can suggest products based on those past purchases and what other shoppers with similar purchasing habits like. Unlike other digital grocery tools, Rosie sends the order to the store and its employees prepare the orders and pick all the items, so dissimilar to warehousing, customers are delivered fresh food and groceries.

Shark Robert Herjavec loved Nickitas’ energy on stage and did see advantages in Rosie’s model, but as with all three Sharks, was out. Daymond John was the only Shark that seemed intrigued, saying he was “half-in” and would decide when his gummy bears arrived, and the audience text vote also aligned with the majority of the Sharks.

The second business to present to the Sharks was Andiamo, a service that started two years ago by a UK couple to speed the production of orthotics. Using advanced 3D scanning and printing technologies, Andiamo measures and produces orthotics in record time. Launched with children and families in mind, Andiamo cuts the long wait time, increases service and, additionally, can result in cost savings for health services.

Through the personal story of their son, who was born with a disability that requires him to wear many braces, Naveed and Samiya Parvez told the Sharks how the slow, inaccurate, and distressing process of getting the orthotics has been for their family.

“We didn’t want any other family to go through what we went through, so this is why we created Andiamo—to eradicates this problem globally,” said Samiya Parvez. “We want to reduce the wait time from six months to 48 hours.”

After a tough round of questioning from the Sharks on what they all felt was a confusing pitch—including unfavorable comments from Barbara Corcoran on Naveed’s fedora—the founders of Andiamo were the second entrepreneurs to walk away with no support from the Sharks (all three were out) or the majority of the crowd.

The final entrepreneur was an Israeli startup that created a platform that enables anyone to create their own personalized augmented reality without any programing—bringing a technology primarily used for gaming companies to the masses. Alon Melchner, President and Founder, and Partner and Board Member Nimrod Lev, presented the Waking app to the Sharks. In a precarious live demo, they pitched the platform as a way to easily and quickly create interactive, virtual content—from user manuals to newspaper advertisements and even educational textbooks.

After the pitch, Robert Herjavec said he was unclear of the advantages and confused about exactly how to use the platform. Barbara Corcoran agreed: “I still don’t get it, and I’m listening with both ears.”

Melchner and Lev were unable to bring clarity to their idea, and in the end also earned no’s from the Sharks and the majority of the live audience. Daymond John noted that it’s very difficult to pitch a business in a couple minutes, and shared Robert and Barbara’s confusion. Barbara further commented that their accents were a liability, as it was difficult to understand them, and felt that the complicated pitch left her with no clear demonstration of the need for the product.



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