Shark Tank: 14 Behind The Scenes Secrets


Shark Tank is an American reality series that works two different angles — it’s thought provoking and business oriented, but also driven as a form of primetime entertainment for viewers. Marketed as a launching pad for new businesses and American start-ups, similar to the Canadian version Dragon’s Den which originated from Japan, Shark Tank features hugely successful investors like Kevin O’Leary, Robert Herjavec, Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran who sit on a panel to hear business pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs. The panel of “Sharks” decide whether or not they want to invest in these new ventures. Shark Tank is now onto its eighth season on ABC and while it had a slow start gaining popularity, it’s now won four Primetime Emmy Awards and has become one of the most watched Friday night programs! Here’s a look at 14 behind the scenes secrets from the series Shark Tank!

14. A Typical Pitch Lasts an Hour

The viewers only get to see a small portion of what actually goes on. The production team behind the scenes will edit the footage so that each pitch is only 10 minutes, but in reality they average about an hour each. This is why the Sharks sometimes look uncomfortable or are eager to get engaged. Michael Tseng from season 4 holds the record for the longest pitch at 2 and half hours in the Tank. According to O’Leary his pitch took so long because “the guy was an idiot — he just couldn’t make a decision. The Sharks were interested, but getting him to do a deal was a huge problem,” he said. If a deal takes a long time it’s typically because a contestant doesn’t know their financial numbers or their pitch wasn’t thorough so the Sharks have to ask a lot of questions. Investors don’t get any background information on the entrepreneurs or their product so they must give a full presentation. This way the Sharks and the viewers can get a good understanding of who they are and what their company is all about. The editing process is very simple. Editors will basically only use what they call “sexy” footage of both the Sharks and the entrepreneurs which would be anything that provides valuable information.


13. Filming Happens in Marathon Sessions

Each season is on average about 29 episodes, but the filming for that one season happens in two marathon stretches. An entire season can be shot in about 17 days! Shooting will happen for about a week and a half in the early summer, then again in the early fall. During this time the investors will see about six to eight pitches a day, all about an average of an hour each, so their day can be up to 12 hours. Filming must take place on back to back days because a lot of the contestants fly in from all over the country. Not only this but the day starts early. Kevin O’Leary said he wakes up at about 5 a.m., gets to the set at about 6:15 a.m. He has to do make-up for about an hour and then taping starts at 8 a.m.

©ABC / courtesy Everett Collection

12. 30 Second Stare Down

Founder of Villy Custom, Fleetwood Hicks, wrote about his experience on season 3 of Shark Tank in a 2012 blog post. He said the most nerve-wracking part was the first 30 seconds. When it’s time to go in and give their pitch, the entrepreneurs will walk down a corridor and into the Tank to stop and stand on an “X” marked spot on the floor. They are required to stand there silently in front of the Sharks for about 30 seconds so that the camera crew can gather an ideal shot of the entrepreneurs and Sharks smiling back at each other. He referred to this as a “stare down.” The footage is edited into a scene that is only a few seconds long and used to create the beginning of a new segment.


11. There Are No Breaks

As previously mentioned, the pitches are about an hour long and are shot without interruption so things move along more quickly. However, this creates a very long day for the Sharks and contestants. No one is allowed to leave the room. The only time a contestant can leave the room is if they are going off to discuss with their partner about whether or not to take a deal. No breaks means long miserable days for the Sharks. Robert Herjavic said the entrepreneurs have to work really hard to excite them and get their attention because most of the time they are cold, hungry and miserable.

Screenshot from ABC’s “Shark Tank”

10. Many Pitches Don’t Make it

Shark Tank is one of the best opportunities an entrepreneur can get because, even if they don’t get a deal in the end, they are receiving a huge boost in advertisement as the show reaches an average of about 7.5 million viewers. Since the show has become so popular it’s incredibly hard to not only get on the show, but make it onto the televised episode. When someone is offered the chance to come on the show they aren’t guaranteed any air time. Mark Cuban, one of the Sharks on the show, told CNN that only 20% of pitches actually make it on air. The decision about who gets cut is up to the producers. Obviously entertainment is one of the reasons the show exists so the more drama, the better! When contestants are picked they are forced to sign a confidentiality agreement and every email between them and the production team includes a note at the bottom that states at any point they could chose not to film your segment or decide not to broadcast it after it has been filmed.

©ABC / courtesy Everett Collection

9. There’s a Psychiatrist On Set

There’s no denying that being a contestant on Shark Tank can be extremely stressful and contestants are under a lot of pressure! Everybody reacts differently which is why there’s a psychiatrist on set who talks to contestants before they go out and when they come back from making their pitch. “People can get very upset when the outcome is not what they anticipated,” said O’Leary in an interview with CNBC. Former contestants from the show, Drew Mitchell and Mike Doyle, told Business Insider in an interview that the psychiatrist’s job is basically to make sure they are feeling well. It’s most likely a legal assurance. “I think…they’re trying to assess that you don’t have any post ‘Tank’ trauma,” said Mitchell. Another former contestant named Desiree Stolar told the Boston Globe she had to wait on set for two hours before going in front of the Sharks and it was terrifying: “my hands were shaking. You walk down and stop at your place in front of the Sharks. There’s this huge camera. It’s the culmination of months of work. Even though we’d done a lot of practicing, you still don’t know what mood they’re going to be in.”


8. The Show Isn’t Staged

While the Sharks do have earpieces in their ears and a direct line of communication with the producers, the show is by no means staged. There is no information given ahead of time to either the Sharks or contestants about what to do, what to say or what’s coming up. The earpieces are rather just to help produce a quality show and to occasionally ask the Sharks to probe the contestants with specific questions when things aren’t being presented clearly. This is for the benefit of the audience. The Sharks are putting a lot of money on the line and at the end of the day, it’s their money, not the producers so they won’t do anything they don’t want to. This also means that there’s a lot of chaos when it comes time for the Sharks to ask questions. They are all talking over one another, firing off questions and comments. “There’s no stopping. If you mess up, you have to keep going. You have all these very dominant personalities going after you, talking over themselves. It’s sensory overload,” said Aaron Marino who previously appeared on season 4.


7. It’s Extremely Hard to Get on the Show

According to the Boston Globe, Shark Tank receives about 100,000 applications each season and very few make the cut. In 2012, Tracey Noonan applied and said there were only about 35,000 other applicants, but today it’s surpassed 100,000. “They take 120, and anywhere between 80 and 100 of the pitches air per season,” she said. Stolar said getting on the show was harder for her than it was to get into Harvard Business School! Basically, it’s next to impossible. Some applications are submitted through the show’s website while others appear at casting calls to audition in front of casting agents.

Keri Wiginton / Blue Sky

6. Deals Don’t Go Through

The goal of the show is to land a deal with one of the Sharks, but just because a deal is made on air doesn’t mean it’s followed through. In the episode, a Shark only gives a handshake or a hug to seal the deal which means there’s no actual obligation on their part to fulfill this promise. When the shooting wraps up it’s up to the Shark and their team to do the due diligence of ensuring that what they saw in the entrepreneurs presentation was the truth, that their claims were substantial and there was no deception. Sometimes the numbers don’t check out and so they are forced to back out. Even if everything checks out, sometimes the entrepreneurs are the ones who back out. For example, on air the founders of EvREwares agreed to let Mark Cuban buy 100% of their company, but later off-camera they declined. “A lot of people come on and change their mind. I would say 90 percent of the time it’s the entrepreneur [who backs out],” said Herjavec. The number of closing deals has increased since season 1 and is now up to about 80% as of season 7. This can be credited to the fact that they are getting candidates of a much better caliber now that the show has been around longer.


5. Recruiting Contestants

According to O’Leary who has served on Shark Tank as an investor since season 1, the producers of the show have become really good at recruiting start-up companies to appear on the show. “They’ve almost become venture capitalists. They’re so good at determining what will work on ‘Shark Tank‘ and what won’t,” he said. Their processes includes scouring online websites like Kickstarter, reading business sections of local newspapers, going to trade expos and hosting casting calls all in the hopes of finding a young company with intriguing minds behind the business that will make for great television. For example, xCraft business partners JD Claridge and Charles Manning were recruited for the show and their pitch ended up getting them a $1.5 million deal with all five of the Sharks.


4. Contestants With Bad Intentions

The term “Shark Tank gold diggers” was coined to describe contestants who come on the show just for the free adverting. Whether these contestants were recruited or applied, for them it’s all about getting that 10-minute commercial. It’s a proven fact that entrepreneurs see a spike in sales after an episode airs, even if they leave without making a deal, so this attracts a lot of people who aren’t necessarily looking to strike a deal. Robert Herjavec said now that the show is onto the eighth season. They’ve gotten pretty good a spotting who these people are and turning them down right away. The perfect example of this was Singtrix founders Erik Berkowitz and John Devecka who inadvertently admitted on Twitter that they used the show for their own publicity. They went onto the show looking for $1.5 million for 5 percent equity which is a high price to ask for little in return. Sharks don’t want to give up lots of money for a small return, so they started offering up more equal valuations, but Berkowitz and Devecka were clearly not interested in negotiating. Finally, O’Leary said, “You are the classic, ‘You’re dead to me.’ You gotta go.” The Sharks don’t like wasting their time or an entire segment on entrepreneurs who clearly aren’t there with a deal in mind.


3. Mark Cuban Threatened to Leave the Show

When Shark Tank first started there was a contract clause that required all the entrepreneurs to give the show’s production company, Finmaxx, either 2 percent of operating profits or 5 percent equity. That’s a lot to ask from small start-ups who aren’t even guaranteed a deal! When Mark Cuba joined the show as one of the paneled Sharks, he worked hard to have this requirement removed. He had been a cast member for about a year when he approached the producers in 2013 and said he would quit the show if they didn’t remove this clause. According to Business Insider, “he believed that it was discouraging talented entrepreneurs from appearing on the show and had a predatory nature to it.” The only reason the producers were so willing to budge was because Cuban had become a fan favorite on the show and they couldn’t risk losing him.

Source: ABC Sony Pictures

2. Sharks are 100% Involved in Their Deals

Even though there are many times when deals made on camera don’t go through, there are also times when they do and, when a Shark commits to a investment, they are 100 percent involved. Some of the best Shark Tank investments have gone on to make millions of dollars in profit, so there’s a lot on the line! Each Shark has a team that works with them behind the scenes to help manage all of their investments and will stay in regular contact with the entrepreneurs in the time following the show. Lori Greiner has said that she works outside of her management team and actually makes herself personally available to all of the entrepreneurs that she has invested in. Founder of Scrub Daddy, Aaron Krause, told Business Insider that he has been able to reach Greiner via phone and email at any time for insight on how to run his company. Fellow Daymond John has said he’s completely invested in the show and he spends about 12 hours a week working on the deals he’s made.

©ABC / courtesy Everett Collection

1. Being on the Show can Spark Competition

According to Eric Bandholz, founder of Beardbrand (a line of facial hair products), appearing on the show can give a company a much needed boost in sales and some free advertising, but can also work against them. When their competitors see them featured on the show it will cause them to work harder, making the market more competitive. “Competitors will see that and start advertising more. They’ll buy ads on the show for competing products,” he said.

Katherine G

Katherine G

Katherine is the Managing Editor for Health and Parenting, but she has a soft spot for entertainment. She loves binging shows on Netflix, reality TV is a guilty pleasure, and country music is her go-to playlist. When she's not writing, she's spending time outdoors, especially with her puppy Zoey!