Flipoutz: The Family Aha Moment That Led to Shark Tank



You’re on a trip. A family trip. And if you’re not a kid anymore, pretend you are one for a few minutes while reading this.

You’re sitting next to your older sister and younger brother, complaining and bickering to your parents about how the car’s too hot or that you’re hungry. The “I’m not touching you… I’m not touching you…” game is played, and it’s an all-around delightful time in the 8’ x 5’ x 4’ box that is your car.

Then Mom turns around and asks a seemingly simple question: “If you could have any toy in the entire world to play with right now [to occupy you enough to make you stop talking], what would it be?”

And so it happened that the Johnson family, in unison and more joyfully than ever, stumbled upon their first aha moment.

The oldest sister wanted self-expression. The middle sister: fashion and something to show off to friends. The youngest, the only boy of the three, something “cool” that he could trade. (For nostalgic value and anyone who remembers, he wanted something cooler than Neopets and Pokémon cards.)

The natural solution to all three: a bracelet and token-like coins, of course.

An uncle in the family, who also doubled as a patent attorney, was pitched the idea and, after a little research, gave them two distinct things:

  1. the go-ahead (that nobody else was doing what they wanted to do), and
  2. their second aha moment.

“That was it,” said the middle sister, Lachlan Johnson, now a freshman at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. “That was all we needed.”

And so they began: first, by ‘coining’ the name Flipoutz, and, before long, making appearances at every convention and trade show that would let under-18 year olds on the exhibition floor.flipoutz2

Their individually decorated coins that fit snuggly inside silicon bracelets could be traded and tracked all around the world, a feature that eventually landed them a Season 2 appearance on the ever-so-popular Shark Tank.

Shortly after Shark Tank, they sold the company, and the Johnson family children joined the ranks of minors who have experienced a feat few adults three and four times their age have.

Full-time college and high school students now, Lachlan and her little brother, Jake, have since started another company, Joxie, which was, of course, spawned from an aha moment of its own. This time it was with bow ties, though, in a brand they’re calling Beaux Up: “What if you could personalize your bow tie – however and whenever you wanted to?”

Though they don’t have a product line out yet, you should be expecting to see it in stores sometime within the next several months. In the meantime you can follow @Flipoutz and visit them online at their online store. And stay tuned for a follow up article detailing Beaux Up’s creative process.

Tyler Sondag is a startup connoisseur with a hand in anything and everything you could imagine. Hailing from the ever-developing Northwest Mississippi, an alum of Saint Louis University and currently a transplant to St. Louis, Missouri, one of his main missions in life is to get and keep young people engaged in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Follow him on Twitter: @MrSondag.

Plated’s Josh Hix Talks About the Shark Tank Effect



When Josh Hix answered my call yesterday, it was easy to feel the fatigue through the phone.

“How are you,” I asked, smiling because I already knew the answer.

“Um,” he answered with a little laugh. “Tired.”

Entrepreneurs around the world know that feeling. It’s that crazy, intense, things-are-going-great-but-oh-my-god kind of fatigue. Plated’s Hix and his cofounder Nick Taranto know that feeling after their episode of Shark Tank aired. The segment ended with Mark Cuban offering the pair $500,000 in exchange for almsot 6% plus advisor shares.

After their episode of Shark Tank aired on Friday night, Hix and Taranto watched the traffic soar. According to Josh, they saw several months worth of traffic come in over the weekend. They also have several thousands of emails unanswered. (So, be patient with them, if you’ve emailed!)

As if the insane growth wasn’t enough, Taranto and his wife are also expecting their first child. They had a baby shower on Saturday, of all days!

Plated already covers about 80% of the country, an impressive feat considering it’s been less than a year since they graduated from Techstars NY. In the couple of days since the show aired, they sold out inventory around the country. Every market saw off the charts growth in both traffic to the site and sales.

The two cofounders filmed the Shark Tank episode in July of 2013, just a month after graduating from Techstars NY. Even before this weekend, they were already experiencing crazy growth.

josh hix

“Our metrics are already 10x what they were on the show,” Hix told me.

And, the growth continues.

The Shark Tank effect has been discussed in various places. Earlier this year, Cycloramic saw 100,000 downloads in the hour after the episode aired.

It’s not just companies that get funded, though. Eyebloc, the protective cover for your webcam, saw a huge bump in sales and funding on his Indiegogo campaign.

Before the episode aired, Hix, Taranto, and the team were gearing up for bump in traffic.

“You know it’s going to be big,” he said. “You just don’t realize how big until it actually happens.”

Everywhere Else Tennessee Speaker Josh Hix Debuts on Shark Tank Tonight

josh hix

Everywhere Else Tennessee is coming up fast! 26 days and counting…

We already have an awesome speaker line up, and after tonight, we can add “TV star” to the list.

Speaker Josh Hix and his cofounder Nick Taranto will pitch their company Plated on ABC’s Shark Tank tonight at 9 PM EST. Go ahead and get ready for all the “will they bite?” comments.

Plated is a gourmet food delivery startup that graduated from Techstars New York last year. The company delivers fresh ingredients for chef-designed meals right to your door. They cover 80% of the US, sourcing local ingredients in each city. You can sign up for a subscription and get a slight discount on each meal shipped, or you can order whenever you want to.

And the meals are truly gourmet, too. Currently, in Nashville, you can order Lemongrass Pork with Vermicelli Noodles, Coffee-Rubbed Steak With Roasted Pepper Panzanella, or Poached Salmon with Red Quinoa, Kale, and Dill Yogurt Sauce.

The ingredients come ready to cook, with spices already measured out and everything.

In January, Plated announced a $5 million Series A led by ffVentures.

So, will the sharks “bite”? (See what I did there?)

With the graduation from Techstars and the recent series A, Plated is obviously a company to watch. Hix and Taranto are Harvard MBA graduates, and with such rapid expansion, they’re doing something right.

But, Shark Tank investors rarely go for typical startups. The sharks seem more interested in what we would consider “lifestyle” businesses. Of course, the show was filmed last year, before the Series A was announced. Plated could’ve looked like a different company at that point.

Regardless of how they walk away from the shark tank, Plated will almost certainly get the same boost in traffic other Shark Tank companies see during their episode.

And, hey, they raised $5 million.

After you watch Josh on TV, make sure you see him speak at Everywhere Else Tennessee, where he’ll talk about the number one thing every entrepreneur must have.


Shark Tank Shark Barbara Corcoran Brings Her Expertise to Skillshare


Yesterday Shark Tank‘s Barbara Corcoran launched a new class on Skillshare called Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship: Pitching Your Business and Yourself. The 8 session class walks students through the basics of entrepreneurship, including a discussion of what makes an entrepreneur great.

The class costs $19, and once you’ve purchased it, you have access to the materials forever.

incontent3“Throughout my many years of running businesses, I have been fortunate to experience success both as an entrepreneur and investor. I’ve learned that some people are well suited to be entrepreneurs, and others aren’t. Unfortunately, in most cases, it takes a lot of time, energy, and money to find out which side of that coin you fall,” Corcoran writes on the course’s landing page.

The class is billed for aspiring entrepreneurs or entrepreneurs who have gotten started and aren’t sure what to do next.

“I created this class on Skillshare to help you determine your worth as an entrepreneur and to help you position your business and concept for success.,” the website continues.

In addition to the materials and discussions, students also complete a final project, a 1 minute pitch video. They submit the video online and receive feedback and votes from other students working through the material. Of the top 20 most upvoted pitches submitted before May 14, Corcoran and her team will pick their favorite.

That entrepreneur will receive a 30 minute mentoring session with Corcoran, as well as her support through social media.

Not too shabby for $19.

Corcoran is, of course, a well-known entrepreneur and investor. Through Shark Tank, she’s invested in 22 companies, including Wild Squirrel Nut Butter.

Recently, Skillshare announced a subscription model for its online learning platform. Students can pay $10/month for access to hundreds of courses. Classes include fields like design, technology, and business. They all incorporate a project at the end, and many involve a prize from the teacher Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship.

Corcoran’s class doesn’t fall under that umbrella, but members do receive a 20% discount. You can enroll here.

Packback Ramps Up Before Shark Tank Debut



Tomorrow Chicago-based Packback will face the sharks of ABC’s Shark Tank, looking for investment in their textbook rental company.

We talked about Packback last summer, after meeting them during Chicago Tech Week. The company–begun when the 3 founders were still in school at Illinois State–allows students to rent textbooks by the day, effectively cutting college costs by thousands of dollars.

incontent3What do the textbook publishers think about this? Because the system is effectively rent-to-own, the publishers are actually recouping revenue from the used textbook market, as all of Packback books are the newest version available.

The company is an active part of the Chicago tech scene. They incubated at 1871 before moving to new offices at Catapult Chicago with their growing team.

So, what does a tiny startup do to gear up for a big TV debut? In their own words:

The urgency of preparing for the episode has drawn our team closer than ever as we’ve taken our 2 month product roadmap and have condensed it into the next three weeks.  We’ve launched our new site with new features as we’re hoping to empower students to make more informed decisions when buying or selling books.  Our free sell tool allows students to compare textbook buy-back prices from popular online retailers to find the best offer and maximize their cashback.  Students use our real-time price comparison engine while buying books to ensure they find the lowest prices across the web, and of course our digital inventory of $3 to $5 digital textbook rentals has been growing every month as we continuously sign on publishers.

The recent 16 hour-straight days at the office have been taxing but it’s been awesome to see what we’ve been able to accomplish.  Our amazing cast of investors have been extremely supportive of our appearance and we’ve recently had the pleasure to have spent a lot of great time with our board of directors Mark Achler and Howard Tullman.

The frenzy is justified. According to some estimates, a spot on the show equals $4-5 million in free marketing. Products and apps on the show see a huge spike in traffic and interest any time their episode airs. It’s common for apps to hit the #1 spot in the app store within moments of their segment ending, especially if the sharks actually like the company.

And products the sharks don’t bite on? Even many of those go on to win big.

Either way, there’s no doubt Packback’s 16-hour days will be well worth it come tomorrow night.

When the Sharks Miss a Shark Tank Success Story



eyebloc shark tank

Online privacy has been a buzzy topic since–oh, June or so. Amid revelations that all of our favorite tech companies have knowingly or unknowingly handed over mounds of our personal information to a government some of us trusted, everyone’s still trying to figure out how to move forward in our uber-connected reality.

It seems like insult to injury to realize that those ubiquitous webcams are powerful spying tools in their own right. Schools are spying on kids. Beauty queens are being blackmailed. And, it turns our, Macs aren’t immune.

With these realities in mind, CJ Isakow created Eyebloc, a small clip that slips over your webcam to protect you from unwanted eyes. (Which is probably more convenient than my thumb, which is what I’ve been trying to use since I watched CJ pitch on Shark Tank.)

Why not just use tape or Post-its? CJ has a good explanation for that:

At first I looked at duct tape and Post It Notes for inspiration, but I didn’t like how it left gunk on my computer. Some people are happy with tape or stickers, but I actually like to use my webcam – and a sticky cover makes using it a pain. I also ordered some of the products in the market but they all had adhesives. The ones that claimed to leave no mark also didn’t protect me the way I wanted. Then I bought a bunch of chip clips, thinking I could clip over my laptop. But that (predictably) didn’t really work

With a simple prototype and not too many sales, CJ pitched his product on Shark Tank a few weeks ago. Despite a great pitch, none of the Sharks were impressed. Perhaps the biggest blow came from Robert Herjavec, an expert in cybercrime.

“There’s definitely a market to protect kids,” he said. “I don’t think this is it.”

Well, even experts are wrong sometimes.

The response to Eyebloc late last year and especially after the episode aired convinced CJ that his instincts were good. Maybe the Sharks didn’t see the need–or think he had the solution–but the public sure seemed to.

With growing sales, CJ put Eyebloc on Indiegogo, and he’s reached 1/3 of his goal with 10 days left. He’s taking some of the Sharks’ suggestions to make his product cheaper and sleeker. If they double the goal, though, Eyebloc wants to begin development on protection for video game consoles like Xbox 360.

No one gets it right all the time, and there’s still plenty of time for CJ and Eyebloc to sink. But, at this point, it’s looking like the Sharks may have missed a huge Shark Tank success story.


The Biggest Deal In Shark Tank History Comes Just In Time For Halloween


Last Friday Shark Tank returned with one of the creepiest pitches ever. Former Clear Channel Communications executive Melissa Carbone walked in with a snarling zombie in tow, and as the pitch continued a scarecrow, clown, a chainsaw murder came out of the display to terrorize the sharks.

“Don’t eyeball me. I will kick your tush back to Texas,” Mark Cuban informed the chainsaw-wielding actor.

The founder of the Ten Thirty One Productions, the company behind the popular LA Haunted Hayride was looking for $2 million dollars to expand her business to New York. Despite earning $1.8 million in 17 days, many of the sharks disagreed with Carbone’s $20 million valuation.

“I’m an expert in high-octane scare,” Daymond John said. “Put on a piece of jewelry and walk around where I grew up. That’s a high-octane scare.”

He went on to offer $2 million for a 40% stake in the company. Carbone paused before countering: $2 million for 20%.

It took Cuban–whose face showed nothing but disgust at the beginning of the pitch–about 2 seconds to jump in.

“I’ll take that,” he said, slamming his notebook closed.

And, just like that, the biggest deal in Shark Tank history is done. Cuban, of course, is well known for his wide portfolio and often unusual investments. As the segment ended, he told the other sharks he believes the future of entertainment is in experiences.

However, a lot of sharks argued that Carbone’s company will never see the kind of profit she projected. We all know that not everything goes right when we launch new endeavors, and Ten Thirty One’s plans are ambitious. In 2014 they plan to launch a series of horror campouts along the West Coast, as well as a New York Haunted Hayride in October. They have some–sorry–scary goals. Still $2 million from Mark Cuban can’t hurt.

Find out more about Ten Thirty One Productions at their website.


Mark Cuban Crowdsources Next Maverick’s Uniform

Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks, Crowd Sourcing,startups,Shark TankEver since our co-founder and CEO Nick Tippmann got Mark Cuban to come to his Shark Tank Season 3 Premiere party in Indianapolis, we’ve covered Cuban and his investments in startups. Cuban’s personal blog, blogmaverick, describes the billionaire investor, Shark Tank Shark and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, to a “T’. Not because he’s the owner of the NBA team with the same name, but because he’s a maverick himself.

Cuban isn’t one to do things the “normal” way. After a dismal season this year, Cuban has decided that maybe the Mavs need a change in uniform. He wants to implement the change in the 2015-2016 season.

On his blog, Cuban announces to the world and the Maverick’s fan base that this change is coming. More importantly though, Cuban isn’t hiring some big shot consultant or spending millions of dollars to come up with 10 mediocre designs. He’s crowdsourcing. He wants fans of his beloved Maverick’s to design the teams next uniform.

sneakersNow he wants the uniforms to fit the NBA uniform format. He also wants to keep the logo intact and try not to stray far away from the current color scheme. Of course he’s looking for creativity stemming from the great people that love his team.

He’s quick to point out that any design submitted immediately becomes the property of the Dallas Mavericks and if you don’t want to adhere to that you need not submit.

“Who will own your design ? The minute you post it, the Mavs will.  If you think its horrible that the Mavs own your design. Do not post. If you think its cool that the Mavs could possibly use your design and you will have eternal bragging rights , then post away.” Cuban writes.

If Cuban feels up to it he may throw in some tickets for the designer. There’s no promise of anything except bragging rights, and he may not select any fan design at all. “That is life in the big city. Move on.” Cuban adds.

The contest is open until the end of May, click on over to Blogmaverick for more.

Check out more of our Mark Cuban coverage here at nibletz.com


Shark Tank’s Daymond John Invests Time & Money In Chicago Startup Resultly

Resutly,Chicago startup,Daymond John,Shark TankIt’s gotta be exciting for Resultly founder Ilya Beyrak who just two months ago penned a blog post on the companies blog about what “I’m Out” means on the hit reality series Shark Tank. Now, Beyrak and the team at Resultly are celebrating bringing Fubu Founder and Shark Tank Shark, Daymond John on board as an investor.

More importantly though, John is excited about the product and part of his investment is a partnership where he will help the team grow their product that allows people to search for something and then get updated on it.

“Kim Kardashian sent a tweet last year stating how she keeps checking eBay for a pair of shoes everyday that’s sold out,” Beyrak said, . “If even Kim can’t find a pair of shoes and keeps repeatedly checking online, imagine how many others suffer the same fate,”

Resultly provides users with a mobile app to stay on top of all their interests. Tapping into the web’s largest ecommerce, travel, news, and social sites lets Resultly bring users items exactly matching their interest the second they hit the web. Resultly aims to eliminate the need for users to continue checking the Internet for updates on the things they care most about.

“When I first tried Resultly, I was blown away by the product in the first couple seconds of playing with it. It easily solves one of the biggest problems with search in a way that all of the big competitors aren’t addressing,” said John. “It was hard not to get excited about the product and additional value that I could bring.” Resultly realized there was a real world problem of users repeating search behavior online to get the freshest content: the need for constantly checking if something has been added or updated online. Thru its service, once a specific interest is added to a users’ account, Resultly stays on the lookout for things matching that interest automatically. Users then receive detailed alerts to their mobile device with the key information around those items. Products receive key information like images, price, color, and condition, while Job alerts show salary, location, and position.

John invested in Resultly throgh his “shark branding” investment arm. Sharkbranding scours the country to find interesting startups and companies that would compliment John’s current portfolio of companies or that would make great partners. We met SharkBranding’s, Jared Nixon, at the GigTank Investor Day in Chattanooga Tennessee last August.

Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban leads $1 million dollar round for Florida startup.


In the Mouth of a Shark: Learn From ‘Shark Tank’

Startup Tips,Guest Post,Shark TankHave you seen “Shark Tank” yet? For entrepreneurs, it’s one of the best reality TV shows. Cable and satellite packages start at around $30 per month, according to www.directtvdeal.com. “Shark Tank” has five investors that are selected to sit on a stage that listen to entrepreneurs pitch their products and business ideas. After their pitch, the sharks decide whether or not they will be given money to fund their business ideas.

In the process, the entrepreneurs are asked a barrage of questions, sometimes humiliated, often laughed at, occasionally insulted and generally traumatized. Some of the sharks include Mark Cuban, real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O’Leary, who created and sold “The Learning Company” to Mattel for $3.2 billion, FUBU clothing founder Daymond John and comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Despite the hostile atmosphere created by the sharks, participants could walk away from the experience with a big, fat check if one or more of the Sharks believe their business idea is a good one. Lessons can be learned from “Shark Tank” for entrepreneurs:

Find Your Niche

When an entrepreneur makes their pitch, reactions from the sharks can be pretty telling. If it’s an Internet-related idea and Mark Cuban doesn’t like it, no deal. If a clothing idea is rejected by Mr. FUBU, chances are the designer will be sent back to the drawing board. If an idea geared toward an infomercial is rejected by the infomercial expert, it’s back to square one. You can’t be all things to all people, but you should know your target audience and connect with them.

Use Your Passion

Coming from a place of truly enjoying what you do is key, and the sharks pick up on it. One investor came in with just an idea — a medicine dropper in the shape of an elephant for kids — and won investment dollars. AVA the Elephant is now sold in 10,000 stores in 10 countries. Founder Tiffany Krumins used her passion for helping kids to create a successful business.

Fill a Need

Find a need and create a great product to fill that need. ReaderRest Magnetic Glasses Holders from season three is one of the show’s most successful products. It calls itself a “simple solution for eyewear management problems” and allows the user to keep their glasses safely and securely within reach using magnets that automatically attach and self-center. Overall, sales went quickly from $65,000 to $5.5 million after the show.

Do it Better

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to be successful; you just have to make a better wheel. BBQ sauce is nothing new, but sales of season one’s Pork Barrel BBQ sauces and rubs went from $5,000 to $3.5 million after their investment. Jamba Juice bought season three’s Talbott Teas in 2012. Both products took an ordinary item to the next level, doing it better than their competitors.

Sell the Dream, not Numbers

Some entrepreneurs start working their pitch with statements like, “I sold X amount of my product last year.” These people tend to get the worst deals from the sharks, or none at all. Sometimes the sharks don’t seem to care about numbers like $1 million in past sales, i.e. games2u.com, an excellent company that got no deal. Past numbers do not sell — the dream does.

Now’s Your Chance To Get On ABC’s Shark Tank Season 5

Shark Tank,Shark Tank auditions,startup,startups,startup newsMost entrepreneurs I know either watch Shark Tank on a regular basis or have at least checked out the show. If you’re like most entrepreneurs I know than you’ve watched Shark Tank and cringed at some of the “startups” that have made it onto the show.

You may even be one of those Shark Tank fans that yells at the TV like you’re watching the Duke Blue Devils lose to Louisville, screaming when you see an entrepreneur balk at what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity.  After all the Shark Tank sharks have invested $20 million dollars in over 100 deals so far in the first four seasons.

Well fret no more because your chance to get your business in the Shark Tank is now.

Beginning in two weeks, Shark Tank is casting across the country for season 5. With the success of season 4 there was no doubt a season 5 would be on the way.  Shark Tank’s open casting call is coming to five cities starting with Atlanta but there are only 500 spots at each stop.

Now you won’t be pitching in front of any of the actual sharks but if you can get past the first few screenings you may be in store for your big break.

The open casting call is headed to Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago, Philly and Los Angeles, here are the details.

Atlanta, Georgia – April 14th

660 Peachtree St. NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
11:00 AM to 1:00 PM – Numbered Wristbands Distributed
12:00 PM – Shark Tank Interviews Begin

Dallas, Texas April 20th

3030 Olive St.
Dallas, TX 75201
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM – Numbered Wristbands Distributed
10:00 AM – Shark Tank Interviews Begin

CHICAGO, Illinois – May 9th


1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
12:00 PM to 2:00 PM – Numbered Wristbands Distributed
1:00 PM – Shark Tank Interviews Begin

PHILADELPHIA. Pennsylvania – May 11th

2025 Washington Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19146
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM – Numbered Wristbands Distributed
10:00 AM – Shark Tank Interviews Begin

LOS ANGELES, California May 24th

4222 Vineland Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91602
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM – Numbered Wristbands

Before you go you should probably know these two things, sometimes deals we see get done on TV get thrown back, and the Shark Tank producers can take 5% equity or a 2% royalty no matter what, once you get on the show.

Here’s A Way Not To Get An Investment From Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban (c) hanging out with nibletz co-founder Nick Tippmann (r)

You may have heard through the grapevine that Mark Cuban is an aggressive investor in early stage startups. Take the Shark Tank out of the equation and Cuban is still eager to invest in good technology.

Many people also know that Mark Cuban is one of the nicest and most approachable billionaires in the world. You can pretty easily find his email address online and if  you’ve got a good question or a good pitch he’ll actually respond to you.  Heck he’ll even let you talk smack about basketball.

But earlier today one startup founder took the absolute wrong approach to win over Cuban’s ears and investment.  It seems that this founder is in the process of closing a round. He apparently has a commitment from Peter Thiel and wanted Cuban to get in as well.

So what does he do? He emails Mark Cuban with the subject line: “Peter Thiel invested so you’re lucky I’m emailing you”.

Cuban took to Twitter for his response:

Mark Cuban, Startup Tips, investment, Shark Tank

Cuban than tweeted this message to follow up:


Mississippi Startup Muddy Water: Next Stop Shark Tank

Muddy Water Camo, Mississippi startup,Shark Tank

Steve Maloney co-founder of Muddy Water Camo (photo: muddywatercamo.com)

Long time readers of nibletz.com know that we’re big fans of Shark Tank on ABC. Naturally as entrepreneurs, Shark Tank is a must watch show (you can see our Shark Tank coverage here). We’ve even reported on when an entrepreneur on Shark Tank has their deal reneged on after the show airs.

The show puts entrepreneurs from across the country up against some of the most brilliant investor minds there are. Mark Cuban, Damon John, Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec. All of them are multi-millionaires, and Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks is actually a billionaire.

In the four seasons the show has been on the air we’ve seen a wide variety of startups pitched in the Shark Tank. Ideas ranging from homemade peanut butter to VIP club service have all been pitched in the tank.

Friday night, February 22, Madison Mississippi startup “Muddy Water Camo” will get their chance to pitch the sharks.  The company’s founders Steve Maloney and Stephen Kirkpatrick were selected out of over 30,000 entries to pitch.  The show is currently averaging 6.8 million viewers per episode.

The company designs and manufacturers camo products ranging from caps, hats, masks, waders, and gear bags, in what onlinemadison.com called “the most realistic camo pattern ever created”

Maloney told onlinemadison.com that they created the line because most camo is designed for deer hunters, not duck hunters.

“I realized that every available camouflage pattern seem designed for hunting deer in the woods,” Maloney says. “None of those patterns looked like the marshes and flooded fields where I was hunting ducks. And it seemed to me that if you’re hunting a bird with webbed feet, your camo really ought to feature water.”

Where the innovation really comes in is how Maloney and Kirkpatrick have created and designed their camo. Their designs are based on photographs and not computer drawings. This allows their camo to be manufactured for any kind of terrain for any kind of game.

“We can make realistic camo for the mountains, the prairies, the forests – any kind of terrain, for any kind of game.” Kirkpatrick said.

Although the founders already know the outcome of their appearance they are sworn by secrecy not to reveal it until after their episode airs.

We’re curious to see how they do, as hunting and camo don’t seem to be in any particular sharks wheelhouse. Lori Greiner, who rotates her chair with Barbara Corcoran, has had lots of success marketing products on QVC, so if Greiner one of the sharks for Muddy Waters’ episode, they may be in luck. Otherwise it’s going to be a hard fight.

Find out more and see how realistic their designs really are at muddywatercamo.com


Madison Startup Entrepreneurs Wow’d By St. Louis Venture Draft Event

You may not think about it every Sunday, Monday night and Thursday night that you’re watching your favorite NFL football team but an alarming number of pro athletes actually go bankrupt after their professional careers end. In talking with a few celebrities who have almost gone down that route, it’s not even ignorance that some may think. It’s not living beyond your means as a national celebrity, sometimes pro athletes and celebrities really get too busy to manage their money. They also get too busy to think about what happens afterwards.

We’ve all heard the sad stories too, of people like Fantasia Barrino and other stars who have turned their finances over to someone less than qualified to handle such large amounts of money. Celebrities and pro athletes assume that everyone has their best interest at heart.

Well former NFL star and entrepreneur Brandon Williams does. Williams, through his Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation is trying to connect athletes and celebrities with entrepreneurism. He’s not talking about the kind where a celebrity quickly endorses a product and moves on. Williams is trying to connect entrepreneurs, startups, sports stars and celebrities in a new kind of ecosystem so that entrepreneurs can benefit from investment and athletes and celebrities have a plan for when their careers slow.

One of Williams initiatives is Venture Draft, a startup and entrepreneur event, pitch contest and showcase that happened in St. Louis this past weekend.

ABC Shark Tank Shark, Founder of Fubu and partner in Shark Branding, Daymond John, was one of the top level keynote speakers at the event.  We didn’t raise enough money in our last crowdfunding leg to attend ourselves, but our good friend Scott Resnick in Madison WI led a group of 6 from Madison to St. Louis for the event.

Resnick was “Wowed” by the event and wrote a great entry on his blog where he said:

The first annual Venture Draft Conference was held in St Louis this weekend. The mission of the conference was to bring professional athletes, venture capitalists and technology experts face-to-face to create business opportunities (aka allow entrepreneurs to mingle with and teach current and former NFL players about technology). A tip of the hat to the Brandon Williams Economic Development Corporation: the Venture Draft was a success.

Rarely do I experience a “wow” moment at a tech conference. However, this one was different. Maybe it was the personality of the highlighted speakers (who attended every event) or the charm of St Louis, but there was something special about Venture Draft.

My “wow” moment came right after I had the opportunity to bounce business expansion ideas off keynote speaker Henry Wong of Garage Technology Ventures at a local cigar bar. As I was walking out of the bar to a sponsored after party, Jim Sorgi struck up a conversation about his future with the Colts and time on Gilman Street. Wow, this conference was pretty cool.

Continue here to the Hardin Design & Development Blog for the rest!