Many entrepreneurs hope to appear on Shark Tank. A few actually pull it off.
Even fewer get invited to be guest Sharks: People like Sara Blakely, Richard Branson, Troy Carter.
And Kind Snacks founder Daniel Lubetzky, who appears for the second season in a row. (And whose “and” rather than “or” perspective is one I try to emulate.)
Other than the fact he was invited, why did Lubetzky decide to appear on Shark Tank last season?
“Long before I was invited,” Lubetzky says, “I watched, and still watch with my kids. It’s entertaining, informative, provides advice … and celebrates the entrepreneurial experience, something that is very important to our culture.”
Why come back for a second season? Those reasons, plus the challenge. “It’s incredibly stimulating and challenging. You’re bombarded with information from people you’ve never met. They’re telling their story, Sharks are coming at them and at you. You need to read between the lines and make rapid decisions. This year, it took me days to decompress and digest what had happened.”
For Lubetzky, the show is all about the experience and the opportunity–which is what it’s all about for entrepreneurs hoping to attract investment.
So what does Lubetzky look for in a Shark Tank pitch?
“First and foremost,” he says, “it’s the person and the idea, not the business. You’ll work with them, support them. Do they have integrity? Can you trust them? Are they hardworking, creative, and resourceful? For me, it’s all about integrity, work ethic, and resilience.”
Then and only then does Lubetzky consider the product: Whether it will resonate with consumers. Whether there’s a market. Whether it has a unique selling proposition. Whether it’s truly differentiated and genuinely solves a need or pain point.
Even then, Lubetzky still might not decide to invest. “If a person brings something I don’t feel I can contribute to, that might be a disqualifier. As a general rule, I don’t invest in areas where I don’t feel I have sufficient experience and mastery.”
He then adds, with a laugh, “Although sometimes I will push myself if I love the person and the idea.”
One example from this season: FitFighter and its SteelHose system. FitFighter was initially founded by Sarah Apgar to train firefighters (she’s a military veteran and volunteer firefighter). A SteelHose is a length of fire hose filled with metal shot that can then be used as a barbell/dumbbell/kettlebell for physical training.
Lubetzky says he was initially drawn to Apgar’s energy and presence. “She just filled up the room,” Lubetzky says. “She had incredible command of the room. We were all in awe. Her presentation was easily one of the best.”
Lubetzky also liked the product. According to him, they’re much more malleable than standard weights and easier to handle and control.
Lubetzky was also struck by her resilience. “That was a key trait of hers,” he says, “probably the key trait. She’s an incredible overachiever in a way that I love: Service to community and to other people. She doesn’t just provide a product. She’s teaching a mindset, a discipline. She embodies resilience and discipline and always giving it your best … and doing it for a higher purpose.”
So, as you’ll see early in Season 12, Lubetzky became an investor.
And in the process, he “stole” one from Kevin O’Leary. Here’s a fun little story: “As I recall, I was the only one that bid,” Lubetzky says. “And after filming, some Sharks take the products presented and run them by their friends and family. ‘Mr. Wonderful’ [O’Leary] said FitFighter was the winner among the products he showed people. Later he came to me and said, ‘Wow. I missed out on that.'”
If you’re an entrepreneur, the odds of you demo-ing your product and company on Shark Tank are pretty slim.
But if you someday hope to attract investors–or partners or even employees–Lubetzky’s perspective still holds value.
Integrity matters. Work ethic matters. Resiliency–the ability to overcome challenges, stay the course in the face of adversity, and be the last person to give up on yourself–matters.
Show people you have those qualities and they’re much more likely to want to work with you.
After all, that’s how Lubetzky built Kind into a $3-billion-plus company. (UPDATE: Mars announced on November 17 it is acquiring KIND in a deal worth an estimated $5 billion.) And are a foundation upon which most successful startups have been built.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.