Wisp Was One of The Best ‘Shark Tank’ Segments In a Long Time. It Was Proof There Is Real Risk In Entrepreneurship.

There was something a little odd about the timing of tonight’s new episode of Shark Tank. If you, like me, were trying to balance a series of Sunday night errands between pitches and were expecting the usual four segments to be spread evenly over the hour, you might have been surprised to see that by 20 past the hour two pitches were already over. At first I thought there might be five this time, but once Eben Dobson, the proprietor of Wisp, came out, it became obvious his story was getting a bit more time.

As so it should. Because it gave a rare glimpse into something you rarely see on Shark Tank: that you can have a great product, go viral, convince people to invest in your company, and still end up teetering on the edge of closure.

On the surface, that doesn’t sound too out of the ordinary. There have been lots of businesses that have come on to the show looking for a bailout, althought they rarely say that until there’s been some serious prodding. In the case of Wisp, he also didn’t say he wanted a bailout, and indeed, at no point seemed to think he needed one.

But the numbers got increasingly alarming as the pitch went on. He had investors he had yet to pay back. A hefty amount of debt, substantial inventory, and a modest amount of cash in the bank. He was looking for investment, but he already had 22 other investors. Twenty-two.

Here’s what made the pitch really stand out: at some point, he responded to the panel’s disbelief by saying something along the lines of: “how do you recommend I get out of this?” It was a sincere question, a polite question, from a business owner looking for advice. At that moment, it became clear he’d fallen into a situation he just didn’t know how to get out of. That’s not something you see very often on Shark Tank or even on its sister programs around the world.

If you are in a lousy situation, how do you get out of it? Really, it’s a life question, placed squarely in the entrepreneurial context. And the sharks seemed to want to help. Barbara Corcoran had already given a clever assessment — I’m paraphrasing from memory here — “You get an A for effort and an F for execution, and I think you know that.” At the end, Kevin O’Leary would offer to pony up the money — a not-unsubstantial $500,000 — and Lori Greiner offered to help sell the product (an efficient and easy-to-use broom), although she declined to put up any money.

At the end, that was the death knell of Wisp on Shark Tank. Dobson said yes to O’Leary, but asked him to make sure he “kept Lori’s number,” at which, O’Leary was eventually out — after Lori’s participation was not guaranteed and Dobson asked what else O’Leary would bring to the table (his offer was $500,000 for 50 percent, while Dobson was asking for 10 percent). You have to suspect O’Leary was lukewarm on the deal to begin with — it was a lot of money, and the information they knew about the company was unsettling, let alone what might come up during due diligence. He was maybe looking for a reason to be out. O’Leary didn’t fight too hard to salvage the deal — but then Greiner was pretty adamant she was not willing to risk any of her money, just lend her name. (In exchange for what, exactly?)

The whole segment was a reminder that entrepreneurship comes with real risks. It’s not just devoting your time and passion to an idea. A few crises and you can be financially ruined, and it may be harder than it seems to get your life back on track.

It could be summed up, I assume — I say, “I assume” because I have never started a company but have learned A LOT from being self-employed — by what another entrepreneur on tonight’s episode, Kate Field from The Kombucha Shop, said: “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Not knowing what you don’t know, but still being responsible for whatever comes even if you didn’t see it coming, is both (again) a risk in life — and a risk in entrepreneurship.

Let’s use this first-person account from Inc. as an example. Back in 2013, Laura Zander of Jimmy Beans Wool published a cautionary tale about how you can be in the middle of a business boom and still get into trouble. What happened? When things were going well, Zander and her husband/co-owner reinvested most of their profits back into inventory, which was quickly sold. What they didn’t realize is that the inventory, even though it was only held for a short period of time, was considered taxable income. The tax bill was larger than their available cash, and she and her husband had to use personal savings to pay it off.

A new entrepreneur might not anticipate such a situation. Such an entrepreneur could end up with a messy balance sheet, even though customers are lining up out the door.

That’s why the usual tagline of the Shark Tank updates, how much a company is currently doing in sales, only tells part of the story. The show would be wise to flesh out these tales a bit more, not only because they are instructive, but because the “Decade of Dreams” narrative is a bit stale. The core audience knows it’s more complicated, and it might be worth it for the show to dive a bit more deeply into those complications.


3 Reasons ‘Shark Tank’ Will Make Matt Higgins Part of the Permanent Cast

This is purely speculative, of course, because I have no inside knowledge of how the corporate minds behind Shark Tank actually work. But it’s clear that Matt Higgins, an unknown to most of us non-sports folks until his guest appearance Sunday night, fits the program, and if one of the Super Six decides to make a graceful exit — or welcome another, to make it a rotating cast of the Super Seven — Higgins might just be perfect for the slot. Here’s why.

1. He’s Young

That’s not to say that the other sharks are old, exactly — the two youngest, Daymond John and Lori Greiner, are both 49 this year if Wikipedia to be believed — but at age 44 Higgins can be seen as young enough to make a fresh transition into a television career. It’s a new phase; far be it from me to say anything has an age limit, but Higgins feels like new blood, who would be willing to put in a few years of time on the program. Unlike, say, Richard Branson, who might pop in for tea and then retreat to his private island.

2. He’s Smart

Did anyone see that look on Lori’s face when Higgins was peppering the proprietor of Beyond Sushi with those detailed questions? It was either, “well, you’re here to play,” or “s–t, you’re my competition on this deal,” or “maybe I should partner with this guy.” It’s true that Higgins isn’t just a sports guy, or a politics guy: he’s also an investor, an experienced one, in the real world. So he comes to the show with a bit of heft behind him, not just because he built his own company, but invested in others.

3. He’s Nice

Higgins was intensely likeable on the program, not just because of his compelling back story. He was nice to the entrepreneurs, supportive without gushing. Kevin O’Leary’s well-trodden line about “why are you encouraging them?” fell flat in the face of Higgins, who seemed to have no problem demonstrating that a few kind words are not the same as advising someone to sink their entire life savings into what is a dying endeavor. He was nice without being television-charismatic nice; he doesn’t come across as a schmoozer, even if in real life, he may be exactly that. It’s hard to argue with a guy who took care of his ailing mother.

I’ve said repeatedly I don’t want any of the permanent sharks to leave anytime soon, but with Matt Higgins I feel like I’ve seen a guest shark I actually hope comes back on the program. This year, or even more frequently, next.

Big Brother 20’s Kaitlyn Isn’t Crazy. She’s Just Learning.

Many years ago, when Oprah Winfrey’s show was still a “thing,” — that is, it was appointment viewing for all spiritual-seeking, life-affirming, “you can make it!” types — she featured a guest who had gone bankrupt. Or, something like that. The guest had become involved with a boyfriend whose financial debt she decided to take on.

During the program, the guest explained, “He was my whole life,” as if to say, “This is why I agreed to take on his debt.” When Oprah, doing her Oprah thing, asked the woman what lesson she’d learned from what happened, she answered, “Well, you need to take care of the bills right away. You can’t let them get out of hand.”

Oprah, in all of her Oprah wisdom, responded with her Oprah-esque tone, “that’s not the lesson,” to the knowing affirmative sounds from the audience. I can’t recall if Oprah ever actually spelled out the “real” lesson to the woman on the stage, but to anyone already regularly tuning in to her daily deconstruction of why we do what we do in life, it was obvious. The lesson was in the guest’s own words: “He was my whole life.” You let this person usurp you, failing to take care of yourself. The debt was just a symptom of that larger issue.

Tonight, watching Kaitlyn Herman’s exit interview with Julie Chen after being evicted from the Big Brother 20 house, I had a similar thought. “That’s not the lesson, Kaitlyn.” Referring, I was, to Kaitlyn’s totally unexpected failure to reenter the Big Brother house when given the chance to complete a deceptively simple challenge. Kaitlyn told Julie that it was, essentially, meant to be, and it was for the highest good.

In many ways, it was typical Kaitlyn. She came into the house as a self-described life coach who, early on, engaged some of the houseguests in a meditation session. Faysal, her onetime ally, expressed a belief that he could appeal to her on certain game matters, calling Kaitlyn a “spiritual girl.” But there were other things about Kaitlyn that Big Brother 20 viewers — and perhaps the show’s producers — liked to highlight, in order to make the argument that she’s a little bit batty.

Kaitlyn apparently said a bird in the yard contained the spirit of her grandfather. She talked constantly about following her intuition, but her beliefs of what was going on in the house were often wrong. In short, she was made to seem like a flake. Emotional, somewhat possessive of Faysal.

But crazy she is not. As someone who could very well imagine a loved one coming to visit me in the form of a bird, I’d like to argue that she’s just new at this. She honestly believes the life coach verbiage she uses, but I suspect she doesn’t have the depth of experience to know what it really means. But I imagine she’ll get there.

When time came tonight for the live eviction, I didn’t want anyone to leave. Big Brother 20 has turned out to be a rich season, with complicated and formidable players. It’s like the producers decided this time around that everyone cast would be a Big Brother fan and would be in it for the game. No one on the show is a veteran this season, but no one seems naive about the show. They all know how it works, and they all want to win. The lack of stunt casting, weird twists and showmances has meant the show rests on the houseguests and what they choose to bring to the game. Without gimmicks in the way, viewers have this treat of seeing a pleasing mix of personalities that don’t easily fit into stereotypical boxes. Everyone on this show is somehow relatable, while no one is exactly who they first appear to be. That’s a roundabout way of saying they are real people, who have chosen to get along instead of create unnecessary drama. I was kind of looking forward to another week with this compelling group of 13.

But it wasn’t to be. Kaitlyn, easily voted out after a house-wide debate over whether she or Rockstar was the bigger threat (Kaitlyn, at least on the surface, although I would argue Rockstar is being underestimated), got the chance to earn her way back in the game. That wasn’t a surprise. Sam had let the house know about her power at the veto meeting. The mystery was simply how it was going to play out, and once Chen revealed the details after the first non-split vote of the season — is the house still divided? Maybe not — it seemed like an easy feat. The producers clearly wanted Kaitlyn to stay, and gave her a task that should have been a snap for her to complete.

Kaitlyn was faced with a life-size representation of herself, that she had to break down into pieces. She then had to put herself back together again. Think breaking apart a jigsaw puzzle and then reassembling it, except with much bigger pieces. Her time to complete the challenge? Two and a half minutes. Piece of cake.

But then Kaitlyn dove in, and the pieces weren’t agreeing with her. Viewers like me thought, “it’s harder than it looks. It must be.” It’s a truth of many Big Brother competitions that seem like they should be a snap for armchair observers, but to the players doing the work, it’s not that easy.

With Kaitlyn, there was an added element. She was panicking. Before her eviction, she had cited a list of her “teachers” that she wanted to thank for their influence on her life. Among them, Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, Marianne Williamson. Probably no one she’d ever met in person, but whose work had clearly affected her. I urge you not to hate on Kaitlyn for what might seem like a shaky attempt to come off as an enlightened person. Many of us have such lists. We may not rattle them off on a reality show, but we have them.

I don’t find her comments disingenuous. But that said, perhaps she hasn’t fully gotten the teachings, at least not yet.

Let’s stop for a second and make the point that, for individuals living with anxiety, it’s not always possible to simply take a breath and have it go away. It’s much more complicated than that.

But for Kaitlyn, her panic in the challenge may not have been anxiety. It may have been layers of emotion coming out all at once. “I can’t lift it,” she said at one point, after assembling the puzzle on the floor, since it was easier than putting it together on the required podium. I can’t do this, she appeared to be saying, throughout the entire two and a half minutes. I can’t do it.

Watching the taped broadcast, long after the challenge was already over, I found myself feeling for Kaitlyn. Just stop, Kaitlyn. Stop. Take a breath, or take three. Then focus on the puzzle. That’s what Deepak, Marianne and Tony would probably tell you — if you are in a moment of apparent crisis, just stop. Breathe.

After the shocking end to Kaitlyn’s game, she told Chen it was for the best. Maybe, she’s right, because ultimately what is has to be. It’s a logic loop. Everything happens as it should, because that’s how things happen. But those teachers she listed also talk about life work and meeting the fates halfway. Maybe she was meant to be evicted, but maybe she may also want to take some time to reassess times of panic. It’s true what Oprah said to that guest all those years ago: it wasn’t just about the debt. But the guest was right too. She learned an important lesson about taking care of her money. Her lesson about relationships and self-protection may have just taken a little longer to learn.

My point (to quote Ellen, “and I do have one”), is that Kaitlyn is not insincere, nor is she crazy. She’s just 24. She’s still learning how to navigate the world and how to put the life lessons she’s read from important teachers into practice. That takes work; there’s a misconception that following a spiritual path is as simple as learning a few platitudes. It’s not. Growth happens when those platitudes are challenged, or when they just don’t quite fit into the particular challenge you experience.

I will so miss Kaitlyn on Big Brother 20. I almost want to say I hope she returns in a future installment, but if this season is any indication, the best game is played by houseguests who have never before set foot in the Big Brother house.

The ‘Big Brother 20’ App Twist Is Cruel In A Way That’s Atypical Of The Show

One can assume that you make a deal when you apply to be on Big Brother: you agree to total lack of privacy, isolation from the outside world, and virtually unchecked manipulation at the hands of producers and fellow houseguests. In exchange, you get a chance to play a game, perhaps win some money, and if you’re a diehard fan, to experience the world of Big Brother from the inside.

Anyone who’s watched the show over the years has probably noticed that the “real” world appears to become increasingly distant for the houseguests, who, over the course of days, weeks and months, start to be convinced by their own, sometimes skewed, perceptions of what’s happening inside the square footage of the Big Brother set and what people at home must be thinking about them.

This year, that psychological game has the unfortunate potential to be even more damaging, at least for the time the players are “successful” enough to stay in the game. It’s the BB App Twist, which each week gives a special power or punishment to whichever houseguest is most — or least — “trending.”

I know, I know — fans participate like this every season, right? At the end of each installment, after all, there’s a prize of $25,000 given to America’s Favorite Houseguest. The old “America’s Choice” weekly voting let viewers get in on the game by choosing Have-Not foods and special bonuses or game advantages to preferred individuals. The BB App Twist is just like that, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. Because this year we not only have the one person who’s most trending each week, but the one who’s least trending. Again, you could just say this is Big Brother. Someone has to be the first evicted (Sorry, Steve, I was rooting for you). Someone has to come in last in the competitions. Getting on the show is feat enough — and in some ways, it does come down to a popularity contest.

But right now, in 2018, the idea of someone, or something, “trending,” or not, is particularly sensitive. More than ever before, young and not-so-young people connect the idea of “trending” with self-worth, success or popularity. And in the isolated, contained world of Big Brother, the effects of houseguests not getting an app — or worse yet, getting the “crap app” of least trending — is something that could affect them on a deeply emotional level.

It’s particularly cruel because, unlike the viewing audience, it’s not clear that the houseguests actually know what it means to be “trending” in this context. Even if it were the outside-world version of trending — hashtags, posts, shares, upvotes — it would be bad enough. But on Big Brother 20 it’s based on a set of very specific criteria. If the houseguests understood that, they would perhaps be able to temper their own disappointment at not landing in their preferred spot in the “trending” rankings. Especially since they are edited on a television show — in the beginning, when there are 16 houseguests to track in a 42-minute episode, not everyone is going to get equal time.

First, U.S.-based fans over the age of 18 have to use the Big Brother chatbot to answer 5 specific questions. The “trending” stats are based on the houseguests whose names are most mentioned, whether it’s in response to a positive or a negative question.

– Which Houseguest is most entertaining to watch?
– Which Houseguest is annoying you the most?
– Which Houseguest’s gameplay is most fun to watch?
– Which Houseguest is the funniest?
– Which Houseguest has you screaming at the television?

Last week, the trending app twist seemed to be rather benign. Faysal took his crap app in good humour, although at times he appeared noticably disappointed. (Kudos to Big Brother, by the way, for giving Faysal vegetarian “ham” to fulfill his punishment — I am waiting for the season where there is dairy-free slop for the vegan houseguests.)

This week, it was a bit more painful to watch. Rachel, whom I’ve barely seen on the show — I don’t get the live feeds, so I had to consult a website to figure out who she was — got the “crap app.” She seemed legitimately hurt, and understandably so. She may have perceived the audience didn’t like her, when in fact, not enough people found her “annoying,” or causing them to “scream at the television.” Most importantly, she wasn’t getting enough airtime.

The “crap app” sends a bad message; Big Brother producers may have thought it was in keeping with the “technology” theme, and it may have been appropriate, say, in 2015, when trending on social media was something that was seen to be not particularly harmful. Now, social media popularity is something that’s increasingly recognized to be potentially damaging, and based on falsehoods. People get hurt.

In the Big Brother context, no one seemed to make that point better than Swaggy C in his reaction to not getting either the Power App or the Crap App. Swaggy is apparently somewhere in the middle, but in the — admittedly edited — Sunday night episode of Big Brother he was seen asking America what he had to do to trend. He even said he’d given the audience “the first showmance” of the season. Sorry, Bayleigh. And Bayleigh, your instincts were right.

At the end of the day, it’s a television show, and the houseguests will eventually exit, some sooner than others. Hopefully the rest of their lives won’t be too much like this falsified version of reality, this makeshift high school, where the cool kids get to run the game while unseen forces constantly change the rules.