Appearing on Shark Tank has its upsides and downsides - regardless of if a deal is made. Believe it or not, making a deal with a Shark is not always the best option for companies. After 10 seasons, Shark Tank has entered the homes of millions Americans, but the greatest, most innovative, extraordinary startup appeared in Season 8 - Rocketbook. Our erasable, cloud-connected Rocketbook Wave was sent home without an investment, meanwhile we became the bestselling notebook on Amazon and sold over a million Rocketbooks in the same year. Needless to say not getting a deal with a Shark was not the end of our journey.
In honor of visionary entrepreneurship and our 2 year Shark Tank Anniversary coming up in May 2019, we went back in the Shark Tank archives and found the top pitches that didn’t get a deal, including Rocketbook. Discover how these Shark Tank rejects conquered their wildest dreams and found success, without an investment.
Lena Phoenix and Steven Sashen appeared on the show in 2013 with their personally designed minimalist active footwear called “Xero Shoes”, a unique shoe that would contour to the shape of the foot to mimic the feeling of exercising barefoot. The couple was offered a $400,000 deal with a 50% stake in their company, but they decided not to sell and instead keep developing their products. Once their episode aired, Phoenix and Sashen saw a huge spike in sales and have used that traction to grow their business slowly over time. Now, their shoes ship all over the world, and they have an ever-increasing following of athletes, hippies, and Shark Tank enthusiasts.
DoorBot, now rebranded as Ring, has recently become the most successful Shark Tank reject. Appearing in Season 5, creator Jamie Siminoff told the sharks that DoorBot was “the first ever video doorbell built for the smartphone.” Although they agreed the product was innovative, the sharks did not feel comfortable investing at such an early stage of the business’ development. Siminoff left the show without a deal but continued to grow the company and attract other investors. Just last year, Siminoff made a $1 billion deal with Amazon, and DoorBot has since been seen as the most successful Shark Tank reject to date.
Beauty lovers and entrepreneurs Melissa Butler and Rosco Spears appeared on Shark Tank in 2015 with their pitch for all-natural, vegan, and cruelty-free lipsticks that came in a wide variety of colors (including lavender purple and turquoise blue!). The sharks were confident in the product, but not necessarily Butler and Spears. As young, amateur business owners, Butler and Spears still had a lot to learn about the business industry before launching their own line of products (At least, that’s what the sharks thought). After leaving the show with no deal, Butler and Spears launched their lipsticks independently and sold Lip Bar products online with growing success. Recently, Target picked up the lipstick line, and Lip Bar is now sold in 450 stores across the country.
Copa di Vino is one of the most famous Shark Tank rejects in history. Its founder James Martin pitched his idea to the very eager sharks who immediately saw the potential in his business. However, the sharks were not big fans of Martin’s personality, causing them to withdraw their offers and send Martin home. Once Martin left, he established Copa di Vino into an incredibly successful business and even returned in a later season of Shark Tank. However, he was too cocky on his second appearance, and the sharks were turned off by his personality yet again. Copa di Vino can now be found in places ranging from convenience stores to huge stadiums like Madison Square Garden. When asked about Copa di Vino as “the one that got away,” the sharks admit that they regret missing the business deal, but that they do not regret having to be business partners with Martin.
The best one of them all, what can we say. Rocketbook co-founders Jake Epstein and Joe Lemay appeared on Shark Tank at the very end of Season 8 with their “notebook from the future.” They demonstrated the Rocketbook Wave’s ability to send notes to cloud destinations and then be wiped clean by being nuked in the microwave. Although the sharks were impressed (Barbara went so far as to call it the “funniest, whackiest, most ridiculous thing” that she’s seen in a long time), they worried that the reusable feature meant non-returning customers. While Jake and Joe left the show without an investment, they gained valuable advice and energy to continue with their business idea. Rocketbook has now shipped over 2 million units and supports over 1 million app users.
Being told “no” in any situation, whether on television or not, can bruise ambition and also stifle growth. However, the key to success is transforming a rejection into an opportunity to learn and grow. You can learn more about Jake and Joe’s startup journey by watching Five Tips for Launching a Startup. You can also see what life is like for Rocketbook After Shark Tank.
Nicole is a Rocketbook Intern and undergraduate student at Tufts University, where she is studying English and Film. She is passionate about all things writing, journaling, and design. In her spare time, Nicole enjoys reading, going to flea markets, and going to the movie theatre. Her favorite product from the Rocketbook line is the Everlast Mini, which she uses to write down her to-do lists for the day!