THE REALITY show “Shark Tank” held an audition last week in Cambridge. But unlike most reality shows that place a premium on unfettered ego, “Shark Tank” celebrates and rewards business acumen. Entrepreneurs of all stripes try to convince a panel of “Sharks” to invest in their companies, and the show often offers lessons on marketing, distribution, and business valuation.
The Cambridge “Shark Tank” tryout was a reminder that capital for business innovation often occurs far beyond the confines of venture capital and traditional banking. Indeed, the ubiquity of Kickstarter campaigns show how many innovators want — and need — to reach beyond the usual gatekeepers of capital. Business ideas don’t need to be world-changing or generate a potentially massive return to be worthwhile. While “Shark Tank” provides a platform for fun and sometimes wacky ideas, it also inspires viewers to dream up their own new businesses.
News coverage of the local tryout zeroed in on such ideas as MaryJList.com, which is a hybrid of Craigslist and Angie’s List geared toward the cannabis industry, and a multiuse pillow created for mothers of twin babies. Perhaps neither business will be the next Facebook, but sometimes the only difference between business success and failure is the right advisers and exposure.
One local company knows what a little “Shark Tank” exposure can bring. After Wicked Good Cupcakes, a Cohasset-based bakery that sells cupcakes in a jar, received $75,000 from “Shark Tank” investor Kevin O’Leary last year, sales skyrocketed from anticipated revenue of $350,000 in 2013 to $2 million, Boston Business Journal reported. It’s a heartening departure from the usual pattern of reality-TV success, and it reinforces an important message to entrepreneurs: Sometimes innovation is simply outstanding management and smart strategy, and often stretches far beyond the boundaries of tech.