American fans of the ABC show “Shark Tank” may be surprised to learn that the show’s wildly popular premise, in which would-be entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to established and successful business people, is, in fact, replicated around the world.
The format of the program, which in the U.S. features celebrity “sharks” Mark Cuban, Daymond John and Lori Greiner, as well as Canadian entrepreneurs Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec, is a worldwide phenomenon.
Outside the United States, Shark Tank is known as “Dragons’ Den”. Dragons’ Den now appears in dozens of countries, including Afghanistan, Finland, Ireland, Russia, Sweden and the U.K.
The show, which is owned by SONY Entertainment, debuted in Japan under the name “Money Tigers”, and was broadcast on Nippon Television from 2001 to 2004.
American producer Mark Burnett signed a deal with SONY to produce an American version of the show, which became Shark Tank. (Canadian producer Dianne Buckner, who brought Dragons’ Den to Canada talked to Cantech Letter a few years ago about the experience).
Shark Tank premiered in August 2009, and aired 14 episodes through January 2010. Last year, the show became a bonafide hit when it was renewed for a full 26 episode season, shedding a somewhat shaky start.
In Canada, the show is the highest-rated Canadian unscripted program on television.
Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den have spawned many success stories from the hundreds of -let’s face it-, bad ones presented over their collective histories. Successful Shark Tank alum include CitiKitty, a device that helps to toilet train cats, and Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce, which sold millions and spawned an eponymous restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. Dragons’ Den Canada success stories include Steeped Tea and Holy Crap, “the world’s most amazing breakfast cereal”.
So how did these entrepreneurs get in front of the Dragons and Sharks?
ABC TV has simple casting call applications for Shark Tank, the application form (located here) asks questions you would expect, such as “What sets this idea apart from other ideas.” and “How much of an investment are you asking for and why?”.
But getting on Shark Tanks isn’t easy and the application form is just the beginning. Scott Jordan, founder of apparel company Scottevest, who walked away from a million dollar offer has an interesting blog piece about the whole experience of applying for Shark Tank, including the “mountain of paperwork” and calls with producers.
Dragons’ Den Canada accepts applications online throughout the year, as well as open auditions across Canada at preset times. For the 2012-2013 season, the show filmed about 250 businesses pitches, but not all made it to TV.