The duo walked on stage dressed in sharp, yellow bicycle jerseys emblazoned with their playful logo, which panelists loved.
Have you discovered ABC’s Shark Tank? Think of it as American Idol for entrepreneurs. All the basic elements are there, the emotion of a “once in a lifetime” performance, snarky bickering among the judges (who have real dollars to invest in winning companies), awkward meltdowns by ill-prepared participants, and finally the vicarious thrill of watching a talented contestant walk away with real dollars in hand. You needn’t be a new-business junkie to enjoy Shark Tank.
Last week Grease Monkey Wipes appeared on the show, and I was prepped in my recliner, with a bowl of popcorn at hand, ready to cheer on this Austin startup, founded by Tim Stansbury and Erin Whalen (a graduate of McCombs).
The presentations prior to Grease Monkey Wipes were grimace-inspiring. The investor panel members were brutally honest as they tore through the dreams and aspirations of an environmentally friendly t-shirt maker (no differentiation), a SWAT team policeman and his wife who invented a pillow for sunbathing (unrealistic financial expectations), and a brother-sister team with a retail store geared to children (that hasn’t made a significant profit in 3 1/2 years). Disappointment and tears were all they carried away from the tank.
By the time Stansbury and Whalen walked onto the stage I was praying they would show more preparation and business smarts than the rest of the group.
Their segment started with a nice overview of Austin, and the bicycling scene here. Grease Monkey Wipes were originally developed for bicyclists looking for a way to clean their hands after performing on-the-road repairs. The duo walked on stage dressed in sharp, yellow bicycle jerseys emblazoned with their playful logo, which panelists loved. “The best logo I’ve ever seen.”
From the start Stansbury and Whalen were much more crisp in their presentation style, but a potential barrier arose when it was found that Grease Monkey Wipes are not based on a patented approach. That fact appeared to be a deal killer for several of the investors. My heart sank, as each announced, “I’m out.”
Finally, the last judge, Robert Herjavec spoke. “I really don’t know, I just don’t know,” he said, seemingly on the fence in his decision. (Yes, it’s television, there has to be some drama.) Whalen spoke up and began to express her passion for the enterprise. “I promise we will not let you down,” she said with a huge, confident smile.
Looking down with the obligatory hushed pause (the audience is enthralled…hold it, hold it, go!), Herjavec announced “I’m on board. You’ve got your $40,000. Do we have a deal?”
Congrats to Grease Monkey Wipes, another Austin startup we can watch with anticipation in the years to come.