The 3 Terrible Lesson Shark Tank Teaches Entrepreneurs About Fundraising Pitches

Sure, Shark Tank is an entertaining show, but don’t rely on it to teach you how to pitch investors.

Aaron Dinin, PhD

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fPhoto by Karen Neri on Unsplash

Who doesn’t love reality television? Umm… besides all the Hollywood writers currently on strike. But, assuming you’re not one of those writers fighting for living wages in an industry being destroyed by, among other things, reality television, it’s safe to assume you’ve surely gotten more invested than you should have in some sort of fabricated TV drama. From the good old days of Survivor being must-see-TV to live-tweeting the Bachelorette to binge-watching a season of Love is Blind, reality television is a guilty pleasure we all dabble in from time-to-time.

Entrepreneurs are no exception. In fact, with 15 seasons of Shark Tank in the United States and another 200 seasons — yes… 200! — of either Shark Tank or its inspiration, Dragon’s Den, aired internationally, clearly entrepreneurs love their trashy reality TV.

No judgments here. I confess to even enjoying an occasional episode of The Masked Singer with my 7-year-old (it’s how we helped her overcome her fear of mascots). But next time you’re watching Shark Tank, remember the one fundamental law of all reality television:

Nothing you’re watching is real!

Yes, I realize the word “reality” is in the name. How could reality television not be real? But that’s a topic for a different article. In this article, I want to focus on how Shark Tank (and all the other entrepreneur pitch shows like it) teach entrepreneurs some terrible lessons about how to give a good fundraising pitch.

Terrible Lesson #1: Pitches are about your product

The main reason watching Shark Tank is a terrible way to learn about fundraising pitches is because Shark Tank isn’t really for startups trying to raise money. Shark Tank is advertising disguised as entertainment. It’s a giant infomercial!

That’s fine. I’m not upset the producers and participants on Shark Tank care more about promoting products than teaching proper entrepreneurial skills, but it’s important for entrepreneurs watching Shark Tank to…

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Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @ aarondinin.com