15-year-old tech entrepreneur Brooke Martin of Spokane, Wash., made her debut on Shark Tank last night — pitching her invention, iCPooch, a video conferencing device and remote treat dispenser for pets. (All the more remarkable, Brooke was only 14 when the episode was recorded.)
We’ve followed Brooke and iCPooch closely on GeekWire, and she won over the GeekWire Summit audience with her pitch last year, so the segment was especially fun to watch, no matter the outcome. Watch the video here from Shark Tank’s YouTube channel, check out our preview interview with Brooke, and continue reading for highlights.
Brooke and iCPooch CEO James Pelland asked for a $150,000 investment, in return for a 20 percent stake in iCPooch, valuing the company at $600,000.
Brooke did a great job with the pitch, explaining how she originally came up with the idea to help her family dog deal with anxiety. She continued to show remarkable poise even as the questions got tough. In a nice bit of exposure for the work of Seattle-based UP Global, she also gave a plug to Startup Weekend, where she originally pitched the idea.
Ultimately, however, the Sharks were skeptical about several issues. First, they wondered if dogs would actually use the device. Robert Herjavec pointed out that he has a hard time getting humans to use video conferencing, let alone pets. Brooke pointed out that dog trainers are using video conferencing to train dogs, but that didn’t seem to convince the Sharks, who seemed to be overlooking the ability to get the dog’s attention by dispensing a treat.
Sales volume was also an issue, with only 149 units sold at the time of the taping, a couple months after the iCPooch started shipping. Herjavec initially assumed, incorrectly, that Pelland meant 149,000 units — leading to one of those awkward “thuds” where the Sharks recoil at what they’re hearing.
The reliably acerbic Kevin O’Leary, better known as “Mr. Wonderful,” joked that the iCPooch looked like a fire hydrant, suggesting that dogs would relieve themselves on the videos of their owners. Pelland said no dogs have done that in their testing.
Mark Cuban said his biggest problem with the product was the fact that people would need an extra tablet (it also works with a smartphone) to use with the device. Both he and Laurie Greiner said they liked the concept but didn’t see a great market for the device.
O’Leary wasn’t swayed at all, saying, “I hate this very much as an idea. Very much.”
— Kevin O'Leary (@kevinolearytv) March 21, 2015
Herjavec said he applauded Brooke for what she’s accomplished at her age, but said he would need to see more sales of any product before investing.
— Robert Herjavec (@robertherjavec) March 21, 2015
Damon John was skeptical, as well, saying he could see the product making dogs more stressed out, waiting for the owner to come on screen.
Barbara Corcoran, who wasn’t on this show, also offered her thoughts on Twitter.
— Barbara Corcoran (@BarbaraCorcoran) March 21, 2015
Greiner, the QVC guru, cushioned the blow in the end: “The great thing about this, though, is you’re 14 years old, and you’ve already thought of one pretty clever item,” she said. “I can’t imagine what you’re going to do in the next dozen years.”
Herjavec added, “Brooke, at this pace you’ll be the queen of QVC in four years.”
Upbeat to the end, Brooke said in the post-pitch interview, “The Sharks missed a great opportunity to invest in iCPooch, but I know the next time they’re missing their pets, they’re going to want to be a customer, for sure.”
Of course, given all the exposure, losing out on an investment on Shark Tank doesn’t necessarily mean losing out as a business. We’ve contacted Brooke this morning to find out what impact the appearance has had so far on traffic and sales. The device is currently available for $129.99, down from $149.99 previously.
The episode was actually recorded last September, so Brooke’s victory at the GeekWire Summit “Inventions We Love” session in October was a nice bit of vindication, even though the rest of us didn’t know it at the time.