An inventor from Minnesota appeared on the latest episode of Shark Tank Friday night, hoping to make a deal with big-time investors.
Minneapolis entrepreneur Jackson Mann was invited to the show to pitch Vibes - a set of earplugs designed to reduce loud noises without sacrificing sound quality. Although his company has only been in business for a short time, someone who works for Shark Tank contacted Mann to be on the show.
In case you missed the episode, here's what happened...
Mann looked pretty calm and collected as he approached the sharks, though he told GoMN that it was "a very high pressure situation." He began by asking for $100,000 for 20 percent of his company.
The sharks looked interested as Mann explained the inspiration for his product: After rupturing an ear drum at a loud concert, he wanted to make sure that it wouldn't happen again. So the next time he went to see live music, he wore a pair of foam earplugs that many concert-goers resort to. But he found that it wasn't a great solution, because the foam plugs are meant to block sound and aren't really designed for music.
Mann then passed out samples of his Vibes Hi-Fi Earplugs, which are white buds with an outer transparent sound tube. He claimed that not only do they work better, they're also designed to be as unobtrusive as possible (unlike your typical, fluorescent earplugs).
And to prove the difference, he brought the McNasty Brass Band from Minneapolis to play for the sharks, who seemed impressed.
"You could really hear it so clearly," Barbara Corcoran said.
Although the pitch seemed to amuse the sharks, Mann ultimately did not walk away with a deal.
The investors thought his price point (Vibes cost $4 to make and retail for $23.99) seemed too high, and that the company's sales were too low. Mann countered that his business is just getting started, but one by one, the sharks went out - except for Kevin O'Leary.
O'Leary told Mann that there's a competitor that does the exact same thing and is cheaper - he even happened to be carrying a pair, and pulled them out. But he was still interested, because unlike the competitors, Vibes are nearly invisible. O'Leary offered $100,000 for 35 percent of the company, plus $2 royalty on every pair sold until he's paid back.
Mann said he wasn't interested in a royalty deal, and that was that.
He may not have gotten an investment, but appearing on Shark Tank is great exposure for a start-up company, and Mann still has lofty ambitions for his product.
He hopes to “save the hearing health” of hundreds of millions of people around the world who attend noisy live events. What’s more, a percentage of each Vibes sold goes to the Hear The World Foundation to provide hearing aids and surgery to those in need.
The earplugs, for which Mann has design and utility U.S. patents pending, are currently sold in about 50 retail locations and at various venues, arenas, music festivals and events. For more information, check out the website.