Swimming with the Sharks: What Really Happens After You Get a Deal on Shark Tank

For entrepreneurs bold enough to dive into the Shark Tank, the moment of truth is that fateful final handshake. After a successful pitch, grueling negotiation, and verbal agreement with one or more of the "Sharks" – celebrity investors like Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, or Daymond John – life will never be the same. But what exactly changes after you walk off the set with a Shark as your new business partner?

The Feeding Frenzy: Shark Tank‘s Immediate Impact

The so-called "Shark Tank effect" is very real and very powerful. Take Goverre, which makes portable, stemless wine glasses with a spill-resistant drink-through lid. After securing a $200,000 investment from Sharks Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, and Robert Herjavec in 2017, the company saw:

  • 5000% increase in web traffic within 48 hours of episode airing
  • 11,000 orders placed over the weekend, selling out 3 months of inventory
  • 40,000 new Instagram followers within a week
  • $1.3M sales in the first 6 months post-Shark Tank

These eye-popping stats are far from unusual. According to Shopify data, Shark Tank businesses on their platform see an average 5-10X increase in traffic after their episodes air, with some reaching 50X or more. The sales impact is equally dramatic:

Metric Typical Increase Post-Shark Tank
Web traffic 5-10X
Sales (first 72 hours) 20-80X
Social media followers 5,000-100,000+

Entrepreneurs need to be prepared for this sudden tsunami of attention. When Randy Goldberg pitched his direct-to-consumer sock brand Bombas on Shark Tank, he knew it could make or break the company:

"We spent months making sure our website could handle 30X normal traffic and that we had enough inventory to fulfill a huge spike in demand. I barely slept the week before our episode aired, but it paid off – we did $400,000 in sales that first weekend."

In the Shark‘s Wake: Riding the Wave

After the initial frenzy fades, Shark Tank companies face the daunting task of sustaining momentum and leveraging their 15 minutes of fame to build a lasting brand and business. This is where the true value of a strategic Shark partner often comes into play.

Lori Greiner, known as the "Queen of QVC," has a track record of using her expertise in TV sales and mass retail to supercharge her Shark Tank investments. When she struck a deal with sponge company Scrub Daddy in 2012, she helped founder Aaron Krause land coveted QVC appearances that consistently sold 40,000+ units per minute. Within three years, Scrub Daddy hit $50M in annual revenue, expanded into 30,000 retail stores, and to date has racked up over $200M in total sales – making it the biggest success in Shark Tank history.

Similarly, FUBU founder Daymond John uses his branding and influencer marketing savvy to boost his Shark Tank companies, particularly in the fashion and lifestyle space. His investment in Bombas helped the sock startup secure celebrity endorsements, high-profile media placements, and retail partnerships that have fueled its growth to over $100M in annual revenue.

As Mark Cuban put it in an interview with Forbes:

"It‘s not just about the money. It‘s about what you do with it and how you leverage your Shark‘s experience, network and promotional power. That‘s the real value of doing Shark Tank if you‘re lucky enough to get a deal."

Swimming With the Big Fish: Scaling Strategically

Of course, even with a Shark in their corner, not all Shark Tank companies have smooth sailing. According to Forbes, nearly 2/3 of deals made on camera fall apart during due diligence. Contestants may have inflated their numbers, concealed liabilities, or simply gotten cold feet about giving up equity. Even when the deal does close, the failure rate of Shark Tank companies mirrors that of startups in general – around 50% don‘t make it long-term.

For those that do beat the odds, the challenge becomes scaling strategically without losing what made them special in the first place. The Ring video doorbell (originally called DoorBot) was a Shark Tank reject that was later acquired by Amazon for over $1B. Founder Jamie Siminoff turned down a contingent offer from Kevin O‘Leary because he felt it undervalued the company and came with too many strings attached. While he credits the Shark Tank exposure for initially boosting Ring‘s profile, Siminoff believes the company‘s ultimate success came from staying true to his vision and taking a disciplined, customer-centric approach to growth:

"On Shark Tank, you have to decide in minutes whether to take a deal. But building a real business is not a split-second decision. You have to put in the hard work every single day to create something of lasting value – there are no shortcuts. Getting a ‘no‘ from the Sharks was the best thing that could have happened because it forced us to really examine what kind of company we wanted to build for the long-haul."

Other Shark Tank companies have prospered by using their 15 minutes of fame to pivot into more promising business models. Rapid Ramen, which makes a microwavable ramen cooker, secured a $300,000 investment from Mark Cuban on Season 8. But after selling over 200,000 units, they realized the market for a one-trick kitchen gadget was limited. So they used the cash and clout from Shark Tank to completely rebrand as Rapid Brands, expanding into a full line of microwave cookware. The company now does over $10M in annual revenue and has products in major retailers like Target and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Lessons from the Tank: Sink or Swim

So what separates the Shark Tank success stories from the sinkers? Here are a few key takeaways for entrepreneurs looking to make a splash:

  1. Know your numbers cold. The Sharks are ruthless when it comes to sniffing out inflated valuations, fuzzy math, or ignorance of key metrics. Have a firm grasp of your financials, unit economics, and path to profitability before taking the plunge.

  2. Build buzz beforehand. Some of the most successful Shark Tank pitches, like Bombas and Squatty Potty, already had strong traction and brand recognition before appearing on the show. Consider a PR push or crowdfunding campaign to demonstrate market demand and make the Sharks fight over you.

  3. Be ready for the feeding frenzy. Have a plan in place to handle the inevitable surge in web traffic, media attention, and sales after your episode airs. Line up additional manufacturing capacity, customer service support, and fulfillment ops so you can strike while the iron is hot.

  4. Leverage your Sharks wisely. Don‘t just take the biggest check – consider which Shark has the most relevant expertise and connections for your specific business. Lori Greiner‘s QVC prowess may not help an enterprise software startup, but it‘s pure gold for a quirky kitchen gadget.

  5. Think beyond the Tank. Shark Tank is a fantastic launch pad, but it‘s not a substitute for a real long-term strategy. Keep your eye on fundamentals like customer retention, product innovation, and unit economics. Play the PR game, but don‘t let it distract you from the hard work of building a sustainable business.

As Barbara Corcoran advises her entrepreneurs:

"Don‘t focus on what happens in the 10 minutes you‘re in the Tank. Focus on building something so valuable that, 10 years from now, we barely remember how it started."

The true measure of a Shark Tank success isn‘t how much buzz you generate or how fast you grow in the first year. It‘s whether you‘re still standing – and still delighting customers and out-innovating the competition – long after your moment in the reality TV spotlight has passed. So while landing a Shark Tank deal is undoubtedly a major milestone, it‘s really just the beginning of the journey.

As any battle-scarred entrepreneur knows, starting a business is a lot like jumping into the shark tank. If you can avoid getting eaten alive and somehow fight your way to the surface, you just might have a chance to keep swimming with the big fish. The key is remembering that Sharks are just the start – it‘s up to you to navigate the choppy waters ahead.