Currently in its tenth season, ABC reality show Shark Tank has spent years captivating audiences eager to watch aspiring entrepreneurs both make their dreams come true and also get torn to shreds by the panel. The current rotating selection of successful businessmen and women that make or break these aspiring millionaires consists of Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary, Lori Grenier, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, and Barbara Corcoran, in addition to celebrity guest investors like Ashton Kutcher, Jeff Foxworthy, Alex Rodriguez, Richard Branson, Bethenny Frankel, and Charles Barkley.
There’s no denying that Shark Tank has led to considerable success for a lucky few, some that have gone on to have billion-dollar businesses and whose success has long since eclipsed that of simply being something you’d see in an “As Seen On Shark Tank” end cap at Target or Bed Bath and Beyond for a couple of weeks. And while viewers love to see such success stories, there is also a certain appeal to tuning and seeing some of the ridiculous things people attempt to pitch and watching as the Sharks cut them down to size.
Not all bad pitches mean bad products, and not all amazing pitches are for good products. It takes a combination of good salesmanship and a compelling business idea to get the Sharks to bite. And on the flip side, some potentially great businesses aren’t always pitched the right way, which applies to some of the items on this list. The rest, however, were absurd products that never had a chance, and were clearly only sent through by producers who knew which bad ideas were going to make for good TV.
25 Worst: NoPhone
We all spend way too much time staring at our electronic devices— and at the same time, we all also get annoyed at other people who spend too much time staring at their electronic devices. The solution? According to the inventors of NoPhone, it’s a wooden block that looks and feels roughly like a phone and is supposed to scratch that itch of holding something but without the actual distraction that comes with a real smartphone.
Rightfully seeing it as a gag gift that only a few dozen people would find entertaining enough to buy, the Sharks promptly said no to NoPhone, while also wondering why producers even let these guys on TV over thousands of other aspiring entrepreneurs that had an actual business to promote.
24 Worst: Throx
Just where do all of our missing socks go? It’s one of those “problems” that must of us just joke about and don’t ever really lose sleep over. But the Throx company took the issue of missing socks seriously enough to build an entire business around it.
The big idea behind Throx is that they are socks that come in packs of three instead of two, meaning that if you happen to lose one, you already have a back up ready to go. Of course, unless you are just constantly losing your socks, this just means having a drawer full of third wheel socks that serve no real purpose other than to take up space. The Sharks thought this idea was stinky and full of holes and passed on it.
23 Best: Kodiak Cakes
Experts at making money through investment though they may be, the Sharks aren’t immune to making mistakes. Throughout Shark Tank‘s ten seasons, they have passed on a number of products that then went on to become big successes even without their help— well, other than the exposure from being on television, that is.
The Sharks, Kevin in particular, pointed out to the founders of Kodiak Cakes that there is nothing proprietary about pancake mix, and that it’s a market pretty well cornered by a few heavy hitters. A few deals were offered, but when the guys from Kodiak didn’t accept the terms, the Sharks went out. Today, Kodiak is the fourth largest pancake mix brand and brings in annual profits of $50 million plus.
22 Worst: Squirrel Boss
It’s certainly an irritating problem: You put out a bird feeder and fill it with seeds and other goodies for your feathered friends, only to have greedy squirrels come by and help themselves to the treats. Michael DeSanti, creator of Squirrel Boss, decided that the only way to discourage squirrels from invading your bird feeders is to shock them. Literally.
You might be wondering how Squirrel Boss knows to differentiate between birds and squirrels in terms of what to shock and what to leave alone. Therein lies the problem— it doesn’t. The Sharks collectively rolled their eyes when they discovered that Squirrel Boss requires you to constantly watch the device and then actually have to press a button to activate the shock. Between that and the high price of the product, all Squirrel Boss ended up driving away was an investment.
21 Worst: Wired Waffles
In today’s go-go-go world, who has time to eat breakfast and drink coffee? This means that busy adults are constantly having to choose between food and caffeine in the morning. Not anymore! Now, you can have your breakfast and your caffeine in one convenient place by eating a Wired Waffle. Well, you could have if the company who made Wire Waffles was still in business.
Among the Sharks’ concerns about Wired Waffles was that they were easily-imitated (you can’t really trademark adding caffeine to something,) the inherent risk of children accidentally eating them, and the lack of sales of the product prior to the pitch (about $1,000 total.) Oh, and there was also the not-insignificant issue that they apparently just didn’t taste very good. After a brief boost in sales following the episode, Wired Waffles soon had to be unplugged.
20 Best: The Bouqs Co.
One of the biggest reasons why flowers are so expensive is that you are paying for the various middlemen that are involved in the process between when the flowers are plucked from the dirt and when they are delivered to the home or office of your significant other. John Tabis founded The Bouqs Co. with the idea that flowers could just be sold directly to consumers.
For various reasons, Tabis didn’t get a deal when he appeared on Shark Tank in 2014. But Shark Robert Herjavec suddenly saw the error of his ways when he needed flowers for his wedding, and decided to contact Tabis not only as a customer but also as an investor. Bouqs just barely earned a million dollars its entire first year in existence— it now sometimes makes that on a single Valentine’s or Mother’s Day.
19 Worst: Cougar Energy
While so-called energy drinks have existed for a long time, it wasn’t until Red Bull launched its “it gives you wings!” ad campaign in the late-’90s that the market for amped-up beverages really took off. However, most energy drinks seem to specifically target not only males, but young males— and Cougar Energy aimed to change that.
Beyond the cringey realization that the Cougar Limited company as a whole was the brain child of a 20-something man who just happened to have a thing for older women, the Sharks sent this cougar back to its cage after being unimpressed by Cougar Energy’s taste, low sales, and extremely narrow— and somewhat contentious— target demographic.
18 Worst: The Skinny Mirror
Women deserve to feel beautiful, and are entitled to do whatever they choose to do to make themselves feel that way. But there are times when products geared toward making women look better are designed to mislead women and set them up for disappointment.
A mirror that makes a woman look skinnier isn’t evil in and of itself. The issue that the Sharks had with Skinny Mirror is that its creator was aiming to sell it to stores rather than consumers, and this had the potential to make women think they looked one way in a new outfit at the store, only to come home and see a different (read: the real) image when they get home and look at themselves in a non-distorted mirror. All Skinny Mirror did was show the Sharks its true, dishonest purpose.
17 Best: BedJet
Investors love to make money. The primary reason they invest in any product is because they are confident it will make them their investment back plus profits. But there is also something to be said for actually wanting to like the people you get into business with, and that’s where entrepreneur Mark Aramli struggled during his Shark Tank episode.
Aramli just seemed to rub the Sharks the wrong way, and he struck them as overly arrogant— so much so that they apparently didn’t see the money earning potential in his product, BedJet. Following his appearance on the show, where all five Sharks passed on his bed temperature-controlling system, Aramli’s BedJet has become one of the most successful Shark Tank rejects ever.
16 Worst: Elephant Chat
There is nothing funny about a failing marriage— despite what Mrs. Doubtfire led us to believe. And nothing can bring down a marriage more decisively than lack of communication. But what can be done to help couples who struggle to address whatever elephant might be in the room at a given time?
Jason and Amanda Adams decided to take that metaphor literally and created Elephant Chat, which is a stuffed elephant in a box that is to be brought out whenever there is an “elephant in the room” that needs discussing. This is supposed to make your partner know it’s time to have a serious chat. By you holding a tiny stuffed elephant that you pulled out of a plastic box. That costs sixty bucks. Do we really need to tell you how that pitch went, or what has become of the product since?
15 Worst: Nootrobox
Here’s yet another product designed for people who want a shot of caffeine in the most convenient method possible— because apparently, sipping coffee or taking a gulp of soda is just too much of a hassle for hard-working folks on the go.
Nootrobox is a company that makes caffeine-infused sugar cubes, with their star product being chewable coffee cubes. Sound tasty? We thought not. The problem that the Sharks had with the concoction— which also contained something called L-Theanine to supposedly reduce caffeine jitters— is that it was unknown what the long-term health risks might be from concentrated caffeine mixed with other chemicals. Couple that with Nootrobox’s over-inflated valuation, and the Sharks send Nootrobox packing.
14 Best: Copa De Vino
Very few people get the chance to pitch their product on Shark Tank. Even fewer get a second chance— but that is what happened to James Martin, founder of “on-the-go” wine company Copa Di Vino.
While initially drawing interest from the Sharks, they soon turned on him for his arrogant attitude. After leaving without a deal, Copa Di Vino’s success exploded, so much so that producers decided to bring him back the next season. Martin himself later admitted that he primarily just came back to rub it in the faces of the Sharks— particularly Kevin— that he found success without them. After smugly sipping his wine through much of his pitch while showing little interest in what they were saying, the Sharks kicked him to the curb a second time.
13 Worst: Original Man Candle
Despite how progressive we have become as a society, we still can’t seem to shake the notion that there are certain products that are “for women” and others that are “for men.” And some make less sense than others, such as the idea that wanting to burn candles to make your house smell nice is largely a feminine aim.
Enter the Original Man Candle— not to be confused with all the other man candles out there, apparently— which makes candles more masculine by way of unique scents. Some aren’t terrible, such as barbecue or golf course, but then owner Johnson Bailey went too far by making candles that smell like beer and, yes, flatulence. The Sharks didn’t sniff out a deal here, and passed on the Original Man Candle between bouts of laughter.
12 Best: Eco Nuts
A lot of people come to Shark Tank pitching ideas that aim to rethink a common product via a more nature-based approach. Scott Shields and Mona Weiss of Eco Nuts went that route with a line of soaps and cleaning products made with berries that naturally produce soap and are known as soap nuts.
When Shield and Weiss told the Sharks what a huge percentage of the “soap berry market” Eco Nuts held, the Sharks asked how big such a market even was— and laughed out loud when the answer was only about a million dollars annually. Questioning the small size of the market and other aspects of that pitch that weren’t adding up, the Sharks rinsed themselves clean of Eco Nuts— though it remains in business and does in fact pull in most of the annual million-dollar soap berry market.
11 Worst: UroClub
Dr. Floyd Seskin began his Shark Tank pitch by explaining that he was a urologist who had created a product that fills a major need of many of his patients. He builds up to what the Sharks assume is going to be some significant medical breakthrough, only to finally get to what is instead a punchline: a product that lets you answer nature’s call while on the golf course without interrupting your game (or using a nearby tree.)
Obviously seeing the UroClub as nothing more than a novelty product that only a few dozen people will ever buy— and only for a gag gift at that— the Sharks didn’t think the product was on a par with the rest of their portfolios. The UroClub technically remains on sale through its website, but there is little to suggest that Dr. Seskin will be able to quit his day job anytime soon.
10 Best: The Original Shrimp Burger
You seldom hear the Sharks regret deals that got away, generally doubling down on why passing was the right decision to make at the time. In the case of Chef Big Shake, who came to Shark Tank seeking an investment for his unique shrimp burgers, Mark Cuban has openly admitted that he made a mistake in not signing a deal with the chef.
While the Sharks loved the shrimp burger and Chef Big Shake himself, they all had an issue with low margins and just the toughness of the food industry, telling the chef they’ll gladly be customers but won’t be investors. After the exposure from the show, CBS Foods saw a huge jump in interest from customers and investors alike, and Chef Big Shake, his shrimp burgers, and his fried chicken restaurant have all remained successful.
9 Worst: Wake ‘N Bacon
One of the best experiences in life is to wake up to the delicious aroma of breakfast already cooking. And few breakfast smells are more familiar or iconic than that of cooking bacon. .
The inventor of Wake ‘N Bacon took this a little too literally, however, when he came up with an alarm clock that wakes you up while literally cooking a piece of bacon. The Sharks immediately— and rightfully— pointed out that this involved having a slice of raw bacon sitting in a box at your bedside for the entire night, and nothing else really mattered after that revelation. They sent Wake ‘n Bacon out to pasture.
8 Best: Hammer And Nails
After finding success on television and in Hollywood, writing the screenplays for the hit movies Brown Sugar and Like Mike, Michael Elliot decided to try something different after having a bad experience getting a manicure at a traditional female-focused salon. Elliot saw an opportunity for a nail salon and grooming shop that catered more towards men, and thus, the first Hammer & Nails salon opened in Los Angeles in 2013.
Elliot came to Shark Tank looking to make Hammer & Nails into a nationwide chain. Despite being initially perceptive to the idea, the Sharks soon soured on Hammer & Nails, seeing that Elliot didn’t have a clear business plan in place yet. He clearly does now: He has since franchised eight more locations, with another seven on the way.
7 Worst: Pavlok
Inventor and entrepreneur Maneesh Sethi had already written a book on aversion therapy called Hack the System, and once found a woman on Craigslist and paid her to slap him any time he got distracted from work as an experiment in breaking bad habits. Eventually, his grand idea was to just use on ourselves what we use on dogs when they misbehave: a shock collar.
Think it’s a joke? So did the Sharks when Sethi revealed the Pavlok— named after the famous Pavlovian Method of behavior conditioning. How did the Pavlok know you were engaging in a bad habit? It didn’t— you are supposed to shock yourself when you bite your nails, chew with your mouth open, etc. The only one shocked was Sethi when he didn’t get a deal.
6 Best: Rocketbook
There are few products these days that don’t have some kind of “smart” equivalent— thanks to Rocketbook, invented by Jake Epstein and Lemay, that also includes good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. While the actual Rocketbook notebooks themselves are fairly traditional, it’s when you photograph a page of hand-written notes via the Rocketbook app that the “magic” happens.
The Sharks didn’t see enough smart about Rocketbook to offer the duo a single cent of their $400K asking price— in particular, balking at how the Rocketbook was apparently reusable, thus limiting return sales. No matter— after Shark Tank, Rocketbook broke a Kickstarter record for most funded office supply in the platform’s history at $2.5 million in backer investments.
5 Worst: No Fly Cone
No, your eyes don’t deceive you— that is, in fact, Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane in the picture above. But he isn’t there to pitch his own product, instead being brought along to help boost the credibility of his friend’s My Fly Cone idea. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work, especially not on Kevin who didn’t even recognize him.
It’s not as though No Fly Cone creator Bruce Gaither wasn’t trying to solve a legitimate problem— the excessive amount of flies in his barn. But once Gaither revealed that his product was a cone that housed dog waste to attract the flies, the Sharks were disgusted and gave it a hard pass. Even MacFarlane doing a Stewie impression for the Sharks didn’t change their minds.
4 Best: Meal Enders
Some of the best innovations are the ones that come from a personal need. In the case of MealEnders, Mark Bernstein needed a way to lose weight in order to battle various health issues, and ended up developing a lozenge to help curb cravings that was not only successful for him but ended up taking off as a product, to the tune of $1.4 million in sales in under two years.
Still, various details about those sales— in addition to issues they had with the taste of the lozenges— turned the Sharks off, and they didn’t swallow what MealEnders was selling. But the product has done just fine without a Shark Tank deal, especially after the exposure it got from being on the show.
3 Worst: Attached Notes/Flip-N-Notes
Shark Tank has seen its fair share of pitches for products that attempted to solve a problem that seemingly didn’t exist, at least not to anyone other than the person who came up with it. Few examples of this are more infamous than when Mary Ellen Simonsen entered the Tank and tried to convince the Sharks that the world needed a way to add sticky notes to laptops.
Beyond the Sharks unanimously agreeing that Attached Notes was a worthless product that attempted to satisfy a non-existent need, they were aghast when they learned that the product cost nearly ten bucks. That Simonsen seemed annoyed at the Sharks’ disinterest and struggled to answer even their most basic questions only made things worse for the ill-fated entrepreneur and her superfluous product.
2 Best: The Lip Bar
Of all the companies on this list, the one that you are most likely to be familiar with has got to be The Lip Bar, as their products can now be found in Target stores across the country and have been evangelized by actress Taraji P. Henson.
How could the Sharks have missed The Lip Bar’s potential? Basically, they all agreed that the lipstick business was too competitive and that it would be impossible for an upstart to make a dent at this point. The Sharks were really hard on the women pitching the company, with both Kevin and Daymond in particular telling them in so many words that the company is a waste of time and should just be abandoned entirely. Clearly, the Sharks don’t always know what they are talking abut.
1 Worst: The Ionic Ear
Anyone who is a fan of Shark Tank and has been watching it since the beginning had zero doubt what was going to be at the “top” of this list. The Ionic Ear pitch is considered the worst in the history of Shark Tank by every Shark who has ever been asked to discuss the bad pitches from the show.
A perfect storm of a bad pitch, a bad salesman, and a bad product, the Ionic Ear was a Bluetooth device that customers would literally have surgically implanted inside their ear so they never again had to worry about having a Bluetooth earpiece fall out or get lost. None of the Sharks even pretended to entertain this as a legitimate business, and not only laughed inventor Darin Johnson off the stage but continued to mock the idea years later in interviews.