Monday, April 29, 2013

SHARK TANK: Which GOP candidates would the sharks choose?

With apologies to angry ad men, altruistic midwives, and elusive river monsters, the best show on TV right now is Shark Tank.

If you're not familiar with it, here's the gist -- fledgling entrepreneurs pitch their best ideas and products to five potential investors (aka "sharks") in exchange for capital.

The sharks grill the entrepreneurs on business basics, and then, depending on whether they like their answers, make an offer or throw them out.

Now... since it's the best show on network TV right now, it's only natural to try to work it into the 2016 race.

So let's ask: Which candidates would the sharks choose?

Sales and sells (photo: Shark tank report)

Why Lori Greiner would probably pick Rand Paul

Lori is called the "Queen of QVC" thanks to the 300+ products she's sold.

Thus, she values someone who can sell different points of view to different people (cough, cough, Rand Paul) and stand on his feet for hours while doing it (cough, cough, Rand Paul, the filibuster, cough, cough, 13 hours).

We've seen Rand sell different stuff to people, over and over, since the November election. He's tried to thread the needle on drones, gay marriage, immigration, foreign aid, and, basically, everything.

In fact, he often seems to tweak his position depending on his audience, which is the first rule of being a good salesman. Know thy audience, and adjust thy message.

If you're going to join forces with Lori, you have to conjure up messaging with mass appeal, and that's exactly what Paul's been trying to do -- working to put a new sheen on a populist libertarianism that's electorally viable.

As for Lori's offer?

Well, her line of questioning usually begins with "Do you have a patent on that?", and ends with "Are you sure that patent is strong?"

She wants a wholly unique product that can't be ripped off.

Well, Rand is (if nothing else) a completely unique brand. No one else has credibly fused libertarianism with the mainstream. Paul has a long way to go there, but he's the only guy on TV who's trying.

Lori's potential offer: $200K for 30% equity, provided that every possible patent on the product has been approved.

Robert Herjavec, son of immigrants (photo: Valley News)

Why Robert Herjavec would probably pick Marco Rubio

There are two two things that would coax Herjavec into pulling out his wallet.

1. Biography.

Rubio and Herjavec are the sons of immigrants, and both come from regions that have been in bed with Communism. Rubio's family is from Cuba; Herjavec is Croatian and emigrated to Canada when he was eight years old.

Neither family comes from wealth. Rubio's dad was a bartender and his mom drifted between retail jobs, while Herjavec's dad worked in the factory.

Those kind of connections matter to Herjavec.

Some of the sharks just like a good product (See Mark Cuban), but Herjavec often passes over products that he concedes are great (like Platetopper, which he said might have been the "best product" the show had ever seen) because he simply can't relate to them and doesn't know the industry.

Herjavec rarely works outside of his somewhat limited comfort zone, but Marco's background squares perfectly with Herjavec's.

2. Sure things.

Of course, everyone likes to bet on sure things, but Herjavec tends to be much less speculative than some of the other sharks. He won't take a chance because something simply intrigues him. He'll only take a chance if the intriguing thing has already made money.

Well, according to the conventional wisdom, Marco Rubio is as sure a thing as you can get (he tends to land at the top of every power ranking), and he's got the kind of broad demographic appeal that can sell anywhere.

Thus, if Herjavec finds a compelling person (Rubio's biography and general mien) in an industry he likes, he's in.

Herjavec's potential offer for Rubio: $3 million for 10% equity.

Yes, that's a much bigger valuation than you usually see on Shark Tank, but if anyone warrants a huge valuation, it's Marco Rubio, and Herjavec seems willing to give plenty of money for relatively low equity if the company is strong enough.

Kevin O'Leary <3 royalties (photo: pummax)

Why Kevin O'Leary would probably pick Chris Christie

Watching Mr. Wonderful and Christie negotiate would be incredibly fun.

Both are unrepentantly brash, but unlike some alphas, they've got a sense of friendly banter that's sort of endearing.

Then there's this -- O'Leary tends to offer money without promising to help, operationally or strategically. He just likes equity and a stress-free return on his investment.

So even if you claim that Christie and O'Leary are too alpha to coexist, Mr. Wonderful actually wouldn't mind retreating... as long as he gets his check.

But, more than anything else, here's why O'Leary would pick Christie -- royalties.

He's not necessarily interested in your strategy, but he love, Love, LOVES royalties.

He'll offer a fair amount of capital up-front for equity and royalties, but once he's received the capital back, he's usually willing to reduce the royalties. But here's the rub: he wants them in perpetuity.

So what does this have to do with Christie?

Well, regardless of whether Christie wins in 2016, he has a long career ahead of him. He will never go away. He'll always have youtube moments, he can write books, and he could even be a television personality.

The point is that he's a product who won't ever stop selling. That's beautiful music to the royalty-obsessed Kevin O'Leary.

O'Leary's potential offer to Christie: $850K and 10% in royalties until $850K is paid back, and then 5% in royalties in perpetuity.

Mark Cuban and Paul Ryan are both fond of Ayn Rand (photo:

Why Mark Cuban would probably pick Paul Ryan

Sure, Cuban famously voted for Barack Obama in 2008, but he sports a fondness for libertarian writer, Ayn Rand -- someone Paul Ryan also looks kindly on.

In 2006, Cuban told Slate that The Fountainhead had a profound influence on him in college.

"It was incredibly motivating to me. It encouraged me to think as an individual, take risks to reach my goals, and responsibility for my successes and failures. I loved it. I don't know how many times I have read it, but it got to the point where I had to stop because I would get too fired up."

Of course, pretty much every college student (who attends CPAC) has a crush on Rand in college, but that's still some high praise.

For his part, Ryan's feelings for Ayn Rand have been hotly debated.

In 2005, he told the Atlas Society that Rand inspired him to enter politics, and was "required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff", but last year, he distanced himself from Rand in an interview and rejected her worldview (most, including myself, read it as a repudiation based on political expedience rather than a wholesale rejection of Ayn's philosophy).

But there are other, good reasons why Cuban and Ryan would be a natural fit.

Both Cuban and Ryan are incredibly smart, good with numbers, and prone to embrace unconventional ideas that strike them as good ones.

They don't do things the normal way, and are extraordinarily good salesmen in their meat-and-potatoes, cut-the-crap way. They're not slick, but it's slick, if you catch the difference.

Mark Cuban's potential offer for Ryan: $200K in return for 20% equity and a promise of close collaboration and strategic partnership.

Daymond John, FUBU guy (photo: 4hourworkweek)

Why Daymond John would probably pick Nikki Haley

Daymond John tends to look for three things -- 1) an underdog 2) someone who plays in the fashion/accessories space and 3) a fighter.

Both John and Haley are ethnic minorities with humble backgrounds and connections to fashion.

Daymond, of course, created the multi-billion dollar clothing company, Fubu. Nikki's fashion connection stretches back to her childhood when her parents founded the clothing company, Exotica International.

They're also underdogs.

Daymond John grew up in a poor NYC neighborhood, and found success when his mom mortgaged their home to support his fledgling business. Haley, well -- the underdog thing is pretty obvious. She's the female, Indian governor of South Carolina. Did anyone besides Haley ever think that was possible in the good-old-boy politics of SC?

Daymond is particularly receptive to people who share his personal story and are succeeding despite life's best attempt at thwarting them, so he'd clearly find all that in Haley.

What's more -- John HATES indirect and slippery people.

If you won't give him a firm number or handshake, he's out. That also fits perfectly with Haley. She tends to be blunt and direct. No equivocation or hesitation from her even if it strikes some as arrogant (as with John).

Daymond's potential offer to Haley: $150K for 35% and access to all his distribution channels and, possibly, Macy's.