Shark Tank Inventions That Will Shape the Way We Live
BY CHRISTIE BRYDON
Ringing into its eighth season, Shark Tank puts aspiring entrepreneurs in front of ultra-successful business titans. Elevator pitches can result in million-dollar investments (or, occasionally, humiliation). But after the deals close and the drama settles, there’s no doubt that it’s not just about making good television—some of the ideas on the show have the power to become household names.
For every weight-loss lip gloss or money-scented cologne, there is a really, truly life-changing business idea with the potential to help people. Some of them may even affect the way you work, eat, and travel. Even if you’re not looking to put a casual million down on any of these ideas yet, check out how they could improve daily life sooner than you think.
Going to the dentist usually requires deep breaths, but Mint makes it as easy as a single exhale. Photo courtesy of Breathometer.
Every year, drunk drivers account for nearly one third of motor vehicle fatalities. While the simple solution is clear—never get behind the wheel after you’ve consumed alcohol—one entrepreneur created a breathalyzer that plugs right into your smartphone. But that was just the beginning. The original model, called the Breeze, promptly sold out. The company then realized additional applications of its technology and pivoted to introduce its newest product: Mint.
Mint brings dental care right to your smartphone. Breathing into the little device detects disease-causing compounds and generates an oral report card. Mint isn’t just a whole new way to measure oral health—it’s also “breaking new ground for self-diagnostic devices” and might change the medical world’s whole perspective on preventative care. With the support of all five Sharks (a first-time record) and recent funding from Virgin’s Richard Branson, the company expects continuous growth to do more.
It’s easy being green—even indoors—with these magnetic planter modules by Urbio. Photo courtesy of Urbio.
As the world’s population moves towards urban centers, many people find themselves giving up their backyards and proximity to nature. (Although you’d be surprised what you can grow in even the smallest balcony garden.) For those looking to connect with nature by way of indoor greenery, there’s an apartment-friendly solution: Urbio.
This line of modulized indoor planters for urban homes brings the best of the outdoors to the simplicity of apartment living. They cater to those short on floor space and on plant knowledge (which is pretty much most of us, right?). Drill a couple holes, hang the wall plate, and play around with the magnetic pieces of your new vertical garden. While some indoor spaces lack light and views of the great outdoors, products like Urbio give city dwellers the beauty and health benefits that indoor plants have to offer.
The company first brought its greenery gadgets to Kickstarter, where it raised 500% of its original goal. Two years later, a successful appearance on Shark Tank earned the company several offers, after which it launched a new line and made an acquisition. Now, Urbio is poised to revolutionize the way you store anything at home, from your kitchen to your bathroom. With this new mastery of small-space organization, you might just find yourself with too much space in your tiny apartment.
Got weeds? Get goats. (Okay, they might not hail a cab, but they are available on-demand.) Photo courtesy of Rent a Goat.
Rent a Goat
You can pave paradise, but grass will still grow through the cracks in the pavement. Cities often use machinery and herbicides to tackle overgrowth, but they’re not exactly eco-friendly and they can be expensive. Turns out, there’s a solution that’s cost-effective, eco-friendly, and…cute? Hello, Rent a Goat.
Businesses and individuals wanting to get rid of invasive plants on their property can rent a herd of goats, which will chomp away happily. Goats are naturally immune to some plants we generally avoid, like poison ivy, making them a natural candidate for the job. But the need for clearance goes beyond aesthetics and hassle—Rent a Goat’s activity in California has made serious waves in helping reduce wildfires. Sometimes, the best ideas are the simple ones, making this one a winner.
While the company did not get funded on Shark Tank, the exposure helped it expand its business, which is anticipating successful growth.
Doorman delivers on your schedule so you’ll never miss a package again. Photo courtesy of Doorman.
Ordering packages to an apartment or urban dwelling can be tricky, to say the least. How many times have you come home to the dreaded “while you were out” missed delivery slip? Or gotten a delivery confirmation email, only to find that your package disappeared before you got to it? If you’re still getting things mailed to your office and then lugging them home on the bus, Doorman is here to save the day.
Here’s how it works: order your package and select a two-hour delivery window (or upgrade to a one-hour window for an extra cost). Doorman will receive your order and hold onto it until your selected time. Then, voila, they arrive right when you requested. It works for all mail carriers, from FedEx to USPS, and all types of packages, from clothes to subscription boxes.
The app offers personal and business plans that range from per-package to all-inclusive monthly rates. Plus, ecommerce sites can use the API-powered tool to give customers control right when they order, giving us all peace of mind (and saving companies from “where’s my order?” customer service calls). Doorman is delivering a true gift to us all.
Here’s a fresh idea: combat food waste and up your veggie intake with home deliveries from Hungry Harvest. Photo courtesy of Hungry Harvest.
One-fifth of the produce we grow in the U.S. goes to waste. Yes, that includes the moldy strawberries you forgot in the back of your refrigerator, but it’s also the byproduct of some much bigger systematic problems. Grocery stores often reject perfectly edible produce just because of aesthetic flaws, like a “misshapen” apple or a twisted carrot. Or sometimes a retailer simply orders too much of a certain product, and the overage ends up in the landfill.
Hungry Harvest appeared on Shark Tank with an appetizing mission: deliver recovered fruits and vegetables to your doorstep for just $15 a week. The home delivery model offers the convenience of community-supported agriculture with the added benefit of reducing food waste. Plus, subscribers can add extras to their order, like dried fruit, bread, granola, and coffee. For every delivery, the company donates 1-2 pounds of produce to partners or farmers markets to curb hunger.
This service has the potential to change the way people think about food—from the resources it takes to produce to the unsustainable standards we insist for markets. Hungry Harvest currently serves the D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia areas, but hints at future expansion.
You’d be smiling, too, if you were the ultra-successful Scrub Daddy sponge. Photo courtesy of Scrub Daddy Sponge.
Scrub Daddy Sponge
A life-changing sponge? Really. Believe it or not, the one-of-a-kind Scrub Daddy sponge is arguably the most successful product in Shark Tank history. On second thought, it makes sense that the ideas with the biggest impact are the most prevalent, everyday objects. Don’t let the smiley face fool you—this purposeful design brings the best in cleaning with durability, gentleness, maneuverability, and, yeah, cuteness.
Aaron Krause ran a car detailing service that used his specially created buffing pads that had a gritty-yet-gentle texture that is promised by many but achieved by few. In 2011 (almost 20 years after that car detailing job), Aaron connected the dots and realized that the sponge had immediate use in the kitchen. He made two holes for easy holding and added the smile to best clean utensils. The smiley face led him to Shark Tank, where “The Queen of QVC” Lori Greiner made a deal with him. The Scrub Daddy now sells at many major retailers and continues to soar.
Tiny apartment + smelly litter box = time to potty-train Whiskers with a CitiKitty. Photo courtesy of CitiKitty.
Living with pets in the city can be a challenge. Tight living quarters mean that a litter box might be smack-dab in the middle of the kitchen. Limited (and hazardous) outdoor space means many cats live exclusively indoors. What to do if you have a kitty in the city? Try CitiKitty.
New York City resident Rebecca Rescate faced all the usual obstacles with her apartment-dwelling cat, so she had an idea: toilet training. Unfortunately, many instructions and kits took a lot of time, effort, and money, so she created her own. With a unique system that gradually introduces critters to the new process, the CitiKitty claims to work for cats of any size or age, and saves thousands of dollars in litter costs. With the future of city housing affecting square footage and roommate situations, not to mention the rise of tiny homes and van life, CitiKitty grants a better life for cats and their owners in any floor plan.
Own a pup? Fellow Shark Tank alum Fresh Patch will deliver real grass to your yard-less abode—and swap out for a fresh grass pad whenever you need it.
Think small, win big. The simple Tree T-PEE is saving water and improving agriculture nationwide. Photo courtesy of Tree T-PEE.
What may be the show’s humblest product could also be one of the most impactful. The Tree T-PEE is a simple piece of plastic that wraps around trees, forming a protective cone (or teepee, giving it its name) around the base of the trunk. Its initial purpose of keeping trees warm during low winter temperatures gave way to an even more remarkable result—significantly conserving water. Trees typically only absorb a fraction of the water from micro-sprinklers and rain, but with the T-PEE, that water is stored so the tree can take in more over time. The full impact? Reducing water usage from 25,000 gallons per tree to just 800—a whopping 3000%.
When Johnny Georges appeared on the show, the sharks challenged his low price, pointing out that he could make a higher profit if he charged more than the current $5 tag. He responded honorably, saying: “I work for farmers. Helping them helps us all.”
Now, some farmers are ordering T-PEEs by the thousands, and Johnny landed a deal with Home Depot. While most average citizens may not be placing an order anytime soon, there’s no doubt that this Shark Tank success story will have a ripple effect. Agriculture, irrigation, and water conservation directly affect our food supply and our environment. It just goes to show how the next big idea could come from anywhere.