Partnership Lessons from "Shark Tank"


For budding entrepreneurs, “Shark Tank” is a pop culture phenomenon that made venture capital more accessible to the masses. Yes, there is some reality-show forced drama, but anything that gives audiences at least a passing understanding of valuations, equity stakes and market placement can’t be all bad.

There are also clear lessons in the value of partnerships to be learned from the interactions of the entrepreneurs and investors during the pitch process.  It turns out that the “sharks” invest more often in business who come in to pitch as a partnership.  Analysis of the deals show that co-founders (two or more) were far more likely to close a deal than solo entrepreneurs (44% of solo entrepreneurs close a deal vs. 58% with two co-founders.)

The reason for this may be as simple as the difficulty in getting a full "skill set" for a start-up in one person (tech and business management skills, for example.) While there can be a sole founder and a team to fill in other needed skills, there is some research indicating that two co-founders is optimal. Presumably, this is because two partners can have complementary skill sets, but not the complexity and opportunity for conflict you may get with more partners. However, it may also be something more qualitative: there is a higher likelihood that funders will feel an affinity for at least one of the founders and feel that they can deal with them successfully.

The Sharks sometimes make this explicit in taking the deal. In a recent segment Barbara Corcoran commented that she did not like one of the partners, but luckily she liked the other one a lot or would not have made the deal.  Given the importance of this relationship it is axiomatic that a business partnership is something to be fostered and protected, much like a marriage. Actually, Corcoran has often compared the partnerships she sees on Shark Tank with her marriage saying they both require “respect and endurance.”   

TAGS: Partnerships, Co-founders


  • Form strong partnerships
  • Resolve partnership conflict
  • Reinforce your partnership dynamics

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