Cool and confident in his short-shorts with matching striped socks, Shane Cox exuded self-assurance last June as he walked onto the biggest stage in entrepreneurship: ABC’s Shark Tank.
After all, he wasn’t a beginner — in fact the CEO and founder of Cary-based PEEQ Technologies had attended three casting calls for the show in hopes of getting a deal for his company’s main product, the Qball. The Qball is a blue ball housing a wireless microphone that can, for instance, be thrown around a classroom when a teacher is calling on students to answer questions, or tossed amidst the audience at a speech to allow questions to the speaker that everyone can hear.
Although he was still not necessarily expecting success, Cox was prepared to put everything on the line in a last-ditch effort to reel in a shark.
“In prepping, I re-watched every episode of the past eight seasons,” he said. “I made this giant rubric of every question that was asked, how it was answered and what the reactions were to try to feel like I was going in with barrels loaded.”
Cox’s third casting call turned out to be the charm to get him on the air in front of the sharks and a national TV audience. After a short exchange with the sharks, Cox walked out of the tank with a $300K investment for 30 percent equity from three sharks: Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner and Rohan Oza. Then when the episode aired in early October, millions got to see him land that deal — and see the Qball.
While many people think getting an investment from the sharks is the finish line for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, Cox said it was only the beginning.
“Being on the show is not a guarantee of success, and getting a deal is not a guarantee of success,” he says. “It’s all about the execution based on that and knowing once the show ends, once that airing is over, where do you go from there?”
Part of this execution comes with the sharks’ guidance, and Cox said his access to resources was much larger with three sharks as opposed to one.
“Having three of them is really amazing from an optics perspective,” he said. “It does make it a little more challenging on the back-end because there’s not necessarily one shark that’s like ‘this is my deal,’ but it’s great because I have three different opinions to pull from.”
Now, more than a year later, the sharks still play a big role in guiding Cox as he continues to scale his company.
Earlier this year Cox visited the headquarters of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks to to meet with one of his investors, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and get his blessing on a new version of the Qball set to launch next year.
Cox said the blessing meant a lot because the sharks always say what they mean.
“They’re not afraid to express their opinion,” he said. “If I tell them an idea and they don’t think that it’s a good one they’ll let me know. That’s important because you don’t just want a ‘yes’ man.”
Cox said he is happy with how involved the sharks are in the business, which is primarily advising him on certain subjects and connecting him to their resources.
“Their involvement is really as much as I want them involved,” he said. “It’s great from an entrepreneur perspective because I didn’t want someone to come in and run my business for me, and I don’t think that’s what they want either.”
Cox said it’s exactly this type of hands-off approach that has led his company to success in the year since he signed a deal with the sharks.
“When we aired on Shark Tank I had just recently moved out of my garage into a little tiny office space,” Cox said. “We’ve moved to a bigger space now, we’ve definitely filled out the team more and are still in the process of filling out that team. As of this month we’ve already doubled our revenue from last year so we’re on a good track.”
Despite the fact that getting a deal on Shark Tank didn’t solve all his problems, Cox said he doesn’t regret a thing.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat.”