15 Dec 2015
Lovepop Woos The Sharks
HBS alumni entrepreneurs on life inside the tankTopics:
Wombi Rose (left) and John Wise
Former i-lab resident LovePop—founded by Wombi Rose (MBA 2015) and John Wise (MBA 2015)—had an atypical appearance on ABC’s entrepreneurial reality show, Shark Tank: By the end of their presentation, they had investors pitching them. Between two matching bids, the Boston-based company—which creates cards that open to reveal intricately designed 3D structures—chose Shark Kevin O’Leary’s $300,000 offer for 15% of the company. We talked to Rose about pitching the Sharks, their viewing party-turned-war room, and the future of LovePop.
You’ve been in front of VCs before. How does this experience differ?
It’s so different. My experience with pitching VCs is in a much more casual environment. It’s at a coffee shop, at a conference room table—it’s never you standing in front of five competing investors who are all firing questions at you. And you usually have some kind of introduction beforehand—the investors usually have some information coming into the meeting. You walk into the “Tank,” and it’s brand new.
Did you refine your pitch specifically for the show?
Yes and no. You know there’s going to be specific questions and make sure you have answers. You have to be solid on your numbers. You can’t say “Hey, let me turn to page three here to see what our sales were last year.” It has to all be in your head when you’re in front of the sharks. But it wasn’t that we crafted a different pitch for the Sharks than we would have for any other investor. We do what we do because we think it’s awesome, we believe in it, and because our customers like it. It's a powerful solution that really makes people happy.
Did you have a viewing party?
We were going to, but then we decided there was no way we could have a party because our whole team was going to be focused on making sure the website was up and fielding customer service calls. We were all hands on deck—we even had a whole bunch of extra people come on to help us out. We just set up a whole response center in our office, and we invited a very, very small number of people who were all heavily involved in the company—investors, friends who had helped us in the past, and even some other Shark Tank companies who had been through the experience.
So you were able to see the reaction in real-time as the show was airing.
We were literally watching the show air on TV and then we were watching the real-time Google Analytics graph. It’s really interesting to see what the active users on the site looked like based on what was happening on the show. And when they cut to commercial—when we were just thinking about the offer—right then, the phones started ringing. And they didn’t stop ringing. We’re all just standing there, incredibly exhilarated that the site is still up, and then the eight-person customer service just runs out of the room to get to their stations. It was really cool.
What are the plans for the Shark Tank money?
It comes in tandem with investments from other Boston companies, including an institutional seed round led by [venture firm] Accomplice. With all the capital, we want to perfect the online gifting experience. Our goal is to redefine expectations for what can fit in an envelope and do that so you can surprise and delight the people you care about.
Lovepop on Shark Tank
Class of MBA 2015, Section H
Class of MBA 2015, Section G