Seven hundred hopeful entrepreneurs representing 500 ideas descended on South Philly maker space NextFab Studio this past weekend to audition for “Shark Tank,” ABC’s investor pitch reality show, according to NextFab community development specialist Itsuki Ogihara.
The casting call, which was the only this year in the Northeast U.S. and was advertised as “first come, first served,” drew entrepreneurs from Boston, Delaware, New Jersey and even Florida. Ogihara estimated that more than half of the entrepreneurs came from out of state.
By 1 a.m. on Saturday, there were about 130 people camping out in a nearby parking lot rented by NextFab, said Ogihara, despite an ongoing thunderstorm. Several people waiting in line Saturday morning said they had been waiting since 5 a.m.
Despite the rush to get an audition spot, every company — all 500 — secured a chance to pitch, Ogihara said.
Most entrepreneurs Technically Philly spoke to did not have a tech focus, like John Hackett of Mantua Township, N.J., who had built a sponge for drywall sand, Jennifer Mitchener of Delaware, who was pitching a hairbrush that bends and the Mechanicsburg, Pa. trio that runs Torchbearer Sauces, an “accidentally healthy” hot sauce line.
There was, at least one, tech-focused entrepreneur in attendance: Mihir Shah, CEO of University City Science Center-based UELifeSciences. Shah’s company sells a Drexel-built handheld breast exam tool. Shark Tank is a good “PR opportunity to create awareness,” said Shah, adding that the audition was a good experience and felt more like a conversation than a pitch. It lasted about five minutes, he said.
Others didn’t enjoy their audition as much as Shah, like the guy who stormed out of NextFab yelling, “Thirty seconds if you’re lucky!” (We didn’t get the chance to catch his name.)
Inside NextFab, entrepreneurs waited in line for one of five audition rooms, holding props of all kinds: lamps, plastic dolls and even a dog.
Twelve NextFab members auditioned, said NextFab’s Yulia Novozhilova.