(Steve Tisch, film producer, businessman, and co-founder of the New York giants, guest stars in this episode.)
Cycloramic Before Shark Tank
Bruno Francois had the idea for Cycloramic when he noticed that his phone, lying flat on a table, would move across it. He wondered if he could take advantage of this phenomenon. By making minor tweaks to vibration patterns in his smart phone, he was able to make it spin while balanced on its flat edge. The result was a completely hands-free way to take panoramic photos and videos. The idea was clever, intuitive, and charming. It used functionality already present in smart phones to create an entirely new experience.
As it turned out, simply using the product was a form of viral marketing. Everyone would wonder how a smart phone could “dance”. They would look on with awe, go home, watch the trailer, and purchase the app. In the first week after Cycloramic was launched in 2012, it got over one hundred thousand downloads. Cycloramic and Egos Ventures, the development company, both received widespread critical acclaim, as well as several awards in 2012 and 2013. Steve Wozniak, AKA “The Woz” of Apple fame, personally sent Bruno a video of him using the app, calling it “unexpected, fanciful, and useful all at the same time.”
Bruno’s main problem was his uncertainty and lack of connections. There were a number of potential applications for the Cycloramic, but there were even more potentially viable business models. It wouldn’t be a one dollar download forever. Should he aspire to selling the app to a major social media platform? Would licensing it to hardware companies for bundling be a better decision? The main thing he needed from the sharks was a guiding hand.
Cycloramic During Shark Tank
Bruno entered the tank seeking ninety thousand dollars in exchange for five percent of his company, Cycloramic. He marketed it as a hands-free, tripod-free way to take panoramic photos. Bruno offered a demonstration, where he activated the app and used it to take a panoramic photo of the sharks. At first, they didn’t quite get it. Bruno was using a base for a smooth surface. How did the base work, they wondered? He noticed their confusion and clarified: the phone was spinning on its own. He led another demonstration closer to the sharks, and the mood in the room immediately changed, from confusion and delight. Kevin and Daymond posed for the camera. “I want to buy that!” Daymond exclaimed.
Bruno explained that the app combined a phone’s vibration, gyroscope, and compass to rotate smoothly. It could operate on any smooth surface, without any other accessory. Predictably, Lori was concerned with intellectual property. Bruno assured her that he owned a utility patent. That potential red flag aside, they got into sales. The app was being sold for a dollar, with around six hundred sixty thousand downloads to date, coming out to one hundred seventy-five thousand dollars in profit. By the end of 2013, he hoped to do a million dollars in revenue.
However much they were enchanted by the app, valuation was still a concern. Daymond asked where Cycloramic’s valuation came from. He answered that, as a start-up without prior investment, it was difficult to choose a specific value. However, he assured them that the app was completely unique from anything else on the market. Lori was quick to make an offer. She appreciated his ingenuity and called Cycloramic a “mega-watt hero”. She was willing to offer two hundred thousand dollars for ten percent of the business.
After only three-and-a-half minutes in the tank (which admittedly means much longer in real negotiation time), Bruno already had an offer for a higher valuation than he asked. However, he opted to keep selling the sharks on his product, saying a base for use with any cell phone was in development. Lori appeared confused. Her offer was still on the table, but she threatened to retract it if Bruno fielded any further offers. “You have a bird in the hand…maybe you should take it.” Her strategy of ultimatum as negotiating tactic wasn’t working here: it was a seller’s market. Every other shark was just as interested as she was.
Mark took Bruno’s hesitation as an opportunity. While he respected Lori’s hustle, he thought that familiarity with this type of technology was a critical trait for an investor. While Lori had the means to market and sell the app, Mark had actual experience with similar services. Lori challenged him to cut the talk and make an actual offer for Cycloramic, but Mark wasn’t ready to jump in just yet. He wanted to hear more about Bruno’s vision for the business, since it had so many possibilities. When Bruno said that gaming offered major potential for new product development, Mark noted that he was an investor in a gaming company. As Lori put it, Mark was selling himself.
Before he could get an offer out, Daymond cut in. He beat Lori’s offer by fifty thousand dollars, offering two hundred fifty thousand for 10% of the business. As Bruno contemplated between partnering with Daymond or Mark, Kevin tried his luck. Kevin predicted that Bruno might want to build a spin-off business from this specific technology. In that case, he may not want to give up equity at an early stage. He would need the help to milk this application for everything it was worth to build a platform of related technology in the future.
In signature fashion, Kevin offered a royalty deal, ninety thousand dollars for fifteen percent. Mark disagreed with Kevin’s description of apps and tech companies. Rather than oversaturating the market with a single application, Mark suggested partnering with an investor who would promote current research and development. In a final attempt to appear qualified, Kevin claimed that his experience as a professional photographer would make him a valuable partner.
Sensing a feeding frenzy, Steve wanted in on the action. He asked Lori if she would accept him into her deal. They would match Daymond’s offer, with the added benefit of working with two sharks. Bruno now had two equivalent equity offers on the table and a royalty deal. Evidently considering Kevin’s offer, Bruno asked for his thoughts on applications for Cycloramic. Could it be sold to a hardware company and bundled with their phones? Kevin’s answer equated to “Yeah, sure, whatever you want.” He had suddenly become a yes man, trying to lock in a deal. However, Bruno was looking for a strategic partner to give him specific advice, something only Mark had done so far. “Are you done playing games with these guys?” Mark asked.
Mark offered one million dollars for thirty percent. While he was offering the largest investment and the highest valuation, he was also asking for a big chunk of the company. Daymond escalated things by increasing his offer to three hundred thousand dollars for ten percent. This wouldn’t quite match Mark’s valuation, but Daymond would accept a much smaller amount of equity. Every shark was willing to pay top dollar. Lori framed this as a matter of connections, not money. Steve agreed, claiming that valuable connections in the sports and entertainment industries increased his value. However, Mark flipped this on them. “Ask them to explain how the product works. See if they understand it.” If an investor doesn’t understand a product, she offers no value in an advisory role.
Kevin, recognizing that his royalty deal wasn’t holding water, pulled something else from his bag of tricks. He would invest two hundred thousand dollars for ten percent initially. However, after recouping this initial investment, he would lose five percent equity. This deal was safe for Kevin, in case Cycloramic never picked up steam, but it was a better deal for Bruno if the business was very successful. Steve liked the sound of this. He and Lori matched Kevin’s deal but did him one better by offering two hundred fifty thousand. Daymond made a strange offer of three hundred fifty thousand dollars for twelve percent, responding to the bidding war by decreasing his valuation.
Somehow, Bruno kept track of all of this. Despite offers that nearly doubled the value he proposed for his business, he was still careful. He appreciated Mark’s technical experience and Lori’s history with patents and invention. Would they consider teaming up? Recognizing that they may need each other to get a deal, Mark and Lori eventually accepted this proposition. Before they could settle on a number, Steve spoke up. He understood that he would need a team to hope to make a deal, so he offered to cooperate with Kevin and Daymond, who seemed willing to have him on board.
Before their new relationship could blossom, Mark stole back the attention. Would Bruno take Mark’s previous deal, a million for thirty percent, if he teamed up with Lori? While Bruno was comfortable with this valuation, he wasn’t excited to give up this much equity. Could they cut the deal in half? Mark agreed but slightly lowered the valuation as a result. Five hundred thousand dollars for sixteen-and-a-half percent was the new offer. Steve, Kevin, and Daymond tried to organize a competing offer, but Lori wouldn’t have it. She stood up and raised her voice. “Wait! Stop, stop. We were just about to close.”
Bruno was close to accepting, but he didn’t like Mark’s decrease in Cycloramic’s valuation. Mark was ready to relent, if it meant closing the deal. “Lori, it’s not worth nickel-and-diming.” Bruno was still hesitant, but the deal wasn’t getting any sweeter. “Yes or no? Gotta go,” Mark pressed. At long last, Bruno accepted the deal, fifteen percent for five hundred thousand dollars. The room was divided. While Mark, Lori, and Bruno were excited about the opportunities ahead for Cycloramic, Steve, Daymond, and Kevin weren’t as happy. After losing out, Kevin had some bitter words to offer. “Our deal would’ve been much better for him. He’ll probably sleep on it and start crying.” The only tears I could see were coming from Daymond.
Cycloramic Now in 2018 – After Shark Tank
As usual, Cycloramic benefitted from a huge “Shark Tank effect”. An hour following his deal, Bruno’s app received one hundred thousand downloads. However, it had also come a long way on its own. In the months following the initial film date, Cycloramic had traction globally. It was featured in international app store promotions. This, combined with Shark Tank, lead to Cycloramic becoming the top selling app of the week it aired on the show. In the time between the episode film date and the week following the air date, Cycloramic shot from six hundred sixty thousand downloads to nearly eight-and-a-half million.
Since then, Cycloramic has been gradually expanding to more phones. It is available for certain iPhone and Windows models. Because the hardware in iPhones is constantly changing, there are different versions of the app for different models, making it difficult to ascertain current download numbers. So far, there is no sign of a universal base for all smart phones. Since Cycloramic’s explosive success, Egos Ventures, its development company, has released several similar applications. The main one, called Selfie 360, turns the traditional selfie into an animated gif.
Since the Shark Tank, debut, however, things have moved a little slower. After nearly two years, there is no news on large developments. Cycloramic was able to expand to the iPhone 6, but it has had hardware difficulties with newer models. It’s possible that Mark was looking to sell the business to a large social media website like Instagram or Vine, but as of April 2016, there’s no sign of an acquisition.
Perhaps Cycloramic’s lackluster performance since 2014 is simply a result of changing technology. Yes, it struggles to keep up with phone hardware, but it also fills a related need to drones and the GoPro camera. Many emerging technologies allow the user to immediately interact with the world in new ways and situations. Perhaps users are tired to setting their phones on a smooth, polished surface and waiting twenty seconds to capture a panoramic photo. They want to capture higher-thrill events, such as concerts and festivals. Nevertheless, the ingenuity behind Cycloramic is amazing. Even if the app is in its golden years, this won’t be the last we hear of Bruno Francois.
Initial valuation and offer:
$1,800,000; 5% for $90,000
One week after launch: Around 100,000
Shark Tank film date: Around 660,000
One week after air date: Around 8,500,000
Valuations and offers from sharks:
Lori: $2,000,000; $200,000 for 10% equity
Daymond: $2,500,000; $250,000 for 10% equity
Kevin: N/A; $90,000 for 15% royalty and no equity
Lori and Steve: $2,500,000; $250,000 for 10% equity
Mark: ~$3,333,333; $1,000,000 for 30% equity
Daymond: $3,000,000; $300,000 for 10% equity
Kevin: N/A; $200,000 for 10% equity, which drops to 5% when $200,000 is recouped
Lori and Steve: N/A; $250,000 for 10% equity, which drops to 5% when $250,000 is recouped
Daymond: ~$2,916,667; $350,000 for 12% equity
Steve, Daymond, and Kevin: N/A; unspecified partnership
Mark and Lori: ~$3,030,303; $500,000 for 16.5% equity
Mark and Lori: ~3,333,333; $500,000 for 15% equity (accepted)
Cycloramic is available on iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and certain Windows Phone devices. You can visit Egos Ventures’ website for more details.