Sunday, September 25, 2022

BearTek Update – What Happened After Shark Tank

BearTek Before Shark Tank

Willie Blount from Colombia and his cousin, Tarik Rodgers from Dallas, developed the BearTek glove system that made controlling a device as easy as clicking your fingers. Keen Skier Tarik wanted a device that would allow him to easily take pictures, answer calls, listen to music and control apps when he was out on the slopes.

He spoke to his cousin about the idea, and Willie, who had studied electronic theory for six years during his time in the marine corps, thought he was on to something. Willie was a keen motorcyclist and had always found his inability to control music safely, whilst riding, to be not only frustrating, but also a common problem amongst his fellow riders.

Together the pair founded a partnership, and after eighteen months of research, development and testing they finally had a working product, the BearTek Glove system.

In the summer of 2015, after being repeatedly told by friends to apply for the show, the BearTek entrepreneurs sent some employees to an open casting session for Shark Tank. They knew that less than 1% of applicants were successful and had little hope for being selected, however they were in luck. They were selected for an appearance, and finally appeared on the show in February 2016.

BearTek on Shark Tank

BearTek on Shark Tank
Willie Blount and Tarik Rodgers from BearTek

It was a slightly unsettling sight for the sharks as Willie and Tarik entered the tank, Tarik was dressed in Ski Gear, complete with poles and goggles. Willie, with his helmet tucked underarm, seemed as if he had just arrived from the racetrack.

The pair introduced themselves, loudly and confidently, because Willie and Tarik are confident guys and they talk in the kind of booming voice that you hear from ring announcers. When Tarik announced he was from Dallas he got a Whoop of recognition from fellow Texas native Mark Cuban.

It was a great first ten seconds for the pair, but then they spoiled the mood by announcing that they were looking for a $500,000 investment in exchange for 5% equity in their business.

The sharks never react too well to a valuation of $10 million, particularly when an entrepreneur is offering them a paltry 5% equity. There were shrieks of disbelief as the BearTek pair revealed the deal they hoped to make on the show.

Undaunted, Tarik continued into the pitch. He touted the safety implications of the gloves, for both motorcyclists and skiers. He demonstrated changing music tracks, and adjusting volume, on his own gloves for the sharks. They seemed impressed, but they didn’t seem impressed enough to part with half a million dollars for 5% of the business.

Willie continued with the pitch, he explained that music was just the beginning. He and Tarik could see many applications for their product in the future.

Tarik elaborated ‘We are not just a product, we are a Tech company’. Willie concluded by telling the sharks ‘With your help, we can become a Tech empire’.

Mark Cuban commented ‘Great presentation guys’ and it was, the pitch had been professional and enthusiastic, and the product demonstration had gone well. Unfortunately, it was the valuation that all the sharks were thinking about.

Robert quizzed the pair about sales, and Tarik revealed that they had sold $200,000 worth of products in the last 15 months, but Robert seemed unimpressed, and expressed doubts about the $10 million valuation.

Mark Cuban asked about their backgrounds and Willie detailed his electrical training in the marines. He explained how he had wanted a safe remote to use while riding his bike, and he had utilized the Marine motto of ‘Improvise, adapt and overcome’ to devise a solution. Tarik had brought inspiration as well as business knowledge to the partnership, he had also funded the initial development phase.

Robert asked Tarik how much money he had invested in BearTek, and Tarik admitted he had tied up $500,000 of his own money into the business. That impressed the sharks more than anything and they seemed just a tiny bit more interested now, knowing that Tarik had made such a substantial personal investment.

Robert went back to the valuation, he asked why BearTek was worth $10 million. Tarik explained that the company was starting to be approached by military companies, who were interested in using the BearTek technology, he told Robert the potential sales could be huge.

Robert still wasn’t happy, he told the two entrepreneurs ‘I’m expecting you to go beyond gloves, I’m not going to pay $500,000 for a glove company’.

Kevin O’Leary could see the writing on the wall for Willie and Tarik. He gave them a warning of the likely outcome ‘I fear you’re not going to get a deal here’.

Daymond clicked his BearTek gloved fingers and said ‘I’m clicking my fingers together here, trying to find out why you’re worth $10 million, its not working’. Tarik made an attempt to explain how popular the gloves could be but he was interrupted by Mr Wonderful.

Kevin pointed out the BearTek gloves were not the only product that controlled devices remotely, he referred to some of the voice activated helmet communicators that are currently on the market.

Willie explained that voice recognition, although far more advanced than it had been a few years previously, was still more unreliable than the BearTek gloves, words could still be misinterpreted by the software, and the systems could take time to calibrate for different users.

Kevin O’Leary was generally in agreement with Willie. He accepted that BearTek may be a good alternative for all the competing systems available, but he added that it was possible the market had passed BearTek by. Kevin wasn’t going to hang around to find out either way, and announced he was dropping out of the negotiations.

Mark Cuban was less positive. Clearly thinking of the high valuation, he told the entrepreneurs that the potential rewards were far outweighed by the risks, and for that reason he was out too.

Daymond agreed with Kevin about the potential market for BearTek gloves, he said there was ‘merit’ in the idea, but the $10 million valuation put Willie and Tarik in ‘a different universe’ from him. He told them he wasn’t even going to make an offer, despite his interest, and with that Daymond dropped out.

Robert Herjavec couldn’t see the business away from the gloves. He told Tarik ‘I don’t want to be in the glove business for $10 million’. Tarik responded with ‘Neither do we’. But Robert had made his mind up, he explained that Tarik and Willie had failed to show him how they would move the business beyond gloves, and because of that, he was out. That left Lori Greiner as the only remaining shark involved.

Willie made one final attempt to get Lori to share his vision. He told her BearTek couldn’t produce a vast range of different gloves to suit all styles, but the business was not about gloves, it was about the technology behind the gloves.

Lori nodded her head, she agreed that there was something to the business. She believed that Willie and Tarik had a potential winner with their product, but they were not yet at the stage where they could accurately identify their potential market. The company faced too many unknown factors, and due to that uncertainty, Lori dropped out too, leaving BearTek without a deal in the tank.

As Tarik and Willie left the tank, Kevin said ‘If ever there’s a deal that tells you valuation matters it’s this one’. Mark Cuban didn’t agree and tried to argue the point, but Mr Wonderful wasn’t going to let this one slide. ‘Why didn’t you write them a check then?’ he asked Mark, before he answered the question himself, ‘Because you think it’s a piece of crap’.

Mark Cuban gave up the argument at that point and laughed at Kevin’s brutal analysis instead.

BearTek Now in 2018 – The After Shark Tank Update

Attempting to find out exactly how BearTek is doing now has been a confusing and frustrating trail to follow. The same day that their Shark tank segment aired, the company released a video on Youtube where they announced the launch of an Indiegogo campaign to launch the 2nd generation of BearTek Gloves.

In the well made, and professionally produced video, Tarik explained the improvement that warranted an entirely new product launch. The gloves were essentially the same item that had been showcased on Shark Tank, but in the new version, they would be supported by their own custom app. The BearTek app, when developed, would be able to fully customize the use of the gloves across virtually any device and would support both WiFi and Bluetooth from the same module.

The new iteration of Beartek would also include a liner option which would enable the owner to use the system with any gloves. Finally Tarik announced that the BearTek team would be producing a developer kit that could be used by third parties to make their own devices compatible with the gloves.

BearTek on Shark Tank
The second generation of BearTek gloves promised much more, but development has been stalled

The Indiegogo campaign appeared at first sight to have been closed with no backers, but a little further digging revealed that things were not quite as they appeared. The last update on the campaign was from Tarik, who revealed that despite receiving $60,000 from the campaign, well above the initial goal, additional challenges had presented themselves, and unfortunately that meant that BearTek was going to enter a period of ‘Hibernation’ until the issues could be resolved. The campaign backers received a full refund along with Tarik’s thanks and a promise that BearTek would return soon ‘stronger than ever’.

Whatever those undisclosed problems were, they appear to be at least fairly major for the business. There have been a few sporadic updates on the BearTek social media sites, mainly about potential associations with GoPro, yet unfortunately, the BearTek website has now been closed, at least temporarily. Even though the primary outlet for the original gloves has now disappeared, they are currently still available from Amazon, so if you were tempted to snap up a pair, now might be a good time to do so, if you have a spare $275 and nothing better to spend it on.

It’s hard to guess what would have happened on the show if Tarik and Willie had given their business a more reasonable valuation, given that the sharks did appear interested in the technology they had developed. Whatever the outcome would have been, applicants usually only get one chance in the tank, and on this occasion the sharks went into a frenzy of objections at the entrepreneurs optimistic valuation. That fact alone, more than any other factor, soured the chance of a deal for the pair.

Whatever the future holds for BearTek gloves, its likely that we haven’t seen the last of the innovative partnership of Willie Blount and Tarik Rodgers. Whatever they choose to do, hopefully they’ll find an investor who will be happy to lend them a hand on their next project. I just hope that they learned a lesson in the tank, and remember not to go too high with their valuation next time.'
Steve Dawson
Steve Dawson has been writing online for two years. He has an interest in anything that interests other people and a thirst for knowledge about all subjects. He lives with a grumpy cat called Bubbles and an addiction to chocolate.


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