Saturday, April 13, 2024

Dino Don After Shark Tank – 2024 Update

Before Shark Tank

Dino Don is a former writer and journalist, fell for dinosaurs while working at The Boston Globe in 1988. Realizing that there was “a million different things” he could do with dinosaurs”, he decided to make that his career. Not only did he write children’s books but he also wrote books for adults. He also worked on documentaries, TV shows, and films- including the classic Jurassic Park, where he worked as an advisor. That’s not all, he was also an advisor for Disney’s Dinosaur attraction at Animal Kingdom.

Several years later, he got into the exhibit business. By sponsoring research groups and exhibitions, he was able to raise more than two million dollars for research. This allowed them to research in Argentina, where they eventually discovered the fossils for the biggest plant eater and meat eater that have ever roamed the earth. The research team even named one of the dinosaurs after him.

Years later, he decided to get into the animatronics business after visiting a dinosaur quarry in central China, where they made all the robot dinosaurs. Intrigued, Lessem asked if he could visit one of the factories, which turned out to be completely different from what he had imagined. Not only were they carved from couch cushions but most of them “looked weird.”

Lessem offered to send his scientists out to the factory to help the workers with the dinosaurs’ appearances and that was what led him to get into the robot industry.

Fortunately for him, it’s not a big field so there hasn’t been much competition. In fact, there were only two companies that did dinosaur animatronics at the time and one was going bankrupt. As for the other, they used an antiquated pneumatic technology.

For that reason, his company grew quickly. They began supplying dinosaur robots to zoos and museums, most of which had difficulty surviving. They also held a number of dinosaur shows, covering topics such as behavior and evolution. Sometimes, they even offer dragons events.

By the spring of 2021, they had nearly 250 robots. There was a problem, however. Due to the size of the robots, it’s hard to find storage space for them in the off-season. Fortunately, they were able to secure a warehouse facility in LA.

As expected, however, these life-sized animatronics are expensive. Wanting to create some new builds, Lessem decided to try his luck on Shark Tank for an investment.

Dino Don on Shark Tank

Don aka “Dino Don” and his wife walk into the tank and introduces themselves to the sharks before letting them know that they’re seeking $500,000 in exchange for 10 percent of their company, Dino Dino, Inc.

With that, they jump right into their pitch. Val explains that Dino Don is “a dinosaur explorer who’s excavated and recreated the biggest dinosaurs that ever roamed the Earth.” She also adds that he’s one of a handful of people to have had a dinosaur named after him- the Lessemsaurus, that he has written dozens of books about dinosaurs, and that he was the science advisor to Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

dino don

Dino then takes over. He tells the sharks that Val has raised millions of dollars for nonprofits, museums, and zoos, and that she’s the company’s financial mastermind. As the sharks look on, they explain that they distinguish themselves by creating the most accurate and educational dinosaurs ever made- even if that means they’re up to 110 feet long.

The camera then zooms into some of the dinosaurs that they’ve brought with them- a Velociraptor, Dakotaraptor, and a juvenile T. Rex. Just as he finishes talking, one of the dinosaurs roars to life, which startles and impresses the sharks.

The attention then turns to Val, who explains that they just started to make the robots last year and that they’ve already become the leading supplier in the United States. Dino explains that their goal is to increase their revenue while helping struggling museums and zoos. They also add that they’d like the sharks’ expertise to expand.

With that, they ask if anyone is interested in investing in their company to “make millions of kids happy”.

Mark is the first shark to speak; he asks him why he’s into dinosaurs. Dino Don explains that he “wasn’t a dinosaur nerd as a kid” and that he had actually gotten into them while working as a reporter for The Boston Globe, which at the time, had sent him out on a dinosaur story. Continuing, he explains that he had “fallen in love with [the] wonderful treasure hunt of searching for lost animals,”

Robert then asks about the average size of robots that they make. Dino Don reiterates the fact that they make the most realistic dinosaur animatronics, all of which are full-size, up to 110 feet long. He then talks about his experience in Jurassic Park, that he had asked Steven Spielberg if he could have all the sets and props after the film was finished so that he could use them to raise money for research.

He tells the sharks that it was a success in the end- that it was the most attended exhibit in the history of natural science and that they had raised over $3 million. Switching gears, Dino Don tells the sharks that their business exhibits these dinosaur robots to zoos and museums and that they greatly increase their attendance just with their presence- from 15 to 50 percent.

He then gives an example. He tells the sharks that they did an exhibit last year with 45 dinosaurs and that it had attracted 440,00 people, which resulted in $2.2 million in revenue.

Robert asks how much it takes for them to make an average dinosaur. Before answering his question, they take some guesses. Daymond guesses $40,000, Mark guesses $18,000, Kevin guesses $50,000, and Robert guesses $15,000.

Dino Don surprises everyone with the answer- that they only cost $5,000 to make. The sharks are shocked. Some of them even jokingly say that they’ll buy the ones on display “right now”.

daymond dino don
Daymond jokingly offers the pair $11,000 for one of the dinosaur robots that they have on display

Val explains that their point is not to sell them, but to make them and rent them. Marks then asks about their business model with the zoos. Dino Don explains that they used to pay them for the dinosaurs but that they no longer have the funds to do so due to the pandemic. Because of that, they want to do a gate share with them.

Asked if their revenue has gone down since then, Val explains no- that they’ve actually done $1.6 million last year and $1.8 million this year, even with the pandemic.

Lori asks how many dinosaurs they have ready to go on tour. Dino Don explains that they have 150 dinosaur animatronics as well as the world’s largest collection of fossil skeletons.

Mark asks about the economics of their dinosaur tours. They explain that it takes place over seven months across nine different venues, approximately three weeks each. They let them know that it takes 12 staff members to set it up and that it costs $40,000 per market $60,000 for the staff and $20,000 for the technicians.

Daymond asks what their plan is one full year from now. Van answers without any hesitation- that they will do $3 million in the next year, plus gate share. Daymond asks about their net profit on the $3 million. In response, Dino Don lets them know that they made $250,000 in profit over the last two years. The sharks are noticeably surprised by the low number.

dino don2

The pair try to defend themselves by saying that their revenue will go up in the subsequent years but the sharks are skeptical. Kevin is the first shark to go out.

Daymond states that he won’t be able to add value to the company and for that reason, he’s also out.

Lori admits that the business is a very cool idea but that she has trouble visualizing the business and that she’s also out.

Fortunately, Mark seems to like the idea. He tells them he can help them with their marketing. He also asks if they’ve considered working with any concert promotion companies, to which they answer “not yet.” He then makes them an offer- $500,000 for 25 percent of the company because it’s going to be “a lot of work” and he’s going to have to “dedicate a lot of people” for the job.

Robert immediately states that the offer is super generous and that it’s much higher than what he was going to offer so he’s also out.

Dino Don points out that 25 percent is a large chunk for a company that’s already making millions and seems hesitant. Before engaging with Mark, however, he turns to ask his wife what she thinks. A few seconds later, he tells him that he will accept the offer.

dino don shirts
Dino Don and his wife turn around to reveal the surprising message on the back of their shirts

He also tells Mark that they believed in him. With that, the pair turn around to reveal a “We Love You Mark Cuban” message on the back of their t-shirts, which garners loud laughs from everyone.

Dino Don After Shark Tank – 2024 Update

The deal with Mark closed successfully (it was listed on his website by October 2021). With his help, they were able to bring up their revenue to $4 million.

In February 2022, the company also launched their traveling dinosaur roadshow at the Bishop Museum of Science in Bradenton, Florida, which featured 50 different dinosaur animatronics and brought in $10 million in revenue.

Around that same time, Dino Don filmed a documentary titled The Dinosaur Factory, which should be released sometime later this year.

Just a year after appearing on the show, the dinosaur company received an update segment, which was included in episode 1323. In the follow-up, they reveal that they’ve expanded their dinosaur collection from 150 to 400 robots. Not only that but they’ve also added other animatronics to their “stable” including ice-age animals, dragons, and gigantic bugs.

woolly mammoth
Their Giants of the Ice Age exhibit features a variety of ice-age mammals from giant ground sloths to woolly mammoths

The company has also grown considerably since they were in the tank. They now have dinosaurs all over the world in Finland, England, Belgium, France, and Germany, and their staff has grown from four to twenty-four across four different countries. Their annual revenue has also gone up from $1.8 million to more than $4 million.

They also revealed that they used Mark’s investment to create a new traveling dino show with 60 animatronics. Mark is optimistic that the company will keep on growing and that it will hit the $10 million mark within the next year or two.

Later in March 2022, Mark revealed on an episode of The Drew Barrymore Show that he’s thinking of turning Mustang, Texas, a town that he had purchased back in 2021, into a Jurassic Park-type attraction with Dino Don’s robots, and that if he proceeded with the plan, he’d change the town’s name to Dinosaur, Texas. Unfortunately, however, it never happened. Mark later confirmed this on a TV show in August 2022.

As of 2024, Dino Don is still a thriving business. Currently, their dinosaurs are on tour at a number of zoos and museums including the Berlin Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Zoo Copenhagen, Philadelphia Zoo, and Reid Park Zoo, among many others. They’ve also launched a Gengis Khan exhibit, which features 300 ancient Mongolian artifacts including weapons, jewels, costumes, and armor, as well as eight uniquely themed galleries.

That’s not all, they also started an Ocean Odyssey exhibit in 2022, which features larger-than-life sea creatures, including a 35′ tall sperm whale and giant squid engaged in battle. There’s also a Megalodon mouth sculpture that you can walk in.

dino don dragon
One of the many dragons that are featured in their new Dragons exhibit

In addition to that, they also have an Insectopia exhibit, which features supersized robotics insects and spiders, in addition to a Dragons exhibit, which features 20 animatronic dragons and other mythical creatures, some of which are up to 30 feet long.

For those who are interested in their exhibits, you can check out the list of current venues on their website at dinodoninc.com. You can also find them on Facebook at @dinodoninc1, where they have more than 1.2k followers.

Brooke Carter
Brooke Carter
Freelance writer who loves dogs and anything related to Japanese culture.
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