LUCID-art Before Shark Tank
LUCID-art was created by Les Cookson, who had previously appeared in Shark Tank back in season two. A long-time inventor, he began his career with historical optical devices in 2005. Since then, his interest and work have expanded to include several other devices from the past- including the camera lucida.
Originally invented by William Hyde Wollaston, the camera lucida was patented in 1806 and made it possible for individuals to superimpose images onto a painting or drawing surfaces; this allows them to trace the image easily.
The modern-day counterpart, known as the LUCY Drawing Tool, which Cookson invented is not only much easier to use, but it’s also lighter than the older camera lucidas.
However, he soon found himself in need of funds, which prompted him to launch a Kickstarter campaign. And with the help of 795 backers, he and his business partner Ken Higginson successfully raised more than $88,700, which helped bring the project to life. Within a few months, they began shipping out the units.
Still, the number of people who knew about the drawing tool was low. Wanting to bring more attention to the product, they decided to try their luck on Shark Tank. And after a few rounds of calls and auditions, they were told that they would be featured in the thirteenth season.
LUCIDart On Shark Tank
Les Cookson walks into the tank and tells the sharks that he’s pitching a business with millions in sales. Just as he’s about to continue, however, he starts looking faint and the sharks become concerned.
Cookson proceeds to walk out of the tank but instead of being sick, he surprises everyone by pulling out his previous invention- the Carsik Bib. He also reveals that it’s not his first time in the tank as he’s been on the show previously. Carsik Bib around his neck, he walks back into the tank and almost immediately, recognition dawns on the sharks’ faces.
However, he reassures the sharks that he’s not here to pitch a “vomiting necklace” this time. He then tears the bib of his neck and tells the sharks that he already scrapped that product. Continuing, he tells them that he’s decided to grow one of his other inventions instead and that he’s seeking $300,000 for his new business, LUCID-Art.
Jumping into his pitch, he explains that LUCID-Art sells the LUCY drawing tool, which “can make anyone an artist and any artist a master.” The camera then zooms in on the display, which shows the tool in action. As it’s doing that, Cookson explains how it works- that you simply have to place whatever you want to draw in front of LUCY and look down to the viewing window, which will allow you to trace over the reflected image. He also tells them it’s his reinvention of a classic art tool.
As the sharks look on, he explains that the tool has been used by artists for centuries and that he has “breathed new life into the old device.” He then ends his pitch by asking who is interested in investing in LUCID-Art.
He then directs their attention to the LUCY at the front, which he explains, is ready to be used, and invites Kevin to try it out.
The shark walks up to the drawing tool and puts his eye toward the lens. Asked whether or not he can see the shark, Kevin says yes. Cookson then tells him to trace the image of the shark with the pencil and paper in front of him. He also notes that while it still takes patience, it can help an artist develop their skills over time.
As Kevin is tracing the shark, Cookson explains that the tool is based on the camera lucida, which was first patented in 1807. However, Lori notes that he can’t see what Kevin is doing.
Kevin explains that he’s “just tracking around the shark.” Seconds later, he finishes drawing and shows his artwork to everyone, which garners several laughs.
Lori asks about the steps involved in using the tool. Cookson explains that you start by clamping it to the table and setting whatever you’re drawing in front of the tool. Continuing, he tells them that all you have to do is look through the lens and it’ll show a three-dimensional hologram of the object, which the individual can then draw over. He also makes a point that it’s different from tracing as it involves more skill.
Asked whether or not he has a patent for the device, he tells them he has a provisional patent. Robert is confused as he had said the tool has been around for a long time. Cookson clarifies that he actually made improvements to the historical device as it had a lot of issues. Not only was it unsteady, but the image was also small, which made it hard to use.
He tells them he spent four years tinkering in his garage before he came out with the prototype.
Daymond asks if the device is for people who are “already serious about it.” Cookson replies by saying that 20 percent of their sales are to people learning to draw, 20 percent are professional artists, who use the tool to speed up the drawing process, and 60 percent are amateur artists who “just want to learn how to draw better.”
Lori is curious why he abandoned the bib idea for the drawing camera. Cookson explains that he’s been an artist and inventor since he was little and that he was introduced to the historical device as a student when his teacher brought it to class. His teacher at the time also talked about the issues that the device had.
He repeats and tells them he spent four years tinkering with the device in his garage before trying to sell it as an entrepreneur but that he got sidetracked by other projects in 2010, including the barf bib that he had pitched before on the show.
Mark asks about the device’s price and manufacturing costs. He also inquires about their sales in the last 12 months. Cookson explains that the LUCY Flex is priced at $128 and costs $25.50 to make. Continuing, he reveals that they did $2.3 million in sales over the past 12 months, which stuns the sharks. Asked if he made any profits, he explains that they did $3.7 million in total last year, $1.6 million, which were profits. All of the sharks are impressed.
Daymond asks about their lifetime sales and he replies $10 million and once again, the sharks are shocked.
Lori asks where their sales come from. Cookson explains that 95% of their sales are direct to consumers through their website. He also adds that they’re doing Facebook and Instagram ads.
Mark asks which site works the best in terms of marketing. Cookston tells him that YouTube works best as a lot of people are going on YouTube to watch drawing tutorials.
Robert asks how much they’ve spent on advertising. Cookson reveals that it was a big year for them last year and that they did $70,000 a month in advertising, which translated to millions in sales- $1 million in 2018, $1.9 million in 2019, and $3.7 million in 2020.
Robert asks why he needs the money if their sales are so high. Cookson says he wants to work with a shark as they need help with cost per acquisition. He tells them that it’s been a challenge. Kevin agrees as they need to find a subset of people who would use a tool that wants to draw.
Kevin asks about their margins. Cookson says they cost $25 to make and they sell them for $130, which gives them over $100 in profits. Kevin immediately does the math and notes that they’re giving up half their profits to acquire the customer. He also recognizes their problem with customer acquisition.
Mark congratulates him on their success but states that it’s not a product that excites him and for that reason, he’s out.
Cookson thanks him for his time. He also repeats that he’d like to work with a shark on cost per acquisition and other related issues. He notes that while they don’t have recurring income so far, they could possibly make it so that the device could be used with online courses.
Robert speaks next. He tells him he’s in awe of his journey and applauds him for a job well done. Like Mark, however, he states that it’s not a product that he’s passionate about and for that reason, he’s out.
Lori also applauds him for the amazing device. She notes that he’s doing “phenomenally by himself” but also goes out as it’s not the product for her.
Kevin jokes about the drawing that he made earlier but is hesitant to invest as “it’s too nichey for [him].” He applauds him for his accomplishments but ultimately goes out as well.
Daymond remarks that he’s the only shark left. He tells him he’s blown away by their numbers and asks Cookson why he thinks they can help him lower his customer acquisition costs. Cookson admits he’s not under the illusion that bringing in a shark will magically make things better; he believes they will bring more value than equity, not just with the acquisition, but with the courses as well- something that he himself doesn’t have expertise in. He also reveals that they have an email list of 70,000 customers that they don’t know what to do with.
Daymond is immediately interested; he even compares the 70,000 emails to “talking dirty”, which makes the rest of the sharks laugh. Seconds later, he makes Cookson an offer- $300,000 for 20 percent equity in the company.
Cookson notes that his previous valuation of $3 million was quite reasonable. Daymond agrees but also mentions that he’s in the tank and this is how it works. Cookson tries his luck anyway and counters with $300,000 for 12 percent.
Daymond gives him his own counteroffer of 17.5 percent. Cookson sighs and lets him know that the highest he can go is 15 percent.
Daymond tells him it’s “exactly where [he] wanted to land” and accepts. He then walks up to Cookson and gives him a handshake and hug. The rest of the sharks congratulate the entrepreneur before he walks out of the tank.
In the exit interview, Cookson states how happy he is not to have given up after his initial Shark Tank appearance and advises others not to give up if one of their ideas doesn’t work out as they can always “create something bigger and better.”
LUCID-Art Now in 2023 – The After Shark Tank Update
As far as we can tell, the deal with Daymond hasn’t closed (yet). For one thing, he hasn’t listed the business on his website. Considering how recent the episode was, however, they may still be in the due diligence process.
Fast forward to 2023 and LUCY-Art is still in business. Currently, they have three versions of the LUCY; a LUCY Mini ($82), a LUCY Flex ($135), and a LUCY Pro ($370), all of which come with one or two optical filters, a microfiber cleaning cloth, and instructions. The Pro is the largest and offers the most stable image up to 20 x 37″ while the Mini offers images up to 12 x 18″.
In addition to that, they also sell a Photo Enlarger that is designed to enlarge and focus the image down on your paper or canvas. It also comes with a handy carrying bag that can be used to fit the LUCY as well.
Various bundles are available as well including the “LUCY Learn to Draw Basic Bundle” and “LUCY Learn to Draw Deluxe Bundle”, the latter of which comes with one LUCY Flex drawing tool, 1 LUCY Drawing Course lifetime membership, and a 71-piece Drawing Kit and art mannequin.
Since being on the show, they’ve also added a LUCY Drawing Course, which according to their website, “distills the best time-tested drawing methods into a hands-on learning experience.” More specifically, the course consists of five exercises, all of which showcase the device’s natural teaching ability. Price-wise, it goes for $91 but is currently on sale for $52 at the time of this writing.