Shark Tank's tech winners & rejects

ABC TV's start-up program gives thumbs up, down to apps, gadgets and more

ABC’s "Shark Tank" program, on which entrepreneurs make their pitches to a panel of high profile investors on national TV, isn't the final word on whether a product or service will succeed. But as last week's show featuring Egos Ventures' $1.99 Cycloramic iOS and Android app illustrates, a thumb’s up on the program – not to mention a $500,00 investment -- can boost a product into the stratosphere, or in other words, to the top of the Apple App Store charts.

While I’m not a regular viewer of the show, Cycloramic’s rise inspired me to take a look back over the past two seasons of Shark Tank at tech products that got the show’s blessing, or not.

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Shark Tank winners:

*Cycloramic (Jan. 31, 2014 show): 

cycloramic

This app, downloaded 100,000 times in the hour following the show and downloaded more than 8 million times as of last week, can physically spin your phone or tablet on a flat surface in order to take hands-free panoramic pictures and videos. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called the app “Unexpected, fanciful and useful all at the same time.”

The app isn’t perfect though, as some users have weighed in with comments that it doesn’t spin around as easily as the developers would lead you to believe, unless you say have perfectly smooth granite countertops!

*Breathometer (Sept. 27): 

This hardware/software addition to your Apple or Android smartphone is designed to help you determine whether you’ve had too much to drink.

The product is marketed to help keep drunk drivers off the road, and even includes a prompt to call a cab. Shark Tank investors forked over about $2 million in funding to Breathometer, marking the first time all five investors backed a company pitching on the show. 

The $49 device was on backorder as of this writing.

*Verbalize:It (May 17, 2013): 

This human-powered translation application is free for occasional personal use, $30 per month for business use and likely more for a customized edition.  

Companies can use the technology to engage more effectively in international business deal through live conversation navigation, document translation and video/audio subtitling. So the 24-7 VerbalizeIt app for iOS and Android devices goes beyond services like Google Translate to include a human element that better translates languages.

While a couple of the Sharks offered to invest in VerbalizeIt, the founders wound up turning them down and raising outside funding.

• Smartwheel (Feb.15, 2013):

This aftermarket device installs easily on a car’s steering wheel with the goal of giving audio and visual alerts to drivers who might be distracted.

It can detect if you have no hands on the wheel, one hand off for a long time or two on, but in texting position. A group of young inventors from New Hampshire, dubbed the Inventioneers, came up with the idea, which was patented in October 2013.

The Sharks OK'd the prototype of the invention, investing $100,000 for the devices, expected to cost a couple hundred bucks.

Shark Tank rejects:

*Eyebloc (Jan. 10, 2014): 

eyebloc

This simple plastic device fits over the webcam on your laptop or tablet, blocking sneaky companies, government types or teachers from spying on you.

The device costs $7, and though it was nixed by the Shark Tank investors, Eyebloc isn’t giving up on its product, which it says is alternative to gunking up your device with sticky tape to block prying eyes.

The creators launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign in January to help fund development of a “sleeker and softer” model. 

*Doorbot (Nov. 15, 2013): 

James Siminoff says Doorbot was built out of necessity, so that a group of inventors he was part of who worked in a garage wouldn’t miss important deliveries just because they couldn’t hear the doorbell ringing.

“The world’s greatest doorbell” connects your doorbell to your smartphone or device, so you’ll be alerted while on the move.

The device costs $199 and an iPhone/iPad/Android app that lets you see and converse with visitors from your mobile device regardless of where you are.

*Bellybuds (Nov. 8, 2013):

bellybud

For $50 to $72, pregnant moms can send audio stimulation to their developing child or children. According to the maker, “The custom speakers gently adhere to the belly and safely play music, soothing sounds or even loving voice messages directly to the womb.”

And while Shark Tank investors declined to buy into Bellybuds, the TV show Modern Family did feature them, as did Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

*Scan.Me QR code application (Oct. 11, 2013): 

Scan enables organizations to create codes that can be easily scanned for marketing or commerce purposes using mobile devices running iOS, Android or Windows.

The business touts itself like this: “Imagine taking a button from your computer screen and placing it anywhere in the real world. It could be a ‘Buy Now’ button that you place on a product or a ‘Check In’ button on your storefront window. Scan Codes are buttons for the real world which can be interacted with by any smartphone or device.”

Although the Sharks turned down the offer to invest in Scan, the founders say that exposure on the show spurred the app to No.1 on the Apple App Store utilities list. They’ve also reaped millions of venture capital investments and seen their app downloaded millions of times.

Of late, Scan is pushing its tools for making and accepting charitable donations.

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