This Silicon Valley ‘smart drug’ startup crashed and burned on ‘Shark Tank,’ but business is booming

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ABC/”Shark Tank”

Nootrobox, a startup based in San Francisco that makes and sells cognitive-enhancement supplements, or “smart drugs,” crashed and burned on a recent episode of “Shark Tank.”

Cofounders Geoff Woo and Michael Brandt tried to raise at a $40 million valuation – more than any startup has ever asked for on the show – and left empty-handed. They received brutal criticisms from the show’s panel. Woo tells Business Insider it was worth it.

“I think we sort of had our own agenda, in that, we knew that if we [were] going to do an investment, we would treat it as a real transaction,” Woo said, explaining that the offer had to be competitive for them to commit.

“We also knew that having a platform to expose mainstream America [to Nootrobox] was well worth the potential backlash.”

It appears Woo, the startup’s CEO, was right. Since the episode aired, business has been booming. The venture-backed company saw six times more orders in the weekend after they appeared on “Shark Tank” than it did over a weekend in the month prior to the show airing, according to Woo.

Google Trends data shows web searches for Nootrobox and Go Cubes, the company’s signature caffeine-infused gummy product, also spiked higher than ever.

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ABC/”Shark Tank”

Woo and Brandt appeared on the show to pitch Go Cubes. Nootrobox claims the gummy can improve clarity and focus. Its formulation contains L-Theanine, an ingredient in green tea that may cancel out the jitteriness associated with a caffeine buzz.

The company reported $1 million in revenue year-to-date (the episode taped earlier in 2016) and 17% growth month-over-month. Nootrobox has raised $2.57 million to date from top investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Marissa Mayer, and Mark Pincus.

The pair failed to give the story behind the product, however, and dove into the science that makes it unique. The pitch did not go over well.

“I think you guys are flying very close to the sun,” Kevin O’Leary said.

“You came in and you gave us sugar cubes,” Lori Greiner told them.

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Chris Sacca is not impressed.
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ABC/”Shark Tank”

Chris Sacca, an early investor in Twitter and Uber and a guest judge on “Shark Tank,” also delivered some burns on social media.

Woo says 90 minutes of filming were reduced to a 10-minute segment. The sharks peppered him and cofounder Brandt with questions, talking over each other in the process. Woo says he felt like the sharks were competing for sound bites.

“It was like controlling a classroom of kids,” Woo said, adding that he wanted to say, “‘I can answer all of these questions, [but] I can [only] answer one at a time.'”

It was brutal to watch. The San Francisco-based company, which was invited on the show by ABC, according to Woo, failed to impress a single shark.

Woo chalks up his awkward “Shark Tank” experience as one step in the evolution of the company.

“Some of the feedback I got from people [was that] the sharks came off as pretty impatient with us. Maybe rightly so. We were asking for a ridiculous valuation,” Woo said.