Islander Alumnus Reels in Shark on TV’s Shark Tank

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – It took some work, but Islander alumnus Kanz Kayfan’15 and co-founding partner Sobhan Sanaee were able to hook a shark – Mr. Wonderful – and walk away with a deal as seen on the Oct. 30 episode of the ABC business reality TV series “Shark Tank.”

Now in its 12th season, “Shark Tank” gives hopeful entrepreneurs an opportunity to make a business presentation before a panel of five investors – referred to as “sharks” – who decide whether to invest in the company. The current investor lineup includes Robert Herjavec, Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner and Kevin O’Leary aka Mr. Wonderful.

In Episode 3, Kayfan and Sanaee gave a presentation on their company Animated Lure, which sells a mechanized, self-propelling fishing lure that is electronically programmed to swim like a real fish for up to three hours. The episode was viewed by more than 4 million U.S. viewers, according to the entertainment website, ShowBuzzDaily.

“It was a great experience for our company and a great learning opportunity as well,” Kayfan said via phone from Plano where he makes his living as a licensed professional counselor. Kayfan earned his Master of Science in Counseling from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in May 2015. “The schematics of the deal is 10 percent of our company for a $325,000 investment and royalties for $1 million with no time limit on the payback. We thought that was a great deal for us.”

Kayfan said while the episode featured a fair amount of drama during the Animated Lure presentation, he was pleasantly surprised by the amount of positivity the mechanized lure received.

“They liked the lifelike appearance and the abilities of the product itself – so the feedback was a really big boost for us,” Kayfan said.

Reeling in the deal, however, was no easy catch. 

After the presentation, Herjavec, who declined the opportunity to invest, said he was troubled by the statement, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“When I first started out, everyone said that to me. ‘You’re never going to make it; you don’t know anybody,’” Herjavec said on the show. “I was screwed before I started if I believed that. It’s not who you know; it’s what you make with what you have.” 

John said while the product was impressive, he was not convinced that the product would pay off on his investment. “You came here to fish for a shark, but you didn’t hook this one – I’m out,” John said.

It all came down to Mr. Wonderful, who had initially offered Animated Lure $325,000 for a 10 percent equity stake in the company and a royalty rate of $3 per unit until he recoups $1 million. Looking to get the best deal possible, the team pitched a counteroffer of a $500,000 investment in exchange for a 20 percent stake but no royalty rate, an offer that drew some bewilderment from the panel.  

Seeking to salvage the opportunity, Kayfan said to the panel, “We want some guidance, we’re young, we’re still learning the ropes.”

A second counteroffer for $325,000 in exchange for 10 percent equity plus a royalty of $1.50 per unit sold until $500K is paid was similarly rejected. Mr. Wonderful stuck to his original offer and gave the duo one last chance to make a deal. “Last chance for romance – what do you want to do?” O’Leary asked.

In the end, Kayfan and Sanaee agreed to O’Leary’s terms to close the deal. The segment ends with Kayfan and Sanaee bumping shoulders in the air and shouting out in excitement as they leave the shark tank.

Looking back at the experience, Kayfan said he is happy to have gotten the deal but would have been pleased with the appearance even if Mr. Wonderful had passed on Animated Lure.

“In terms of the questions, I think that they all came from valid standpoints and I felt that we did a good job answering their questions as well,” he said. “I do feel that, at times, while certain things may be made for TV, that’s part of the excitement. At one point, Mr. Wonderful did say he was going to back out, but a few moments later, he hopped back in and gave us a final offer. So we did enjoy that part of it.” 

Kayfan and Sanaee are no strangers to raising capital to fund their business ambitions. In fall 2015, Animated Lure managed to raise $22,000 from 130 backers via a 30-day campaign on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. Animated Lure sells its products globally via its website and in more than 30 retail locations in Canada. In addition, Animated Lure’s Facebook page has 4,674 likes and is followed by 4,944 users. A Facebook post with the playlist featuring the Animated Lure presentation on Halloween received 39 likes and 7 comments.

“For a minute, it looked like a deal wasn’t going to happen,” Facebook user Kris Yager wrote in his comment. “I’m so glad it worked out for you! You’ve got a great story and an incredible product.”

Kayfan said the company has gotten a lot of support from fans of the product as well as family and friends in the wake of the duo’s appearance on “Shark Tank.” He encourages others with a similar idea to work hard and take a chance on themselves.

“I think that if anyone puts their mind and time into something, they’re able to achieve their dreams,” he said. “I definitely think that the American dream is still alive and well.”