SeNSE’s Shark Tank Flounders Making No Cents

SeNSEThe following is a guest post from an anonymous Baton Rouge entrepreneur going by the pseudonym Big Red.

Over the past four years, ABC’s Shark Tank has served up entrepreneurs to a  school of venture “sharks” in the hope of funding their projects. SeNSE, the Baton Rouge technology and entrepreneurial association, has put its own spin on the ABC success for the last few years during their high stakes pitch night, part of Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week.

SeNSE’s spin this past week was disappointing. Five sharks were in attendance, including: Bill Borne – Amedisys Home Health & Hospice Care, a self made mogul growing his startup to a billion dollar enterprise;  Eiad Asbahi – Prescience Investment Group, LLC, which analyzes companies looking for weaknesses to capitalize on by  shorting their stock and then publicizing the weakness causing negative impact on the stock; Neil Mason – Inventure Works, which collaborates with angel in Acadiana investing in projects for angel investors; Mark Graffagnini –Graffagnini & Associates which get assists entrepreneurs in legal issues and corporate structuring to raising venture capital to selling tax credits; and  Ken Jacob – Cajun Industries, who serves as President, working directly below Lane Grigsby, CEO, who historically prefers doling out funds to pleading non profits as opposed to actually investing in ventures with potential.

SeNSE spent countless hours sifting through over 20 prospects submitted by hopeful entrepreneurs to determine which were the strongest with the greatest potential. The approaches ran the gamut from gamers, to health care innovations to a program which helps schools raise money based on supporter consumption. Somehow in their infinite wisdom, SeNSE determined that the following four made the cut:

  • Indie Plate provides a fresh food delivery system.
  • Pixel Dash Studios is a video and mobile game development firm.
  • TRUE-See Systems, LLC  provides a scanning tool for medical clinics.
  • Deluxe Temple Extensions buys hair in India to make hair extensions and weaves for Americans.

If this list throws you a bit, you are not alone. Is this truly the best that the Baton Rouge community has to offer?  Indie Plate’s food delivery concept is being refreshed after Pea Pod lost hundreds of millions. To maintain a distribution center and accommodate “picky” consumers is tough when dealing with fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. This requires millions of dollars not one hundred thousand. Ask Whole Foods…

Pixel Dash Studios’ video games seem like they were from a 2000 launch and were not overwhelmingly impressive.  Xbox and Play Station are impressive. This was not competitive.

TRUE-See Systems provided a real investment opportunity with real potential providing scanning technology to out patient clinics. Even with potential, their offering was so confusing that even Bill Borne was taken aback. He then expressed the possibility of getting the technology into hundreds of thousands of facilities. Now that’s impressive.

Deluxe Temple Extensions intends to go to a secret temple in India and attend an auction to buy hair. They have a “secret arrangement” with the Maharishi who runs the temple so they get a deal unlike any other. They will then return with their hair, make extensions and sell them to beauty shop operators across Louisiana… Obviously they missed the 60 Minute piece on this temple and the millions that the hair goes for.  Once again, one hundred thousand is not going to get you very far.

There you have it…  One winner and three “are you kidding me?” pitches. This is the best. And many still scratch their heads and wonder why no big ideas ever seem to come out of Louisiana!

To make things more interesting, the presentations as a whole sucked.  The projector and the powerpoint slides were never in sync, leaving a blank screen most of the time. It was obvious that the presenters were either nervous, unprepared or both. The presentations were terrible with the exception of True-SEE Systems. Most were shooting from the hip. The problem is that they were shooting blanks.

Throw in some poker chips for attendees to use to vote for their favorite presentation to sway shark interest, a decent buffet and a very expensive cash bar and you have the 2014 SeNSE Shark Tank.

So did the sharks throw out buckets of money? That’s a mystery. SeNSE agreed to provide the sharks overviews of the presenters (never done on the real Shark Tank where they get a cold pitch from entrepreneurs) prior to the event. They fudged a bit.  The SeNSE sharks knew what the approach was and the funding amount sought beforehand. But NO sharks made offers or bought into the programs presented. They were to get together after the pitch and negotiate deals if they chose to.

What the…? SeNSE cherry picks the presentations and the sharks don’t have to commit? It seems ridiculous and it is ridiculous, a ridiculous waste of time and opportunity. There was the opportunity to really do something of substance, something truly beneficial and uplifting for the entrepreneurial community. But the opportunity has passed. Instead of having angels publicly investing and professing that these were in deed great opportunities,  they opted for the back room  politics or bar room approach.

When will Louisiana come of age? Can’t we get past the Huey Long approach of “glad handing?” Sometimes you have to be careful of how you spin things. Something that makes sense to some may be non cents to others. Hopefully next year they will come up with something that makes better sense.