Since it first aired in 2009, Shark Tank has captivated American audiences by giving them an inside look at how venture capital pitches and funding deals are made. The show has been enjoyed by millions over the past 8 seasons and has gone on to win various awards, including a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program. Most impressive and interesting to all of us at the Kapor Center has been the show’s intentional commitment to inclusion and representation. In its first season, sharks included Barbara Corcoran, a woman, and Daymond John, a Black man. This is actually an impressive feat given the low percentage of racial and gender diversity that currently exists across US based VC firms.
The show has also done well to feature founders from various backgrounds and even has a national diversity casting initiative. This type of representation is extremely important and helps to inspire individuals when they see themselves reflected in successful business people.
Shark Tank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is closely aligned to the Kapor Center’s mission as we work to make Oakland the home of tech done right. We were thrilled when they asked us to partner with them and host a casting call in Oakland!
The work that Shark Tank does to demystify the VC world and bring opportunities and access for entrepreneurs from all over America to fuel their business ideas and passions is an inspiring model we hope to see adopted by more shows and competitions that are similar.
A long day of pitches
The energy on the day of the event was electric as we saw hundreds of people stop by and pitch to the producers. We were able to fit everyone in thanks to a tiered schedule so there was minimal waiting and our space was able to house everyone as they came in waves.
Entrepreneurs shared how excited they were to have the opportunity to pitch for Shark Tank and to also be doing so in such a welcoming and supportive environment.
Roland Mourning ll, the president and inventor of AutoLotto ScratchR is a local black resident who was excited to see this opportunity come so close to home. “In the past I’ve traveled to Atlanta, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to pitch my company on Shark Tank. It was great to see this opportunity come to Oakland.”
Roland also shared how this event was far more welcoming and inspiring than other casting calls he had attended. “The Kapor Center was a friendly place where the staff were knowledgable and genuinely interested in helping. There was a private pitch opportunity at this event which really helped to ease stress and helped me feel more prepared.”
This type of experience was intentional and crafted by Brandon Andrews who leads Shark Tank’s diversity casting initiatives and has been committed to making it a priority for the show for many years. As he puts it, “We want to be a positive force for entrepreneurs to have a chance to have their ideas heard and be seen.”
Making diversity a priority
Brandon views Shark Tank as having a responsibility to reflect the diverse people and experiences that exist across the country. “70% of businesses in the US are owned by white men. We are trying to change that statistic by helping to grow and diversify the pipeline for the show and for entrepreneurship in general. We have a responsibility to inspire and educate-We want our viewers to see themselves reflected so they know they are capable of achieving greatness.”
A panel shares their knowledge
The Kapor Center has become the hub of entrepreneurship in Oakland so it was a natural fit to host the panel to close out the day and to showcase the diverse talent and opportunity in Oakland. The panel participants included Brandon Andrews, representing Shark Tank Values Partnership and Shark Tank alumni Rose Wang, founder of Chirps Chips, and Oakland native Victor Gauthier II, Founder of Spretz.
The panel was open to all participants of the casting call who pitched as well as anyone in the community interested in learning more about entrepreneurship. We were also happy to welcome the Oakland Startup Network as we continue to build out a thriving ecosystem of tech entrepreneurs here in Oakland.
Panel attendees shared feedback that the panel event was a great way to end the day since they were able to hear insights from Shark Tank alumni. It really highlighted the importance of networking and building partnerships for entrepreneurs like Tran Tieu, founder of BlushCrate who shared her enthusiasm via Twitter:
Only the beginning
We are very excited that this season of Shark Tank will feature Oakland native and OSN entrepreneur Ryan Diew as he pitches his company Trippie in the season premiere on Sunday October 1st. Ryan shared his enthusiasm with us and we can’t wait to see his pitch air! “It was an emotional pitch. I’ve poured so much of myself into this for over a year and it’s been amazing to have this opportunity.”
We look forward to seeing more homegrown Oakland businesses and entrepreneurs make it on Shark Tank this season and in the future. Be sure to tune in to the new season of Shark Tank Sundays in October on ABC!