Here’s the ugly truth: The average cell phone is dirtier than a public restroom.
After seeing an alarming news report that said cell phones are contaminated with fecal matter, cousins Dan Barnes and Wesley LaPorte were inspired to start PhoneSoap, a company that sells cell phone chargers designed to disinfect phones while they charge.
To gain capital for the business, Barnes and LaPorte went on “Shark Tank,” seeking $300,000 in exchange for a 7.5 percent stake in their company. The experience, Barnes said, was one of the scariest things they’ve ever done — but worth it.
“We believed strongly in Shark Tank’s ability to share our product and message,” Barnes said in an email to CNBC. “Also, we needed the help of the sharks — and particularly Lori! She was who we had in our mind of who we most wanted to work with.”
That being said, winning over the Sharks is no easy feat. With other options on the market, coupled with the potential lack of motivation for sanitizing from the average consumer, the Sharks were wary about the demand for such a product.
“Why wouldn’t I just use sanitizer?” asked billionaire investor Mark Cuban.
Barnes said that alcohol can damage the phone. “Oh, that is a horrible response,” Cuban said.
Barnes and LaPorte came prepared. Five months prior to their “Shark Tank” airing, they had $537,000 in sales. On top of that, they raised $800,000 from a local investor, giving up 60 percent of their company.
The Sharks were intrigued. Raising $800,000 was impressive, but giving away 60 percent was a large number to follow.
“We were two entrepreneurs that really had an idea that we loved,” Barnes said on “Shark Tank,” regarding the decision to give away 60 percent equity. “We hit the point where it was like, it was going to cost us a lot of money to make it. And we decided it was either be greedy and have this go nowhere, or give ourselves an opportunity …”
As it turns out, taking the leap was well worth the risk. Since “Shark Tank,” the company has evolved. “We’ve grown a lot. It allowed us to do a lot more product development. We’ve been working on products that will clean other important items besides phones.”
“It was always a dream of ours to not just start a business, but also be on Shark Tank!” Barnes said. “So while it may sound cliché, we really believe that with effort and hard work you can achieve whatever you set out to accomplish.”
Did the Sharks offer a life-changing deal? Find out on “Shark Tank” on Friday at 9 p.m. ET on CNBC.