Kevin O'Leary: A Businessman, a Shark, and Now Batman
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word bats? Furry-winged little animals that only come out at night and turn into pale bloodsucking vampires? If one of those things come to mind when asked about bats, then you are missing out on how helpful bats can be for the human population. Harrison Broadhurst and Chris Rannefors of BatBNB came to the Tank on a mission to educate people on how helpful bats can be and to fight misconceptions about bats as well.
The season finale of Season 10 of Shark Tank saw another wave of entrepreneurs looking for a financial partnership and guidance from one of the Sharks. There were pitches about clothes, food, and even a dog protection suit, then Harrison and Chris came out. First, they introduced the problem that BatBNB is trying to solve: with increasing global warming, mosquitoes come out earlier and earlier, bringing with them deadly diseases such as the Zika virus. The solution has been to use pesticides that are harsh on the skin, the solution bats, a natural predator of mosquitoes.
They introduced BatBNB, seeking $100,000 for 16% in their company, as a bed and breakfast for bats. BatBNB was designed with the bats’ lifestyle in mind and each individual BatBNB can house hundreds of bats. Each BatBNB has interior groove chambers and landing pads that allow bats to hang, sleep and climb. The BatBNB bio-mimics a bat’s natural environment, the peeling bark of a dying tree, it also would keep baby bats safe from predators. It’s a win-win for the bat and the customer, the customer gets harmful pests eliminated from their property, and the bat gets a home.
The two entrepreneurs went on to explain that the bat is a very misunderstood creature, and brought a live bat to the tank, much to the dismay of some of the Sharks. The bat they brought out can be found in Los Angeles and explained that residents in that area. The first big question they got was from Kevin, who pointed out that since there are bats that do prey on mammals, how are they kept separate from the insect-eating bats. Their response was that there are two species of vampire bats, but only in South and Central America.
The two entrepreneurs then went on to explain that they’re not bat experts, they were alarmed when the headlines used to be all about the Zika virus. They wanted to have children and needed a solution to get rid of mosquitoes, a solution that was different from the harmful pesticides that were currently on the market. Chris used to build bat houses with his father who was a big conservationist and thus BatBNB was created.
One of the main challenges that BatBNB has is the negative stigma associated with bats, that has been around since the book Dracula was published. The attitude of the Sharks was a prime example with the apprehension on their faces when the bat came out, and the looks of disbelief that stayed on their faces throughout the entire pitch. The two entrepreneurs then started talking business and talked about how so far BatBNB has made $135,000 in profit so far and discussed the costs to make and deliver the product.
The passion that Harrison and Chris had for their product was clear, but it didn’t seem to work for some of the Sharks. Robert saw the concept as a hobby market, so he got out, Mark thought the costs of educating consumers was too much work so he was out. Daymond got out because he hasn’t seen the amount of insects on his property go down, and he has bats living there, and saw education of the product as too big of a hurdle. Lori, just couldn’t get interested in the product so she too, said she was out.
Kevin, on the other hand, turned out to be very knowledgeable about bats, having grown up in Europe. He first offered the $100,000 but for 33.3% stake, which the entrepreneurs then counter-offered for 25%, but Kevin wouldn’t budge. They came to a deal after Kevin said he would wear a Batman suit when promoting BatBNB. Best of luck to Kevin and BatBNB on their quest to destigmatize bats and combat mosquito-borne illnesses.