The Sharks on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ were in a feeding frenzy, and Kash Shaikh was wearing chum underwear.
At least in the eight minutes viewers saw. (Shaikh was actually in “The Tank” for an hour, talking through business questions that never made the final edit).
“It made for great reality TV,” Shaikh told me.
A high-drama version of a VC pitch–nothing like the hundred real pitches the entrepreneur has been on (he’s raised two million dollars in funding to date).
He was there to pitch #besomebody, a startup that does business as an app that helps people pursue their passions. Want to learn piano? Pottery? Parasailing? Connect with experts (called “passionaries”) so you can learn while they make money teaching you, with #besomebody getting 20 percent of each booking.
But the Sharks didn’t take the bait, and Shaikh had to handle an agitated Mark Cuban to boot.
Shaikh does have significant business experience: he led marketing campaigns for a decade at consumer giant Procter & Gamble, and further honed his skills for a year at camera maker GoPro.
So, you could understand if the ‘Shark Tank’ experience would leave this entrepreneur down for the count. But Shaikh’s response is a case study of the stalwart; one forged from years of remarkable resilience.
He told me, “At the end of the day, I walked away with another valuable experience, and great exposure for the company.”
Although the Sharks were negative, #besomebody site traffic surged by 100,000 visitors in the two days after the episode aired. There were, of course, some haters too.
But Shaikh just swam on.
This wasn’t Shaikh’s first brush with doubters and adversity after all.
When he decided to leave GoPro and go all-in on his startup, he left 75 percent of his GoPro stock on the table–one year away from IPO–and cashed in his 401k.
People said, “You’re crazy.”
His response? “Keep your cash, I want change. Forget the money, I want meaning.”
The initial launch of the #besomebody app was off the charts. Beta-tested in Austin, Texas, it was touted as a “life changing app” by local publications and won numerous awards. Shaikh was the toast of the town, on the cover of magazines, and on everyone’s invite lists.
However, when repeat bookings on the app stalled (the app was being used primarily for one-off experiences), and the early buzz died down, people started to jump ship.
He learned who his friends were. He knew he’d have to rethink his business model. He swam on.
Shaikh ran into controversy for a talk he gave at an Austin high school, one modeled on this Tedx talk.
The session ignited heated discussions in social media. Some students and teachers felt he trivialized the idea of struggle and was overzealous in his advice to go all in on your passion.
Shaikh, having successfully spoken at many other high schools, just swam on.
Net, after ‘Shark Tank’, Shaikh knew what to do.
You can take inspiration from Shaikh’s resilience and from six lessons he shared with me:
1. Entrepreneurship is war
It’s the life and death of your dream, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But if you have heart, you can feint, dodge, and parry through anything.
But know you’ll be working in “the trenches” for a long time. It won’t be pretty. If you’re not in it for the right reasons, you won’t last.
2. Be disciplined about who you listen to
Everyone tells Shaikh what he should and shouldn’t do.
Some investors told him #besomebody should just stick to motivational content.
Others pushed him to leverage the motivational spirit of #besomebody to become the next Under Armour (#besomebody t-shirts have a 1,200-person waiting list).
Shaikh told me, “There’s only three groups of people you should listen to. One, those who love you unconditionally. Two, those who are in the trenches with you. Three, those who have already done what you’re trying to do”.
3. When you’re building something, your vision and passion are everything
Nobody will believe in your vision as much as you do or have as much passion as you do for that vision.
Never quit on either.
4. Don’t be afraid to pivot
As of January 11, 2017, #besomebody will be shifting from one-off, fun experiences, to full-on vocational training, launching “Learning Paths” that will give people the skills they need to get a job–guaranteed.
Pivoting is scary. Shaikh is leaning into it.
Ask yourself: Is it time for you to pivot as well?
5. Let failure develop you, not discourage you
#besomebody launched 20 versions of its app before deciding to pivot. Shaikh says his missteps got him closer to his end goal.
6. Don’t let the dark side of people deter you from the guiding light of your vision
Haters gonna hate. People can surprise you with their lack of loyalty. Don’t worry about the people who leave. Focus on those that stay.
And no matter what, just keep swimming.