Shark Tank sharpens prospects for new businesses

  • shark tank
Four well-dressed young men appeared before the Shark Tank at Limmud last year. Their business idea sparked interest among the sharks, and they got funding from two members in the tank.
by JORDAN MOSHE | Jun 21, 2018

“The Shark Tank was incredibly helpful for our business,” said Joshua Miltz, Jonathan Ferrer, Dean Joffe, and Bradley Goldman, last year’s winners. “It forced us to question our business model, what we had already built, and what we aimed to build going forward.” Their proposal was so well received, they got R2 million in funding for their idea, and went on to found Bitfund, a cryptocurrency investment platform.

“We got some great exposure from the event itself,” they said. “The audience and the networking that followed gave us serious reach in terms of connections and potential clients. Building our business over the past year has been an awesome experience – things like market fitting, agile business development, and getting our name out there have been a huge focus.”

This year’s sharks – Howard Sackstein, Gil Sperling, Gidon Novick, and Joel Kessler – are determined to find the next big idea, and see it come to fruition.

These business fundis are giants in their own right, making them a force to be reckoned with. They all possess business acumen of note, and know exactly what sort of talent they are looking for.

“We will choose applicants based on whether they’re solving a major problem,” says Sperling, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Popimedia, and Head of Investment Committee at Kalon Venture Partners. “We need to see some serious innovation, ideas that can flip things over in South Africa and in the world at large.”

“I’m far more attracted to technological innovation,” he said. “Tech enables that type of revolution far better, and it can make a real change. However, we won’t limit ourselves. Last year, we were very impressed by a drama school idea. Such a project involves education, and is thus an investment in our society. It doesn’t matter what area the idea is in, as long as it involves making a real change to the everyday.”

Sperling stressed that experience was not essential, and inexperienced applicants could still get backing. One thing, however, is non-negotiable: the need to impress. “Applicants need to wow us in the six to seven minutes they have. Are you changing the world, are you passionate, and do you want to see dramatic change?”

Novick, the founder of, agrees. “Applicants should have a strong and unique business plan, not just an idea. They should be able to demonstrate that they have capability, experience, energy, flexibility, resilience, confidence, and the ambition to achieve success in their business.”

“It is necessary that they clearly demonstrate the problem they are solving for. They should state where they are in the process of building their business, what has been achieved to date, and what assistance and/or capital they need.”

The type of idea these sharks are looking to invest in, said Sackstein, is one that will stand out immediately. “We’ll know it when we see it,” he said. Sackstein is the Executive Director of Saicom Voice Services. “Different sharks look for different things, but we all need to see whether the proposal is a practicable business or just an idea.”

“Ideas alone are irrelevant, it’s all about implementation,” Sackstein said. We want to see if this is the right jockey to ride the business horse and make it successful. People must remember that the sharks are committing their own money to the project. It’s not a charity, but a commercial decision.”

“I have not bought into crypto mania myself,” he said, “but two of my fellow sharks offered R2 million for a stake on the spot last year. Can you imagine the excitement of sitting in that audience when someone is willing to do that for a share in someone’s business? That is part of the magic of this event. We are hoping to attract entrepreneurs of all ages, people with real ideas that can generate a profit, all they need is a little capital to help them.”

The session will be held at the Limmud conference in August. Organiser Sheryl Benjamin explained that because the event lasted only one hour, applicants were limited to roughly six minutes each, three of which were for punting the proposal, and the rest for the sharks to respond. “This means that unless we choose to extend the session, we will probably admit only six teams to compete.”

Benjamin said the amount the sharks chose to invest in the project was not set, and the winners could negotiate the amount they were looking for in exchange for equity in their venture. But, whether a team wins or not, fledgling entrepreneurs can only benefit from the experience.

“Last year, some of those who didn’t win were contacted after the event by the sharks to be offered tips,” she said. “The sharks are more than happy to mentor applicants, helping them to make any improvements that will be of help to them.”

Applications for the Limmud Shark Tank should be directed to [email protected] as soon as possible. The deadline for applications is 30 June.


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