Getting Sili in the Shark Tank

Last year, Mikey Lickstein (BABA ’13, MSE ’14) was ready to appear on ABC’s Shark Tank to seek an investment for his company, SiliDog.

That was until he had to fill out the show’s preliminary questionnaire.

“One of the first questions was about how you are selling,” Lickstein recalled. “I realized I’m not selling. I only had about $3,000 in sales. I was so not ready.”

Lickstein’s patience paid off…to the tune of $100,000. That’s the investment he received from Lori Greiner for 30 percent equity stake in SiliDog during the Oct. 21 episode of Shark Tank.

The disappointment Lickstein, 25, experienced last year when he realized he wasn’t ready to swim with the sharks served as added motivation to grow the company. Since March 2016, SiliDog, which makes noiseless, silicone-based dog tags, has grown from four to 15 products, and is available in more than 200 retail outlets. Lickstein also took that time to iron out the company’s production and logistics issues so they could be ready to move quickly if he secured a major investment.

“We’ve grown so much over the last year, and we’ve learned how not to make mistakes,” Lickstein said. “The timing was perfect.”

Lickstein’s pitch, which lasted more than an hour, was a cakewalk compared to actually getting on SharkTank. He attended a casting call in February in Miami, and gave a one-minute pitch to the show’s producers. Lickstein then endured 12 rounds of vetting, including phone interviews, FaceTime interviews and background checks before finally being selected. He was notified in June, and was flown to Los Angeles five days later.

The day of shooting wasn’t easy either. Lickstein and his dog, Bentley, the inspiration for SiliDog, boarded a bus at 5:30 a.m. to Shark Tank’s studio. Lickstein and Bentley waited 12 hours to make their pitch.

The final cut revealed a roller coaster of emotions for Lickstein. The Sharks were clearly impressed with Lickstein’s pitch, but three of them passed on his offer. With only two Sharks left, Robert Herjavec decided to make an offer which prompted a bidding war among Herjavec, Greiner and Barbara Corcoran—who initially passed. Ultimately, Lickstein accepted Greiner’s offer of $100,000 for 30 percent equity and a 50 cents royalty on each dog tag sold until Greiner recoups her investment.

Although Lickstein gave up more equity than he originally proposed—his original offer was $100,000 for 15 percent—he said he was thrilled with the result.

“That a Shark would make that kind of investment means they see the potential in the company,” Lickstein said. “The partnership was most important.”

Since the episode’s broadcast, Lickstein said his life has been a blur. He immediately hired five employees to assist in production joining family members and neighbors who are also pitching in.

“It hasn’t slowed down [since the episode aired],” Lickstein said. “I don’t know why people are buying dog tags at 4 a.m. or 4 p.m., but I’m not complaining.”

Lickstein said his experience in the College’s Thomas S. Johnson Master of Science in Entrepreneurship Program was essential to SiliDog’s success. He said he was particularly impacted by the entrepreneurs that came to speak with students.

“The hands-on experiences at those speaker series were incredible,” Lickstein said. “Every one of those entrepreneurs had a different scenario where it was make or break. Having those opportunities to learn from them and take it all in were great.”