ABC’s Shark Tank is one of my favorite TV shows. I think it’s one of the few shows that teaches skills that one can use in life.
I’m also a social entrepreneur. From childhood, I’ve always felt the urge to stand up for the voiceless and weak. Perhaps because I always counted myself one of them.
Since 2005, I’ve had the good fortune of starting and graduating from medical school, starting Shaping Destiny–an organization that inspires and empowers people to shape their destinies, and starting the first college in the world that provides training for individuals who want to go into orphan care. In addition to that, I’ve started many successful online ventures that allow me to add value to thousands of people each month. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I’ve attempted countless things that didn’t work out well.
Between 2010 and 2015, I took time away from my career and applied myself fully to my social entrepreneur passions. During this immensely rewarding yet challenging time, I invested all my time and effort on community building projects that I felt contributed in small ways to make our world a better place. During this time, I had no significant income and depended on my wife’s small income to take care of us and our two little boys.
Now that I’m back to pursuing my career, I’m not involved in the day-to-day activities of the social ventures I started. I’m grateful that new leaders are doing a great job leading these past ventures.
With all this going on, I sometimes wondered how I could possibly make the most of my life and do the most good while remaining committed to my career for the rest of my life.
Observing the way the sharks on the Shark Tank work has given me a good idea of how I might go about it.
On Shark Tank, entrepreneurs present their products and seek an investment from a shark. The shark invests an amount of money in the entrepreneur and in exchange receives a significant percentage of the companThe sharks are very busy people, they never want to get involved in the day-to-day activities of the company.
As such, sharks look for entrepreneurs who:
- Have a product that has great potential to succeed.
- Have proven their concept with significant sales.
- Are 110% committed to the business and are laying everything on the line to see their company succeed.
- Are very focused and not trying to do too many things at once.
- Have a solid go-to-market strategy.
- Offer the shark enough equity to make it worth their time.
- Have a good personality to work with.
- Are honest, straightforward, and have integrity.
The shark’s main goal is to make a profit that far exceeds his financial and time investment. Without that, the shark is not investing.
What does the shark bring to the table? The shark brings:
- Financial capital
- His connections in the business world that will open doors that the entrepreneur couldn’t open on his own.
- His name that endorses the product.
- His coaching
- His wisdom on the board to make decisions that will help the company succeed and make him and others a profit.
I want to be a social shark. I want to identify young social entrepreneurs who have proven that they are 110% committed to their mission and have results to show that they also have the talent and education to succeed. I want people who are already strong winners at the level they are operating right now. And of course, they must want to succeed so badly that they are ready to lay it all out there for their social impact vision to be fulfilled.
As on the Shark Tank, not every social entrepreneur will be investible for me. There are many successful businesses that the sharks turn down simply because they don’t have the expertise or the passion to be able to add value or contribute to the product to help it succeed. That doesn’t mean the product isn’t good or the entrepreneur isn’t great. In the same way, I will narrow my options to areas that I have significant experience, passion, and social capital to invest in.
I think operating as a social shark, playing a limited but very influential role in helping a few dozen social entrepreneurs to do the most good will enable me to achieve my own dream of making a great social impact while at the same time having enough time to focus on my career as well as quality time to spend with my family.