Apex couple Justine Tiu and Adrian Zhang made a national splash this fall with an appearance — and a deal — on ABC’s “Shark Tank” for their company, The Woobles.
But their agreement appears to have fallen through, and Mark Cuban, one of the sharks who planned to invest in the company, says he doesn’t know why.
“It didn’t close. It was their choice,” he said in an email to The News & Observer Tuesday. “Lori and I were looking forward to working with them.”
In the episode that aired Sept. 30, Tiu and Zhang struck a deal with Cuban and investor Lori Greiner that would help their burgeoning company grow.
“You would have to ask them why they chose to come on the show, accept a deal and then not move forward,” Cuban wrote.
Through a spokesperson, Tiu and Zhang declined to comment on the status of the deal.
Agreements made on the hit ABC show aren’t legally binding. The verbal deal featured in the episode was for Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and Greiner, an entrepreneur popular on QVC, to invest $450,000 for 6% of Tiu and Zhang’s company. The Woobles offers beginner crocheters kits with tools and techniques to weave an array of round yarn creatures.
Tiu and Zhang, who met as undergraduates at Duke University, had little trouble securing a deal. All five of the show’s investors, called sharks, wanted a piece of their business. After they launched The Woobles in July 2020, the startup had generated $5.3 million in sales, Zhang said in the episode. Zhang added in the episode that they expected to generate $7 million by the end of 2022.
Not all ‘Shark Tank’ deals go through
It’s not uncommon for verbal agreements on “Shark Tank” to fail after the camera stops rolling. In 2016, Forbes spoke with 237 participants who appeared during the show’s first seven seasons and found that 43% said their deals never completed, either because the sharks pulled out or the entrepreneurs balked.
The initial offer Tiu and Zhang made to the judges was $250,000 for 5% equity in The Woobles, which would value their startup at $5 million.
The wife and husband had previously told The News & Observer they hoped to use any investments from the sharks to hire more staff, including software developers, and to build out their online digital experience. Tiu and Zhang also acknowledged that appearing on a show watched by several million people each week would be a boon for sales.
Their episode aired as part of “Shark Tank”’s 14th season.
At the end of the episode segment, Cuban told the North Carolina couple, “You guys are as sharky as we are.”
News of the deal not closing was first reported by the Triangle Business Journal.
This story was produced with financial support from a coalition of partners led by Innovate Raleigh as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work
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