Founder: Sharmi Albrechtsen
Season: Appeared on season 9 in the week 7 episode
SmartGurlz makes it easy and fun for girls to learn how to code. The robotic e-learning system teachers girls how to code and program using self-balancing robots and dolls. The platform connects to an app, which contains coding games and lessons.
According to their website, the technology “inspires the women creators and leaders of tomorrow, by teaching them how to code, today!” Current characters include technology wizard and hacker Zara, teen mechanic Jen, chemistry aficionado Jun, math genius Maria and quirky artist Emma. The action dolls, which are paired with the Siggy robot, cost $79.99.
When Albrechtsen originally appeared on “Shark Tank,” she came in asking for $200,000 for five percent equity. Daymond John immediately expressed his interest in the product and its potential applications and offered $200,000 for 30 percent. Robert Herjavec, Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban and guest shark Richard Branson all had too many concerns and went out, leaving only John’s offer on the table. Ultimately, after two counteroffers, John made a deal with Albrechtsen at $200,000 for 25 percent.
Albrechtsen spoke with Business 2 Community about SmartGurlz’s experience on the show and what their next steps are. Take a look at the Q&A below:
Q&A with SmartGurlz’s Founder Sharmi Albrechtsen
What was your strategy for navigating “Shark Tank”?
It was definitely nerve-wracking, but honestly, it was just a case of being really clear. Making a good show was obviously really important, it is a TV show after all, so it’s important to excite and create “show” quality. We had music, dancing, the lot! We taught Richard Branson to code in no time at all. For us, it was about getting them active, passionate and engaged. And I think we pulled it off. You definitely have to play up the TV aspect.
How has SmartGurlz changed since the episode was first recorded? Since it aired?
Well, we’ve grown tremendously. We now have more than $1.2 million in sales, are working with Walmart on a brand new product line for 2019 and have got a new partnership with Girl Scouts in America. Most excitingly, we recently gained the legendary Kari Byron from “MythBusters” on board as our Chief Creative Officer.
Is there anything you would have changed about your time spent in the tank, including your pitch and valuation?
Absolutely not. No, I loved every minute. Knowing that you’ve beaten 40,000 other companies to get on “Shark Tank” is an amazing achievement (and a great feeling). It gives genuine, high credibility to SmartGurlz. And that’s what really matters. Honestly, “Shark Tank” is what inspired me to become an entrepreneur in the first place! People thought I was crazy when I first said I was aiming to go on the show. They didn’t think I was ever going to make it!
Who’s your favorite shark?
Barbara. I love her quirkiness and she’s sharp. She invests in a very honest and authentic way. You really believe she’s 100 percent behind her choices.
Do you think “Shark Tank” was the right move for your business?
Absolutely, they were very respectful of me and of the company.
What are SmartGurlz’s next steps?
We are really interested in making a line of wearable products, headbands, codable bracelets, codable clothing for girls/kids. We’ve just launched our curriculum program—launching at the ISTE conference in June, it will be linked to the core curriculum of U.S. coding standards. We are also super excited that Apple Retail stores are talking to us about a potential deal.
Where do you see this industry in 5-10 years?
There’s definitely space in the industry for a new digital learning company. LeapFrog died because its Leap Pad was the center of its innovation. When the Leap Pad was replaced by the iPad, it all fell apart. For SmartGurlz, we start with the iPad—it’s at the center of everything we do.
In the coming years, I expect to see a huge rise in women in tech and in provisions and incentives for women in tech. We’re really lacking in tech products and services that are tailored to women. That’s all going to change.
What would you say to people who want to start their own business?
Firstly, if you’re doing it to try and get out of the 9-5 – don’t! You’re going to be working seven days a week, 100 hours a week! So, if you’re looking for a lifestyle change then remember that being your own boss won’t necessarily make that happen. But, once you catch that entrepreneurial spirit it won’t ever leave you, you’ll just have to do it. Passion will take you so far, you’ll need tenacity and inner strength, but if you believe from your core that you have a great product then never give up!
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who want to make it on “Shark Tank”?
With any TV show, it’s the show that’s important, so it’s key that you think about what’s going to make a great TV show as well as a great pitch. You’ve got to watch every “Shark Tank” show possible; think about what made the best episodes great, why they stuck in your mind and why the pitches were successful. Make notes, do your homework and then go away and research those successful companies. It really is a show, not a traditional pitch. By watching a lot of it, you’ll start to see the winning style.
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length