7 Cliches The Sharks Always Use On 'Shark Tank'


Sharks from Reuters


In the build up to the premier of the fifth season of ABC's reality pitch show "Shark Tank" this week, we decided to take a look at all the catch phrases, cliches, buzzwords, and business jargon used on the show.


We weren't disappointed. "Shark Tank" turns out to be a melting pot of colorful lingo, propagated mostly by the Sharks themselves.

With the help of Andrew Figgins, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and owner of the fan site InTheSharkTank.com, we compiled the following list of the most common always used by the Sharks (we're looking at you, Mark Cuban):

1. "You're not an entrepreneur; you're a want-repreneur."

Cuban first and most memorably said this in season three to Amanda Schlecter, founder of the Ledge Pillow, a pillow designed to help women recovering from breast surgery or with large breasts lay comfortably on their stomachs. The statement has since been adopted by many of the Sharks in response to what they view as sub-par pitches.


Translation: You don't seem willing to put in the time and effort it takes to make a company succeed.

2. "Follow the green, not the dream."

Cuban used this gem most recently in season four with Erica Cohen and Lori Barbera of Baby's Badass Burgers, a bright pink food truck that sells gourmet burgers (motto: "Come for the burgers, stay for the buns"). Because the truck had steady sales, the pair wanted to open a traditional restaurant. Cuban advised that they stick to what they know.

Translation: Focus on what's working, rather than expanding into a new business venture just for the sake of expanding.

3. "I need more skin in the game."


Most of the Sharks have used this at one time or another, though Cuban probably the most, when they want a higher equity stake. Cuban said it to Mike Hartwick and Sarah Ponn of Surfset Fitness, a surf-focused exercise equipment and classes provider. They asked for $150,000 for a 10% stake, but Cuban wanted more "skin in the game" and offered $300,000 for 33%.

Translation: I'm willing to put more of my money on the line to get a better deal.

4. "That's a Slick Willie move."

Daymond John nicknames any entrepreneur who isn't forthright with their answers or changes valuations mid-pitch a Slick Willie. When Michael Tseng, creator of the food-storage invention PlateTopper, changed his company valuation from about $2 million to $15 million in the midst of talking to the Sharks, John deemed it "a Slick Willie move."

Translation: You've been deceptive and lost my trust.


5. "I'm starting my 24-second shot clock."

Borrowed from his basketball background, Cuban says this when he wants to pressure an entrepreneur to make a decision quickly. He used the shot clock in the third season with Mark and Hanna Lim of Lollacup, a pediatrician-approved sippy cup, and ended up making a deal. Other Sharks have also used and sped up the shot clock. Lori Greiner once reduced it to two seconds.

Translation: You have the next few seconds to make a deal.

6. "You're dead to me."

This is the Kevin O'Leary go-to response when contestants turn down his offers. In the first season, when Paul Watts of Graffiti Removal Services dismissed the deal for a majority stake in his business, which would make Watts a mere employee of his own company, O'Leary said: "You're dead to me if you turn around." He did and walked right out the door.


Translation: That's my final offer, and I don't renegotiate.

7. "Is the business scalable?"

From the annals of business speak, this is the most-often used jargon trotted out by Sharks on the show. Essentially, they're asking if contestants can handle more than their initial success and put systems in place for consistent growth. It's an important concept, but an annoying cliche.

Translation: Will you be able to meet increased demand and grow revenue quickly and easily?