CU-Boulder takes ideas for a swim in ABC’s 'Shark Tank'

Published: May 29, 2014

ABC’s reality competition series “Shark Tank” made a visit to the University of Colorado Boulder on Thursday. On the show, aspiring entrepreneurs get a chance to pitch their big ideas to a panel of tycoons in the hopes of securing an investment in their business or product.

Casting manager Mindy Zemrak says that they have typically relied on nationwide open calls to find new entrepreneurs, but the show’s producers are beginning to recognize the wealth of ideas that can be found in the growing field of college entrepreneurship.

“While we are starting to look more to university campuses across the country, we were particularly excited to target the Boulder/Denver area because it is really emerging as the next Silicon Valley,” said Zamrak. “We are also excited about the strong entrepreneurship programs here at CU-Boulder.”

For a few hours on Thursday afternoon, CU students, alumni, faculty and staff had the opportunity to pitch their ideas in an intimate setting.

“In typical casting calls, people get exactly one minute to present their ideas and we do not have time to ask them questions,” explained Zemrak. “I really like this setting because it gives us 10 to 15 minutes with each person, so we can really get a better sense of what their idea is.”

Schuyler Van Sickle, a recent graduate from the Leeds School of Business, showed up to pitch his idea to the show. Van Sickle, who currently is running two startups, pitched his idea for live feed for saltwater aquariums. He explained that while most saltwater aquarium owners still use dead feed, his idea to bring the benefits of microbiology to people’s aquariums is still a relatively new one.

“I always said that if I had the chance to pitch to Shark Tank, I would,” said Van Sickle. “I was very excited to see that they were coming to campus.”

The casting crew took notes from their interviews, which they will bring back to Los Angeles and share with the show’s producers. Entrepreneurs whose ideas are selected will be contacted in about a week and asked to pitch their ideas to the show’s producers in the next round.