On Sunday evening ABC via their popular business focused program Shark Tank, televised what is very likely the most widely seen breakdown of a young millennial upon their first encounter with the real world. For those unfamiliar, Shark tank features startup business owners, pitching their company or product to a panel of 5 incredibly rich “shark” prospective investors hoping to get their money and expertise. During the season premiere last weekend the show featured a young black contestant named Ryan. A contestant that ten minutes later would be in tears and have billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban saying “he wanted a participation trophy. I don’t want to say this feels like a millennial stereotype, but it sure feels like millennial stereotype.”
It didn’t start out that badly at first, as the young entrepreneur seemed perfectly normal as he entered into the tank, following a quick pre pitch hug and pep talk from his Mom. He was there to show off his smartphone app trippie, which he called the “go to app for navigating airports.” An app he valued at a million dollars when he asked for a 100,000 dollar investment for a 10% stake in his company.
Opening with the statement “airports are confusing for even the frequent business traveler”. Ryan launched into his pitch, slowly revealing that all trippie really was, is an app that tells users food locations in an airport. The sharks seemed almost confused by this at first. Not seeming to want to believe that the app was little more than a glorified airport directory, one this Ryan expected people to pay him for access too at that.
Ryan though seemed to not see the problem, stating “an airport directory is never there when you need it.” He then attempted to site an example situation of being stuck making due with a soggy tuna fish sandwich from the news stand shop because you don’t know where the airport restaurant is. Even going so far as to produce a real tuna fish sandwich prop for effect, which this former college basketball player then oddly threw on the ground by the Sharks feet in a missed attempt at a wastebasket shot.
Following this Ryan decided in the middle of the most important moment in his life, to chow down on a burrito. An item he then struggled to get fully down, while he kept on talking. An awkward scene which eventually led Cuban to interrupt his pitch to ask if he was still trying to finish his food. Moments later a show producer even had to come out to provide the young man with some water, as he did not think to bring his own. This strange scene prompting Cuban to say “it’s only the biggest moment of your life and you are choking on a burrito, but what else could go wrong.” Maybe this statement was prophetic though because it actually only got worse from there.
It was just after he finally swallowed his food, that Ryan revealed that right out of college he turned down interviews from both Facebook and Google. In order to work full time on his app. He had apparently even previously been his school’s Google Student Ambassador, and thus given the companies now infamous diversity minded hiring program would likely have gotten the job their had he perused it. But driven on by a culture that has clearly only ever told this kid he is special, and entailed to whatever he wants. The young man turned down that sure thing, believing a private fortune awaited him. Unsurprisingly, now a year later Ryan still finds himself penniless living at home with his parents, while he attempts to figure out why people don’t want to pay him for an airport fast food directory.
It wasn’t this fact that set the Sharks off though, as they appreciate someone willing to risk it all on a good idea. What soon became clear though is that trippie didn’t qualify as a good idea. With Ryan revealing that the app had been downloaded by less than a thousand people, and had only about 160 active users. This in addition to him sheepishly admitting when pushed on the topic that, the idea wasn’t even all that original as there are competitors doing the same basic thing.
When asked what he would do with the money, he was at least honest with his answer stating, “I’d use it to get a developer better than me.” He followed this admission up with another bit of information that stunned the Sharks, which is that he was manually inserting all the airport information into the App himself, thus explaining why it only had a handful of airports up and running thus far. Perhaps sensing the worsening mood in the room, Ryan suddenly took a hard left turn in his pitch. Claiming the goal wasn’t to be a directory at all, but rather a community for airport travelers. Calling trippe “the Waze of the indoor space.” Or quite randomly even suggesting perhaps the app could reveal TSA wait times someday.
Female shark Lori Greiner especially seemed excited by this last prospect but when she asked him about it, he revealed it’s simply not something the app can do, and was little more than an idea he had. It was at this moment it seemed the Sharks fully grasped that Ryan was not there to sell them a fully realized product buy rather just a set of idea’s he had. Many of which he even admitted he may never actually be able to make real. It was around then the Sharks started going “out” one by one, starting with Lori.
In an anger filled moment of entitled privilege, likely brought on by the sudden realization these people were most likely not going to give him a hundred thousand dollars. This minority millennial then lashed out at the Sharks. Claiming the only reason his app wasn’t better, was that he didn’t have “that rich uncle” to borrow startup money from. This though ended any attempt at friendliness in the room. As every single one of the Sharks present started out from poor backgrounds and possess self-made fortunes. Robert Herjavec led the way stating “my dad worked in a factory and my mom was a receptionist. You just have to deal with the reality of what you have. Go with what you have, don’t look at what you don’t have.”
Ryan attempted to fight back arguing he hasn’t had the “opportunity for success”. But that was the breaking point for guest Shark, Rohan Oza. A man who was born in Africa to Indian parents, and didn’t seem to take kindly to Ryan’s excuse of lack of opportunity. As Rohan lectured the lad on the importance of self-made opportunity, Ryan for the first time started to cry. Any attempt at maturity or professionalism melting away from his face. Fellow Shark Barbara Corcoran attempted to be nice, telling him there was nothing wrong with him personally, but it was just about the fact that he really didn’t have a business to speak of yet, or at least one worth investing in.
In a seeming last ditch effort to help the kid see reason. Cuban then brought up the fact that taking into account just three of the airports his app currently supports, he has over 200 million potential customers. So when we are talking about less than a thousand downloads out of a potential 2,000,000 customers after almost a year in business that would point to the fact things just aren’t working. When even this didn’t get through to the kid, as his only response was to just start talking about how many young entrepreneur awards he received in school for his work. Cuban simply told him point blank you are lying to yourself. Which caused Ryan to lose it once and for all, letting out a soft spoken I’m sorry along with a few more tears.
Cuban feeling bad at this scene, even tried to pick the boy back up by stating the one mistake every entrepreneur makes is that “we lie to ourselves, we tell ourselves that it’s a great idea.” But by the time Ryan was also told, “the problem with your idea is that it’s a feature not a product” all the sharks had formally gone out. Thus leading to the young coder being asked to leave the tank, as they all wished him the best. It’s an overall scene of rejection that plays out perfectly peacefully every episode of the show. With rejected contestants still normally leaving with their dignity intact. For a young man who clearly has never had such a harsh encounter with the real world before though, this rejection was unimaginable. Which is why after slowly starting to walk away, his tears suddenly turned to anger, and he turned back around refusing to leave quietly.
As Ryan turned around saying “hold on, hold on”. The panel of Sharks all clearly grimaced in their seats, frustrated the young man wouldn’t just respectfully take their expert advice and opinion. Ryan then attempted instead to give a “blood sweat and tears” speech to the sharks, who basically all responded so what. Informing the shocked inventor of trippie that every single one of them had done the same, in relation to their companies. Along with almost every single person who has ever appeared on the show. Forcing the young black millennial, for the first time in his life quite possibly, to realize he may not be so special and unique after all.
Some of the Sharks there patience clearly having been lost at this point really went to work on the young man as well. Cuban even directly told the sobbing boy, “Ryan stop patting yourself on the back and feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t feel sorry for yourself go get the job done” The normally quite nice Robert as well, even shouting out in frusteration at one point, “You’re going to have to go into the real world!”
Cuban then tells Ryan to be all means prove them all wrong. But this only led to Rohan cutting in with his own final comment of, “you have to have a product before you can do that” leading to another round of tears from Ryan. See this part for yourself here in the video below. Which goes on to feature the dejected boy running back to his mother for support along with Mark’s final thoughts on the scene.
Did you notice the moment where young Ryan complains in confusion that they seemed to think he was just some entitled kid? Confirming that amazingly nothing in that entire experience helping Ryan gain any level of self-awareness as a person. Instead in a rather stunning display of his intellectual maturity level, he chooses to just complain to his Mother that the Sharks “pooped on his dream.” Keep in mind this is the type of employee that Google and Facebook are now fighting over, while they fire the likes of James Damore. In perhaps the least surprising bit of the entire episode, when faced with her son’s rejection, his mother simply re-welcomes him back into his comforting safe space, stating they absolutely will ignore the advice of all those successful business people in the room.
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