Inventors enter Shark Tank

Las Vegas -- New this year to the National Hardware Show was the Pitch Tank, where inventors got two minutes to demonstrate their new products to a panel of three experts for some criticism and advice. But there was no Simon Cowell skewering the amateurs in the glass-walled booth near the Inventor’s Spotlight section. Kevin Harrington of ABC’s Shark Tank and chairman of TVGoods, along with two other product development specialists and marketers, offered mostly positive feedback to a cavalcade of hopeful candidates.

The inventors of Tape Ease admitted there were already a number of tape measures on the market -- but none of them came with a rubber end hook that clips on to pipes, lumber and masonry. This accessory fits on any standard 1-in. tape measure.

“Did you bring it to Stanley?” Harrington asked.

The answer was yes. But Stanley wanted to see some retail sales first. Harrington referred the inventor to a business associate at the show who handles licensees. “Get some sales first and then go back to Stanley,” Harrington said.

The panel really liked “Dot marks the spot,” a stick-on device that greatly simplifies hanging photos, shelves and other objects.

“That’s pretty cool,” said Steve Rogai, also from TVGoods. But he worried that consumers might have a hard time understanding how the product works. “Once they do,” he added, “it’s eureka!”

The panel advised the inventors, a married couple named Susan and Grillo, to consider lowering the price points.

“They seemed like they were very impressed and they asked a lot of questions, which was helpful,” Susan Grillo said after the session.

The Pitch Tank will hold an awards ceremony for the best inventions at the NRHA Village Stage on May 3, the last day of the show. The first place winner will receive a two-minute informercial product deal with Harrington’s company, TVGoods.


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