How Shark Tank can boost the entrepreneurial sector

MATTHEW CARUANA

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 April, 2022 at 9:42 am by Andre Camilleri

Matthew Caruana is the CEO of JAYE Malta.

A quick Google search will define an entrepreneur as “an individual who creates a new business, bearing most of the risks and enjoying most of the rewards.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Well, as the cliché goes, saying is easier than doing – and that’s what differentiates an entrepreneur from a dreamer. The entrepreneur knows how to talk the talk, but doesn’t just stop there… they know that it’s the walk that will reap the ultimate benefits. And it’s the walk where the aforementioned risks happen.

The walk is often a long, lonely one. We tend to only hear about the success of entrepreneurs, but we often aren’t privy to the details of the struggles that led to that success. Overnight success is a myth – sad, but true. Entrepreneurs spend years honing their idea and getting it ready for market, always without any guarantee that their idea will be embraced by the public.

In recent years, the entrepreneurship ecosystem has seen an upsurge in the local market, with more lucrative opportunities being made available to freelancers and start-ups to set up their own business ventures.

The most recent prospect on the entrepreneurship and investment scene is the local adaptation of the hit TV show Shark Tank. While some people may consider the programme to be staged and artificial, it can actually open previously-unavailable doors for entrepreneurs and broaden the industry to give impetus to other self-starters.

Since access to finance in Malta is a known problem, especially for start-ups that have no financial history, shows like this offer a new source of funding. Moreover, it also encourages and popularises the thought process of investing in ideas and innovation, as opposed to either the traditional property ventures or bond issues of well-established firms that the investment market is known for.

Participants on Shark Tank need to deliver a strong, concise pitch and know their top-level financial information to be able to answer any questions from the ‘sharks’. Even if they manage this, not every participant will receive an investment offer. While this is part of the show’s modus operandi, it is also a true part of business life, and showing those pitches that fail to get funded gives a glimpse into the honest version of the start-up world.

Seeing the full picture teaches start-ups that failure can be (and usually is) part of the journey – and an important part at that. Having the right attitude to failure is a significant learning experience. The road to success often comprises failures and iterations, and entrepreneurs need to be aware of this if they intend to take on this path.

Is Shark Tank the ideal scenario? Probably not. Is it a realistic way of how standard fundraising for start-ups works? Definitely not.

But, a popular TV show is a good way of educating the public about the world of entrepreneurs and start-ups and the struggles that they face.

This is part of the pop culture phenomenon – people notice situations and circumstances, and Shark Tank can lead aspiring business people to become aware of the opportunities available and how they can avail themselves of such.

One such opportunity is the JAYE Malta Start-Up Programme that is open to would-be start-ups between the ages of 18 and 30. As someone who is passionate about entrepreneurship, I would like to see Malta build a track record of success stories that can be showcased to our budding entrepreneurs to give them tangible role models – true examples of how it is possible to have a dream, work at it, and achieve success from it… while encountering any potential pitfalls along the way and learning how to overcome them. This could mean realising that one’s idea may not be ripe for the market and needs tweaking (or even a complete overhaul).

Pivoting along the entrepreneurial path is a normal occurrence, and these stories should be showcased as they reinforce the argument that being told ‘no’ is not a failure, adjusting one’s idea is not a failure, changing one’s approach and idea is not a failure. Giving up and/or not trying at all is failure.

The collaboration between JAYE and Shark Tank came about to provide opportunities for our students. The mindset of JAYE is to give participants and youth a learning experience. We firmly believe in ‘learning by doing’, so our Start-Up Programme participants were given the opportunity to pitch to the sharks. They were offered support and guidance to prepare their pitch, in an effort to make the most of this unique experience.

The bottom line is that even if one doesn’t achieve the success and funding sought, all experiences ought to be tackled in the right spirit, which is to learn from them. And, in keeping with the Shark Tank theme, there is no better way to learn than to be out of one’s comfort zone – get in the tank and “swim with the sharks”.

Overall, as JAYE stands for financial capability, entrepreneurship, and employability, we believe that this experience gives our participants the advantage to succeed in the business world, whether it be through employment or as a solo entrepreneur.

The entrepreneurial mindset is one that is critical, creative, problem solving, and analytical. Although these are not ‘common’ skills, they can be honed with the right training, and this is where JAYE strives to make a difference – we aim to develop more entrepreneurial minds – to know how to solve the problems that we encounter every day, in our life, on the job, and when running our own business.

A start-up mentor and advisor, MATTHEW CARUANA is passionate about the Entrepreneurship and Start-up ecosystem. He has a successful track record in e-business and product development, with experience in business analysis and management at top companies in Malta and the UK.

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In 1994, the Malta Business Weekly became the first newspaper fully dedicated to business. Today this newspaper is a leader in business and financial news. Together with the launch of the MBW newspaper, the company started organising various business breakfasts to discuss various current issues that were targeting the business community in Malta.