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RFID Goes Into the Shark Tank

Many RFID companies make mistakes that cost them money. They wouldn't survive on Shark Tank.
By Mark Roberti
Feb 15, 2015

I've become a big fan of Shark Tank, an ABC television show that features ordinary Americans offering to sell a stake in their startup businesses to five venture capitalists. Kevin O'Leary, known as Mr. Wonderful, and the other VCs—or "sharks"—can be brutal in their assessment of a business idea and the person pitching it. They also invest their own money in good ideas. It makes compelling viewing, because those who go into the shark tank are putting the company they have worked so passionately to build on the line.

Virtually all of the businesses featured on Shark Tank are consumer firms that all viewers can relate to, but as I watch each night (I catch the reruns on CNBC), I often think about what would happen if an RFID startup went on Shark Tank. In my experience, RFID companies often make the same mistakes that the newbies on Shark Tank do: They try to sell what they want to produce, not what people want to buy, and they don't market effectively.

Here's how it might go if an RFID startup went into the shark tank.

Newbie: "Hello, Sharks. My name is Edsel Gilbert, and I am seeking $1 million for 5 percent of my business, XYZ RFID."

Mr. Wonderful: "Whoa!"

Edsel: "RFID is a revolutionary technology that allows you to capture information from a tagged item, including a unique identifier, and then track it. Think of it as a bar code on steroids. RFID is now being used to track hundreds of millions of clothing items, hospital equipment, tools in manufacturing facilities and much more. We've invented a new kind of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader that extends the read distance of any passive UHF tag by 20 percent."

Daymond John: "How do you do that?"

Edsel: "We've developed a more sensitive antenna that can essentially hear fainter radio signals than anything on the market."

Mr. Wonderful: "Is it patented?"

Edsel: "The patent is pending."

Robert Herjavec: "Who is the product aimed at? What kind of business would use this?"

Edsel: "Any business that needs to track stuff, and almost all do. So manufacturers, retailers, logistics companies, health-care providers and so on."

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