Matt Alexander was a college student at Brigham Young University, studying entrepreneurship and looking for that one great idea that would thrust him into the business world with guaranteed success. Matt drank a lot of water, which inevitably led to a lot of trips to the bathroom, including in the middle of the night, when he would stumble to find the light, blinding him into full awake mode before trying to go back to sleep.
The shrewd aspiring businessman came up with an idea for a floor mat that would light up when it was stepped on so people could find their way to the toilet without turning on the floodlights to show the way. Matt was talking over the idea with his brother-in-law, Michael Kannely, who came up with the idea to attach the light right into the toilet bowl. The pair searched for a similar product, and when they could not find anything close to the concept already on the market, they began designing a prototype.
Initial research revealed the broad appeal and high demand for just such a product that could light the way for late-night bathroom trips. Matt and Mike turned to Kickstarter, and the crowd-funding site paid off big time for them. The two broke college students with no promotion or marketing budget exceeded their funding goal of $20,000 by receiving close to $100,000 in donations from over 3,000 backers.
The Kickstarter money was more than enough to complete the prototype Illumibowl, and they began filling pre-orders from their backers. To expand their presence and increase sales, the two budding entrepreneurs would need the cash and business savvy that only the judges on Shark Tank could provide.
IllumiBowl Lights Up Shark Tank
Shark Tank Season 7 Episode 21
Matt and Michael entered the Shark Tank with the primary goal of getting the IllumiBowl into big retail stores and were looking for $100,000 in exchange for a 15% equity stake in IllumiBowl.
It is a universal experience. You need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, but you can’t find your way in the dark and wind up either stubbing a toe or turning on a blinding light that wakes you up completely. Matt explained the motion-activated IllumiBowl concept to the Sharks, which would provide a decorative look to any property’s smallest and most essential rooms.
Michael completed the presentation by stating that their IllumiBowl business had just two main priorities… Number 1, and Number 2. The Sharks groaned, seemingly only surprised it took so long for the bathroom jokes to make an appearance with this product.
While the presentation went well and the two young men did an excellent job representing themselves and their product, Robert threw a metaphoric wet roll of toilet paper on the Matt and Mike by wondering why people couldn’t just plug in a nightlight to guide them to the toilet in the middle of the night. Matt explained that the light in the IllumiBowl was softer than a typical night light, and it was also motion-activated, so it did not need to be kept on at all times. Kevin worried about the shock potential but was assured there was no chance of being shocked while doing his business on the toilet.
Matt detailed for the Sharks how their successful Kickstarter campaign supplied the needed funding to launch IllumiBowl, and the panel was impressed with the $100,000 worth of pre-sales it had helped create.
Robert wondered about the strategy for future IllumiBowl sales, and Matt responded that while they had not reached that point yet, expanding into retail stores was undoubtedly one of their main goals. IllumiBowl would be launching online soon, and they were working on a meeting with the Illinois-based Ace Hardware and their 4.800 locations throughout the country. Of course, that would be easier with the backing and support of one of the Sharks.
A future plan for an expansion of the IllumiBowl idea was to project an image into the toilet. Matt demonstrated this feature by showing a picture of Kevin projected into a toilet.
When the laughter and crude jokes had subsided, Lori questioned the demand for the IllumiBowl Mark, and Mike had touted. Matt outlined the features of IllumiBowl, including the high functionality, inexpensive cost, and the fun and looked of it. Extensive research has revealed that interest indicated the possibility of selling millions of units with the right strategy, marketing plan, and partners.
Daymond like the product and the presentation from Mike and Matt, but doubted they pair even needed the help of a Shark to reach the next level in their business, and he bowed out.
Kevin offered the budding entrepreneurs the $100,000 they were looking for in exchange for a 25% equity in IllumiBowl. Mark was not interested in sweetening that deal and decided to step aside. Robert said that he, too, could not improve on Kevin’s offer and advised the duo to accept an offer from Kevin, saying that people would be quick to associate him with a toilet product.
Lori expressed interest in the IllumiBowl but felt her association with the Squatty Potty, a previous Shark Tank success story, would be too much of a conflict of interest, and she dropped out.
Mark and Matt tried to counteroffer Kevin by reducing the share of the business to 20%, but Kevin would not budge. After conferring privately for a few moments to talk it over, the pair took the deal, and Kevin declared that he was going to help “light up America’s toilets.”
Where Are They Now? IllumiBowl After The Shark Tank
Soon after filming their Shark Tank episode and even before it aired, Matt and Mark used Kevin’s influence and connections to strike several deals with some large retail outlets, including Ace Hardware, True Value, and Bed Bath & Beyond, which timed the release of IllumiBowl to coincide with the original air date of the Shark Tank episode.
Matt credits the incredible success of IllumiBowl to their association with Kevin and his ability to negotiate with retailers, as well as his development and marketing skills. The company would never have seen the success it has achieved so far without Kevin’s considerable involvement.
Matt and Mike’s initial research on the demand for the IllumiBowl proved to be prophetic. Since the original airing of their Shark Tank episode, the partners sold several hundred thousand units, and they have begun the development of additional products, though they are keeping the details a secret for now.
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