Michael Tseng is nothing if not impressive: after earning degrees in electrical and biochemical engineering from Princeton University, he completed medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. Just a residency away from being a practicing doctor, he then came up with the (admittedly brilliant) idea for Plate Topper and went into business for himself.
With some early promotional successes in his pocket, Michael headed into the Shark Tank to see if he could get some help to take his Plate Topper to the next level. He asked for a $90,000 investment in exchange for 5% equity in Plate Topper.
Plate Topper on Shark Tank
Shark Tank Season 4 Episode 8
Michael began his presentation by talking about the difficulties people have dealing with traditional food storage products. (Hard relate, Michael. Hard relate.) Locating the proper lids for Tupperware containers is a nightly struggle for families putting away leftovers. He described plastic wrap as an inconvenient mess, showing examples of mangled plastic wrap and a filthy microwave. By contrast, the Plate Topper is a tightly sealed plastic container with a handle for easy transport from the microwave.
The Plate Topper keeps the mess on the plate and not splattered all over the microwave. It is also dishwasher safe, which makes cleanup a breeze. It’s stackable, too, making for convenient storage in the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinets. Michael presented three sizes of Plate Toppers and told the Sharks he had secured purchase orders from two large retailers – QVC and Walmart.com – and was looking to them for help fulfilling those orders and securing more.
Robert agreed with Michael’s take on plastic wrap and thought the Plate Topper was an elegant way to preserve food compared to the traditional alternatives. Michael said the idea came to him while he was home from college during the holidays. The initial concept was the suctioning of the plate into the container combined with a microwave and dishwasher safe plate cover. He secured a utility patent and took his last year of residency after finishing medical school to concentrate on the Plate Topper and his new business.
Michael said he had generated over $1 million in sales in four months, making $500,000 in profits. Kevin was impressed with what Michael had done so far with the Plate Topper, but told him what he needed was a financier. He said he wasn’t interested in equity and 5% was way too low of an offer anyway. Kevin offered him $90,000 in exchange for 5% royalties from the Plate Topper. He said he could stand by the product and work to get it on QVC and handle the marketing end of the business. Michael was intrigued but wanted to hear what the other Sharks had to say.
Daymond noted that Michael was smart and slick, but also a bit greedy. (Someone being greedy on Shark Tank? Surely, you jest, Daymond.) He asked Michael if he realized that his initial offer to the Sharks was “crap.” Michael countered that he was simply trying to keep as much of his business as he could.
Michael said the Plate Topper’s first appearance on QVC sold 6,080 units. QVC’s initial order of $60,000 worth of his product was followed up with a $1 million order. He felt the same could happen at Walmart.com. These numbers sparked an interest in Lori, who wanted to add a “0” to his offer by offering $900,000 in exchange for 30% of Plate Topper’s business. The “Queen of QVC” said she would do a separate QVC infomercial and market that Plate Topper to the world’s leading retailers.
Curiously, Michael told Lori that it would take more than $900.000 to get started and asked about the back end financing. Lori said that as long as Plate Topper was generating sales, she would continue to fund the business.
Daymond felt like Lori may not be the best partner for him, as he was already on QVC. He offered Michael $1 million in exchange for 25% of Plate Topper.
Daymond and Michael clashed for a bit over the valuation of the company. Michael was not comfortable revealing his “magic number,” which rubbed Daymond the wrong way. Daymond folded and backed out. Michael continued to try to haggle with Daymond, even while talking through Kevin, who suggested Michael get back to the Sharks who were still in the game. After some more back and forth with the two of them, Kevin wondered aloud when Michael was going to stop talking and take one of the offers, or else risk walking away with nothing.
Robert felt Plate Topper was a risk and that he would not be able to help get the product into retail outlets, so he backed out.
Daymond returned to the valuation number Michael had in mind for the Plate Topper and threatened to walk off the set if he did not share his number. Finally, Michael revealed that his original offer was going to be $750,000 in exchange for 5% of Plate Topper. Kevin felt that was a classic bait-and-switch maneuver, and said it was very possible Michael could leave without a deal for a fantastic product – a product so good, Robert said, it may have been the best they had ever had on the show.
When Michael said he wanted to bid for the highest offer on the table, Daymond practically screamed in response. “It does not work that way,” he shouted, and demanded to know if he was going to take an offer.
Lori then offered the original $90,000 in exchange for 8% equity and told Michael he had two seconds to take it or it was off the table. After a breathtaking two seconds of fairly harrowing suspense, Michael took the deal.
Plate Topper After Shark Tank
Despite riling up every one of the Sharks in semi-comic fashion, Michael came away with a deal that was nearly what he had originally asked for. However, Michael refused to sign a contract that would give Lori the decision-making power for the business for one year. Shortly after that Lori tweeted: “Sorry to say I wound up not liking his tactics much either, that agony didn’t end in the Tank. I’m out!”
When the episode first aired, Plate Topper saw a significant spike in sales. It saw a similar spike every time it re-aired. But it wasn’t enough to keep this tempestuous business afloat. Plate Topper is no longer available for purchase at Amazon or Walmart.com, the Plate Topper website is not live, and Plate Topper’s social media pages have been dormant for years.
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