Hofstra’s Zarb School of Business recently re-posted a fascinating Forbes Magazine profile on alumni Robert Peck, Avin Samtani and Jonathan Kinas, who found funding for their AquaVault—a portable safe that attaches to beach furniture—on the entrepreneurial reality show Shark Tank.
Peck—the former owner of a “high-end industrial contracting business,” Samtani—former VP at a private Manhattan mortgage bank, and Kinas—a former Merrill Lynch financial advisor—concocted the AquaVault during the summer of 2013. The idea emerged after an ill-fated beachside hotel stay in which Kinas’ phone and wallet were stolen while he was swimming in the Atlantic. Kinas recalls in the Forbes interview, “We knew that virtually everyone knows of someone being robbed at the beach. It was just remarkable to discover that nobody had come up with an idea to address this massive problem.”
The South Florida-based trio manufactured an AquaVault prototype in China and got to work. After months of cold-calling virtually every member of the Associated Press to no avail, a news anchor suggested they drastically streamline their pitch. Kinas recalls, “We went from having four paragraphs in the content to a brief intro and seven bullet points. We went from our original subject field saying, ‘Please read about our interesting invention called the AquaVault’ to ‘Think you’re safe on vacation? Think again.’ We went from having zero air time, to being featured on a variety of news stations across the nation.” And if Kinas had to boil it down to one simple lesson? “If you don’t capture their attention in the first three seconds, you’ve more than likely lost your window of opportunity.”
In March 2015, the trio decided on a whim to test their luck as part of the 6th season of Shark Tank. Kinas recalls being forced to “dig deep into the mechanics and minutia of our entire business, far greater than we ever had before. Our numbers, projections, strengths, weaknesses and direction of the company all had to be articulated in a concise and uniform manner. Aside from knowing the intricacies in and out, we put together panels of individuals whose sole objective was to poke holes in our presentation and only play the devil’s advocate.”
All that preparation paid off and the Aquavault quickly found an investor—“computer security king” Robert Herjavec. Unfortunately, he withdrew his bid just as quickly as he expressed interest, citing lackluster sales during the soft opening. FUBU CEO Daymond Johnswooped in during that shaky moment and put up $75,000 in exchange for a 25% stake.
After the show aired, interest in the AquaVault soared with sales exceeding half a million. According to the Forbes article, “Sales are expected to top $2 million this year.” Before their Shark Tank appearance, Kinas and co. finagled the Aquavault into “a majority of the hotels in South Beach but found little interest outside the South Florida region. “After the show aired, we received countless inquiries from all around the world—Dubai, Thailand, South America, the Caribbean, and parts of Europe.” Disney World, SeaWorld, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Brookstone have all signed up to distribute the AquaVault.
“Over the next five years, we hope to be at a majority of water parks, theme parks, cruise ships and hotels around the world. We realistically believe our annual sales should exceed $10 million within five years.”