Swimming with the Sharks

By Cher Thomas, RDH

There is a popular television series known as “Shark Tank.”  If you haven’t seen it, contestants are invited on the show to pitch a new product or service to a group of successful entrepreneurs, known as “the sharks.” Contestants are usually there to ask for funding as they try to negotiate an attractive contract.

Whether the budding entrepreneurs (the contestants) are successful in negotiating a deal or not, just being on Shark Tank can give them a lot of exposure and free advertising. Therefore, if they have a feasible product or service, they may have the opportunity to market it, whether they strike a deal with the sharks or not!

Renal Support Network recently asked its audience, “If you were a contestant on Shark Tank, what gadget or product would you pitch?” The answers were innovative and inspiring.  We may have some future successful entrepreneurs in our midst!

Here is a brief description of some of the proposals we received:

  • An artificial kidney
  • A smaller, more portable PD machine
  • A PD solution that has a breakaway gizmo that can change a 1.5 bag into a 2.5 or 4.25 bag, resulting in fewer supplies
  • A new and improved way to attach a hemodialysis machine to the body
  • An insulated cup with sensors that could measure the amount of water and or fluids consumed
  • An over-the-counter pain reliever that could be used safely by people living with chronic kidney disease that would work better than acetaminophen (Tylenol) or narcotics
  • A device that reads all your labs through the skin, thereby eliminating future blood draws
  • A monthly medication patch so you don’t have to take daily meds.
  • A blanket that keeps your body temperature at a level you want.
  • A pill to rid your body of toxins.
  • A treatment to help battle fatigue
  • A delicious pizza that doesn’t have phosphorus or sodium.
  • A cure for kidney disease.

Many years ago, the products you found in stores labeled “As seen on TV” usually meant they were Ron Popeil products. His company Ronco was around long before QVC or the 24-hour shopping channel. Ron became famous for selling a myriad of products. On late-night television, he pitched famous products such as Showtime Rotisseries and BBQ Ovens, Automatic Pasta Makers, Dial-O-Matic, Smokeless Ashtrays, Pocket Fisherman, and Veg-O-Matic.

Shark Tank has taken Popeil’s advertising platform to an entirely new level by providing a stage for innovation ideas and potential products. Today, “As Seen on TV” finds are frequently discovered on Shark Tank.

Shark tank has even ventured into the medical field! Take a look at the show’s biggest successes in the health industry:

  • Breathometer – Used to prevent drunk driving, this device determines someone’s blood alcohol level via the use of their smartphone
  • Ava The Elephant – This kid-friendly medicine dropper looks like a talking elephant
  • SynDaver Labs – This company developed synthetic, humanlike tissue for medical testing
  • Buzzy – This is a pain-blocking device that helps with injections (This contestant didn’t get a deal but his product is currently being used in 1,200 locations!)
  • First Defense Nasal Screen – This peel-and-stick nasal screen protects the user from germs, pollen, etc.

Will a new, innovative nephrology product make a splash on Shark Tank?  Stay tuned!

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Cher-ThomasCher Thomas, RDHis a registered dental hygienist and a renal transplant recipient. After her kidneys failed due to ANCA positive vasculitis, in 1999 her brother became her kidney donor. Cher utilizes her experience with peritoneal dialysis and organ transplantation to explore the relationship between oral and renal health. She lives in Galveston, Texas.

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