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Do Two-Thirds of Shark Tank Deals Fall Apart?

Contestants on ABC's Shark Tank
Contestants on ABC's Shark TankPhotograph by Disney ABC Television Group via GEtty Images

Monday was Shark Awareness Day, an annual reminder that sharks have far more to fear from humans than vice-versa. In related news, it was also the first of three open calls for contestants on ABC’s Shark Tank, the investing reality show in which entrepreneurs make live pitches for funding before a panel of angel investors. Now entering its sixth season, the show attracts more than 7 million viewers each week, placing it among the 10 most popular adult reality shows on television, even though it airs on sleepy Fridays.

Of the more than 35,000 people who now try out each season, fewer than 150 make into the tank. Anyone who has seen the show knows how this plays out: Contestants spend up to two hours getting drilled on their business by the panel of sharks. The sessions are edited down to less than 15 minutes and invariably include an embarrassing shot of a bewildered entrepreneur. In every show, at least one lucky entrepreneur gets a hug and a handshake worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.