ABC’s perennial series Shark Tank has been a staple on Friday nights for over a decade. Whether you’re a savvy business owner or just tune in to witness a good ol’ fashioned reality TV quarrel, the ratings have held firm. Shark Tank is a huge cultural hit!
Marching into its thirteenth season and with no signs of slowing down, the show continues to reel in captivating entrepreneurs and feed them to the public. One Shark Tank survivor who continues to appear on fans’ short list of ‘Best Shark Tank Success Stories’ is Derek Pacqué, Founder and CEO of Chexology (formally CoatChex).
Debuting in episode 401 during the fourth season of Shark Tank, Derek presents CoatChex to a skeptical panel of investors. Nevertheless, Derek delivers a sanguine presentation of his digital coak check concept that “eliminates the need for easy-to-lose paper claim tickets.”
In the final moment of his pitch, Mark Cuban offers to invest in CoatChex. Derek politely excuses himself to phone his business partner so that the two can talk it over.
Returning minutes later, Derek graciously turns down Mr. Cuban’s offer. The collective bewildered expressions Derek leaves on each of the panel’s faces is what makes Shark Tank such a success. If you haven’t watched this moment, you owe it to yourself to go back and see it.
Ten years later, Derek’s business is thriving, and he’s still remembered as the guy who turned down Mark Cuban.
“Shark Tank fans visit our website daily!” says Derek, “They check in and see how we’re doing, ask me all kinds of questions about the business; if I ever regret turning down Mark Cuan, they’re some of the nicest people on the planet.”
As the tenth anniversary of Derek debuting CoatChex on Shark Tank nears, it’s time to put Derek back in the hot seat. What are Derek’s most frequently asked questions about Shark Tank? What happened when the cameras stopped rolling? And does he regret turning down Mark Cuban’s offer?
Let's find out!
10: What’s the weirdest question anyone has ever asked you about Shark Tank?
Um… Someone once said, “Looks like you and Barbara were feeling each other. Did that turn into a thing?” Isn’t that just crazy? I laughed so hard when I heard that.
9: What made you want to be on Shark Tank?
Mark Cuban attended the same university I was at, Indiana University, and we both have big Pittsburgh ties. As you can imagine, he was a prominent figure around campus and in our business department. I watched Shark Tank my senior year, like the rest of the country, and one of my professors said, “you need to bring this digital coat check concept of yours to the show, Derek!”
8: What was it like filling out the Shark Tank application?
There were a lot of questions in the Shark Tank application! I started answering them. I must have gotten halfway through the questions when I thought, “There’s no way they’ll pick me out of all the other applicants!” So I decided instead to be the mysterious applicant in my answer to only one question! I typed out something like, “My name is Derek Pacqué, and I made $50,000 my senior year starting an innovative business in a bar at Indiana University. Mark Cuban started one of his first businesses at Indiana University in the same bar! … I believe he made less ;) Mark Cuban went on to make a billion by developing a software program that solved a very REAL pain point. I am now doing the exact same thing. Let’s chat! 812.XXX.XXXX”
A few days later, I received a random call from Culver City, California. It was one of the producers from Shark Tank! She was like, “Hi! You need to tell me more about this business of yours.” So instead of filling out the form, I was able to pitch my business idea to her over the phone, and she was hooked! She helped me get on the show shortly after that call.
7: What was your experience like during the taping of Shark Tank?
Wild! The first thing that comes to mind is all the cameras! There were so many cameras! I want to say there were over 40 cameras-which was a bit intimidating, as you would imagine!
But I had a microphone malfunction at the start of my pitch, so the production crew yelled, “Cut! We’re not picking up his lavalier.”
While they were fixing that, Mark Cuban was like, “I know this guy! He’s been reaching out to me! He’s such a hustler! I can’t believe you made it on here!”
The panel portrays these hard-edged characters when the cameras are rolling, but I was able to witness them joking around and smiling once the cameras stopped. Seeing that gave me the confidence to make it through my pitch unfazed, you know? They were playing their part, and I was going to play mine. I can’t tell you how fascinating it was to see behind the curtain. That moment was huge for me.
Once my microphone was fixed I felt like I had been given a second chance to pitch CoatChex, so I came out swinging during the pitch that aired.
6: Was there anything they didn’t air during your episode of Shark Tank that you wish they would have shown?
Yes! That I had made "no money" when I had made at least $100K by that time! I was shocked that they chose to leave that part out. But it’s a reality TV show. The producers juice everyone’s segment with plenty of “This is a horrible idea!” and “This is never going to work!”
All of the friendly conversations I had with the panel and their enthusiasm for CoatChex were cut too. I wish the Shark Tank audience could have seen the whole conversation we had together because it was so much fun talking with the panel. We joked around quite a bit between takes.
5: Have you joined any Shark Tank fan groups on Facebook or Reddit?
Oh, for sure! I love them. Love them! There are two great Shark Tank groups on Facebook. There's the Shark Tank - Fan Group and the Fans of Shark Tank Group. Reddit also has a very active Shark Tank subreddit that's fun to frequent.
I found this exclusive community supportive right after I had taped the episode I was in.
During the taping, I felt like I was swept up in a whirlwind. There were a million cameras pointed at me, lots of starts and stops, and before I knew it, it was over. I was outside on the sidewalk with the California sun blinding my eyes. I remember thinking to myself, “What just happened?”
I remember asking the Facebook group, “I felt so dazed coming out of the taping and can’t remember any of it!” And the Shark Tank community was very supportive! They, too, had similar experiences where it felt like this intense moment and then were left stunned and wondering what had just happened to them. Having this support group of people who had been on this wild ride with me was comforting.
By the time you gather your bearings, another Shark Tank survivor would enter the chat and say the same thing I had just gone through, and so I was able to share my support in the same way, so it’s a wonderful group.
4: What was life like after you were on Shark Tank?
Oh, boy! We had so many website hits when the episode first aired! At one point, we had 6,000 web visitors on our site simultaneously. It was nuts!
I’ve been humbled over the years by how friendly everyone is! People write to us saying they saw the episode and wanted to see how Chexology (formerly CoatChex) was doing or that they used our service out in the wild and loved the experience.
3: Is your business still operating?
Heck yes! Yeah, CoatChex is still doing well. After we ventured into new markets, we renamed the company from CoatChex to Chexology. Our ticketless and contactless product now handles coat checks at the most prominent nightclubs, concert halls, museums, and stadiums around the world. We’re in massive hotels, casinos, and convention centers, changing the way resorts handle their guest's luggage and conference packages, and we handle rentals. We also have reinvented the way valet is done! We’re enjoying an exciting period of growth right now.
2: Would you ever go on Shark Tank again?
What?! Are you kidding me? Absolutely. Bring it on! I would love to go back on Shark Tank, give the panel an update on the company and see what kind of new offers we could work out. I think that would be so much fun. More likely, though, I’d enjoy coming back on as a Shark, sitting next to Mark Cuban. Out with the old, in with the new ;)
1: Do you regret turning down Mark Cuban’s offer?
You know, I don’t! At the time, my business partner and I felt that our company was too young to have one investor own that much stake in the company; that’s why we passed. It was a hard thing to turn down. I wonder what Coatchex would have been like with Mark Cuban involved. That would have been surreal. But in the end, I think we made the right decision, and I’m proud of the company we’ve created!
At some point, I’d love to get into business with Mr. Cuban. It would just have to be a fair deal ;)