Sunday’s season finale of “Shark Tank” got batty as two Kentucky entrepreneurs showed the sharks a natural way to solve the world’s mosquito problem.
Move over bird houses. Harrison Broadhurst and Chris Rannefors are the creators of Bat BnB, a wooden structure designed to attract bats to homeowners’ yards. Rannefors said a bat can eat up 1,000 insects an hour, and each structure can house up to a hundred bats.
“With our winters getting shorter and warmer, insects like mosquitoes are coming out earlier and in greater numbers, bringing Zika and other deadly diseases in their wake,” Rannefors said. “It seems like the only solutions available in the marketplace are expensive pesticides that burn and irritate our skin while also endangering local wildlife.”
Harrison Broadhurst and Chris Rannefors, entrepreneurs from Lexington, Kentucky, pitch their line of designer bat houses for an effective natural solution to pest control on the 10th season finale of ABC's "Shark Tank." (Photo: Eric McCandless, ABC)
They brought along a furry friend, Radar, a 6-year-old brown bat, to demonstrate. Cue shark Lori Greiner’s horrified reaction as she told the animal handler: “No, I don’t want to. Oh, god, Melinda. Don’t let it out.”
Shark Robert Herjavec wondered how they’d stop people from recoiling in terror as Greiner did when they think of bats: “But Chris, people do not like bats. It freaks most people out.”
The two admitted that bats had a pretty bad rep ever since Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. But shark Kevin (“Mr. Wonderful”) O’Leary, surprisingly a self-described bat expert, said persecution of bats dates to Greek and Roman times when Romans would cut the heads off bats in a ritual to stay awake.
“Yes, I am one with the bat,” O’Leary said.
“Yes, I know,” Greiner replied. “They’re your relatives.”
O’Leary said that as a youth, he visited an area where bats blanketed the sky in huge clouds. So he raised concerns about vampire bats that drink the blood of mammals instead of eating insects. But, Rannefors said those types of bats were limited to South and Central America.
In the past 11 months, Bat BnB posted sales of t $135,000 to consumers but saw the real gain in the public sector, where cities and counties have large mosquito-control funds. Herjavec and fellow shark Mark Cuban saw the market as too small to invest in.
Related: ‘Shark Tank’: All your burning questions, answered
“I see it as a hobby market,” Herjavec said. “It’s relatively small. It’s not for me.”
Daymond John said he had bats on his property and hasn’t noticed a decrease in the number of mosquitos or insects.
Fortunately for the entrepreneurs, O’Leary sympathized with the plight of the bat: “I have a lot of passion for bats, because they’re so misunderstood over the ages.”
“Here comes the bloodsucking offer,” John deadpanned.
The two had asked for $100,000 for a 16% stake, but O’Leary countered, asking for one-third of their business. After he rejected their counteroffer of 25%, the two agreed to the deal on one condition.
“Would you put on a Batman suit?” Broadhurst asked.
They had a deal. At Herjavec’s egging, O’Leary flapped his arms like a bat across the stage.
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