Sunday, September 30, 2012

Toygaroo: A Shark Tank Failure

Shark Tank, a television show on ABC in which entrepreneurs and innovators are able to show potential investors their ideas, sees a wide range of potential products and services. The judges, also known as the “sharks”, are able to deliberate and decide which idea is worth investing in. For the typical marketing/entrepreneurship student, Shark Tank is a show worth investing time to watch. Each time that I watch an episode, the creative side of my brain likes to think of what products have not been invented yet. It also gets me wondering- if I were Barbara Corcoran, would I invest?


This week’s assignment was to find a Shark Tank episode that we would not invest in. After searching, I finally found what I discovered to be one of the most bizarre yet intriguing pitches: a company named Toygaroo.

Toygaroo Products

Back on Season 2 of Shark Tank, Toygaroo founder Nikki Pope appeared to pitch her product idea. Toygaroo is a company that sends toys to your doorstep for a monthly rate so that any children in the house can play with new toys if (and when) they get bored of their own toys. Pope created a website, and described her venture as “Netflix for toys.” They offered different “plans” on the website so that the customer could choose how many toys they want to be sent to them, and the amount of money that you spend adjusts to each plan. When the child is done playing with the toy, the customer sends it back to Toygaroo; they then have to wait for their next month’s shipments of toys.

While at first, this new venture proves to be interesting. However, there are many reasons why I personally would not invest, regardless of the company being the first one of its kind to create “Netflix for toys.” For me, although the company did eventually receive some investors from Shark Tank, it is not worth any investment. My first reaction to this idea was, simply, “gross.” Although the idea is intriguing itself, I would never have toys shipped to my door that other toddlers have played with. What the Shark Tank Blog refers to as the “Ick Factor” resonates with me enough for me to never do business with Toygaroo. According to the blog, SNL even spoke on the company’s ill regard for the possible germs that could be passed from toy to toy. On the ‘Weekend Update with Seth Meyers’, Meyers announced:

 “A new website has launched called ‘Toygaroo,’ which is a Netflix style system that allows parents to rent toys for their children and send them back for new ones. It’s all part of an effort to make the movie ‘Contagion’ come true.”

 Even if I thought about visiting their website for a subscription, after hearing this I would steer clear of the company. This is a classic example of how the media’s scrutiny of a company can pull a company under slowly.

Explaining Why Not Investing Is Best

In Winning At New Products, Cooper discusses the "Seven Goals of a New Product Process." By analyzing his goals, I can explain in more detail why I would not invest in this company.

Goal #1: Quality of Execution – This is very important for a new venture, as the innovator should focus on completeness, quality, and the important aspects of their company before the plan is executed. This goal explains that there must be “no gaps, no omissions, a complete process.” While it would be difficult for any innovator to come onto Shark Tank without the professionals digging to find the gaps within their product, they are more than willing to invest in a mostly good idea. As Pope explained the process of her company, the “sharks” could not get over the gap of sanitation. Her idea was good, but the quality of her execution remained low as the “Ick Factor” could not be fixed easily enough for people to invest.

Goal #2: Sharper Focus, Better Prioritization – Cooper explains, “Most companies’ new product efforts suffer from a lack of focus: too many projects and not enough resources.” What Pope lacked were resources- people that would use her company. Although she briefly talked about people that would use her company, yet people tend to be very careful with their toddlers and germs. Instead of asking “Are we still in the game?” she should have considered “Can we get into the game?” If you were to ask me, I would say they couldn’t. There was no target market strong enough for Pope to focus on that would risk the germs that wouldn’t, simply, buy new toys for their toddlers.

Goal #5: A Strong Market Orientation with Voice of the Customer Built In – I can sum this up easily: the “voice of the customer” was not built in to her company, yet it was her voice. Part of creating innovation means that it starts with a problem that you have. Once the innovator steps back and sees there is a bigger problem than what they have (i.e. other people have the same problem and would benefit from the venture), then it is time to brainstorm a solution. Pope may have eleven brothers and sisters as well as thirteen nieces and nephews that get sick of toys, but the majority of the population does not. It seems to me that this she does not have a strong enough market orientation to find her niche in the market. That, for me, is not worth investing in.

How Pope Failed

Fast Company’s "7 Key Activities For Getting Innovation Right" (by Seth Kahan) explains how Pope could have created a different company that would appeal to her target market better:
1) Discover Inflection Points – Pope needed to focus on what “would propel [us] forward.”
2) Build Capacity – Innovation leaders (such as Pope) need to contain stresses (pressures of everyday operations, movement and stress that comes with new ideas, and market forces) to power through.
3) Gather Business Intelligence- Pope lacked the “sea of information about products, services, customers,” etc. She went with the idea that would best serve her family, yet it would not appeal to others.
4) Shift Perspective- “In order to see new opportunity you must be able to get out of your own box.” Pope may have thought that she was thinking outside of the box with creating Toygaroo, yet her focus was narrow as she was just trying to create a company using her own issues.
5) Exploit Disruption – The company may have caused disruption themselves if a toddler was exposed to germs that would result in them becoming sick.
6) Generate Value- “Skillful innovators understand what drives value and how to generate it,” according to Fast Company. Pope may have thought she was generating value with her venture yet it fell short.
7) Drive Uptake- Kahan states: “Every stage of the innovation process holds opportunity to engage the community of people who will be most interested in your offerings.” Toygaroo’s goal was to serve the community of people with toddlers who got sick of playing with the same toys. However, there was not enough benefit in the company to unite the community together to share toys.

Toygaroo Update

Toygaroo: Start Playing (?)

Toygaroo, on Shark Tank, did get some of the sharks to invest.

Toygaroo is now closed. The website states: “On behalf of the team, I want to thank you for being part of our journey. It has been an amazing year but the growth we experienced at the end of 2011 was simply too fast and we were not able to secure the additional investment we needed to take care of all of our current and new members.” According to the Shark Tank blog, Toygaroo filed for bankruptcy in April of 2012.



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