Two Flew Over the Lion’s Den

Two days ago, on March 29, we were in the German version of «Shark Tank». The shows name in Germany is «Die Höhle der Löwen» and the concept is very simple: entrepreneurs pitch their business to a small group of investors. As you maybe know «Zaunkoenig» is the name of a very tiny bird that likes running through the undergrowth as if it were a mouse. Neither, small birds or mice, are particularly fond of cats. And lions basically are big cats. So how did that all work out for us?

Spoiler alert

If you want to watch the episode without getting spoilerd you should stop reading now and head over to TVNOW. We are in episode 2 of season 9.

How it started

A small preface: Nothing in that show is scripted, except for the first two minutes in which the entrepreneurs pitch their idea. Everything after that is spontaneous. When entrepreneurs walk through that gate and step in front of the lions, that is the first time they see each other. It is all real.

Okay, back to the beginning of this story: we were in the middle of the production of the Zaunkoenig M1K when we got a call from Sony. They had seen our Kickstarter campaign and asked us whether we would like to pitch the M1K in «Die Höhle der Löwen». You could say we were caught by surprise. The show is not exactly known for being heavy on gaming-related start-ups. In fact, before us there had not been a single gaming-related start-up in the show.

Thats why we were a little hesitant at first.

On Formula One cars and the M1K

In the end we decided to give the show a try though. We knew that Nico Rosberg was one of the lions and we figured he might be a good fit for us, being a former Formula One world champion.

Formula One is about as professional as a sport can get. The amount of resources that have been invested in the optimization of Formula One cars is mind-boggling.

Just like the M1K, Formula One cars mean business: they are pure performance and zero fluff. So we figured Nico would get the M1K without much explaining.

Having Nico Rosberg aboard would have lent us a ton of credibility as well. To this day PC games in Germany (and everything remotely connected to them) are dismissed by many as «Killerspiele» (translation: «killing games») that are a supposed threat to unsuspecting children. It is a bit like with superhero comics in the United States a few decades ago: back then a bunch of moralizers thought superhero comics were more dangerous for small children than literally anything else.

Sadly Nico Rosberg decided to not invest in us. He was sceptical of our ability to add a wheel to the M1K in a timely manner. After all: only a small percentage of gamers are willing to give up the wheel in exchange for saving three grams of weight. So adding a wheel to the M1K was essential to him.

Two other lions were interested in a deal though: Carsten Maschmeyer as well as Ralf Dümmel. They made us an offer (30 percent for 100.000 Euro), we made a counter-offer (25 percent for 100.000 Euro), and they accepted.

In the after-match of the show however the deal fell through. The reason summarized in two words: strategic differences.

TV can be a very cold place

Okay, now for a funny little tidbit you definitely did not see in the show: the day the recording was done was not a very warm one. A few of the camera shots had to be done outside (us walking into a building) and nobody had told us to bring a jacket. And obviously us walking into that building just once was not good enough: we had to walk in there for what felt like a dozen times. We were freezing pretty bad in the end and this was maybe forty minutes before our actual pitch. Patrick in particular was freezing so much that in a last-ditch effort to get warm, five minutes before stepping in front of the lions, he decided to do pushups.

Some of the TV folks (there are always TV folks around you when you are in a TV production facility) probably thought he just had escaped an asylum.

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