Miso Media is the Latest ‘Shark Tank’ Attention, um, Seeker

A couple of weeks ago we wrote about Scott Jordan of SCOTTEVEST appearing on the ABC ‘reality investment’ show ‘Shark Tank’. It was an episode my family had been anticipating all season for a few reasons: Scott Jordan has worked with Dan and Judie in the past, I have several SCOTTEVETST items and LOVE them all, and finally because Scott appeared in all of the previews to be a total arrogant confrontational jerk on the show which we figured meant some good theater … and we weren’t disappointed.

What my family remarked on, which has been discussed here and pretty much anywhere that Shark Tank is discussed, was the appearance that Scott wasn’t really on the show to sell anything, just to make a big impression to help push his company.

In last Friday’s episode of Shark Tank we had a similar feeling, and my wife commented ‘this guy is even more transparent about not really wanting a deal than that ScottEVest guy!’

The company is Miso Media, and the founder Aviv Grill appeared to push his company Miso Media. They are the makers of an app called Miso Music Plectrum, which is described as follow:

Want to learn how to play the guitar? Miso Music: Plectrum is a new way to learn to play the guitar, ‘ukulele, bass, banjo and mandolin. Our patent-pending note recognition software listens for the correct note or chord, making the learning experience easier and more engaging. Play with an acoustic instrument using the built-in microphone on your device, or plug in your electric instrument using an Instrument Adapter!

I had to check after the show, but the reason it sounded familiar was because I had downloaded the app after first hearing about it. Miso Music Plectrum had actually won a ‘people’s choice’ award at the Tech Crunch Disrupt Conference … in September of 2010. The app was publicly released in early 2011 for $2.99, and looked innovative enough for me to try … but ultimately not useful enough to have ever been loaded on my iPad 2! So I loaded it up again to check out.

Aviv Grill came on to Shark Tank along with singer Ingrid Michelson who played along with her own song as part of the pitch. Based on watching the pitch and checking out the app – regardless of outcome – I had two thoughts: this is a blatant attention grab … and the company NEEDS the attention, and NOW.

As for WHY they need the help, here are a few reasons:

  • The concept is very impressive … but the app is less so. After trying it out again on my iPad 2 (this was before the new iPad arrived) I ran into numerous accuracy issues – it demos much better than it actually plays.
  • Basic stuff is just wrong – the app doesn’t autorotate, and is hostile to those who use a smart cover as a stand. Also, the app says tuning is critical, yet the integrated tuner is worse than useless. My thought was ‘your app is crap … I’m OUT!’
  • At this point I hadn’t heard of the Kickstarter projects like ‘Tabber’ that offer yet another approach.
  • No one has proven a successful post-purchase song buying business model yet.
  • There are a number of different ‘interactive guitar learning’ apps out there, and the competition is getting smarter while Miso Plectrum makes incremenmtal moves. The competition includes:
  • Video Training apps such as Mahalo’s ‘Learn Guitar’ series. Basic, but really cheap and effective.
  • Train-games such as ‘Rock Prodigy’, very similar in concept to a mix of Guitar Hero and Miso Plectrum.
  • Jammit takes an amazing new approach of playing along with the songs you want to learn in isolation!
  • There are MANY more available, making it hard to stand out … which brings me to my next point!

So why do I say say it is an obvious attention grab? Well, take a look at the AppShopper profile:

Two things of note: first, the app was free for a very long time, then jumped to $2.99 just before the show and then dropped to $0.99 the day of the show as a ‘special deal’. Many on Twitter were irked because Aviv stated the app was free on the show (which in fairness was taped in July) – which again triggers my cynical thought that he was hoping for a massive post-airing attention grab.

The lower part of the image says he got that. As a free app and paid app right up to the Thursday before the show aired Miso Plectrum was NOWHERE TO BE SEEN – not even in the Top 200! Then with the heavy advertising and promotion and drop to $0.99, the app took off. That upsurge lasted a few days, and the app is now close to 200 again, but still in the Top 20 for music apps.

So it is easy enough to say that Miso Music made a nice pile of cash for the appearance based on app sales alone. But if they really NEEDED that, I am even more concerned! As was noted on the fan-run Shark Tank blog, Miso is already heavily funded:

this company is fairly well capitalized. They raised about $3 million of VC money in the past year or so. Google Ventures gave the $600,000. The rest came from a variety of sources, including Justin Timberlake!

Which brings me to Barbara Corcoran’s point of jumping out because app developers like this tend to burn money WAY too fast. Here is a company that had a ‘people’s choice’ winning app, a lot of attention at launch due to the Tech Crunch award, has gotten $3 million in funding including $600,000 recently … and was still looking for more money. Or maybe not, as I have suggested.

So what WAS the outcome?

Mark Cuban invested 300,000 in exchange for 8% of the company, which placed the company at ~$3.75 million valuation, compared to the $6 million Aviv was using.

The problem … check Mark Cuban’s Twitter page for anything about Miso Music. Guess what you find? Nothing. No promotion, nothing. Some are wondering if during the due diligence the real investment compared to what they pitched on TV was an issue and if the deal never closed.

While the outcome for Miso Music is not clear, one thing IS clear: using Shark Tank as a marketing venue is on the rise!

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5 replies

  1. As a Shark Tank entrepreneur from this season, I’ll say you make it sound easier than it really is to use Shark Tank as a marketing platform. Sure, the publicity it brings you as great – but getting on the show is such a long and complex process, I can’t imagine anyone could approach it as a free publicity grab.

    I think all entrepreneurs on that show are interested in bringing on investors in exchange for equity in their company. It would be hard to make it past the early rounds of of auditions if that wasn’t the intention.

    • I have no doubt there is a lot of truth in what you are saying. At the same time, when I mentioned your comment and the related post to my wife she IMMEDIATELY knew who we were talking about without my offering any details at all. (She reminded me that she even commented at the time that “something sounds rather familiar here…” :)

      Most likely written with Siri. Please excuse any and all errors.

    • I have to agree with Dan.  My family has watched most of all of the seasons of Shark Tank (older son was excited by the commercials before the first season so we all ended up watching) … and there are a few folks that simply stand out – some for being awesome, some for being clueless, and some for managing to convince the show that they were looking for a deal…

    • “Free” is used loosely. Having spoken to many entrepreneurs (you should be on that list Steve), I have found the ones that are well  prepared to leverage their 15 minutes of fame have business changing and, in some cases, life changing sales activity. Aside from sales, the show gives businesses access to larger, wholesale customers. A five minute segment to showcase your company in front of 7 million viewers may not be “free,” but it’s priceless.

  2. You were right on the mark Michael!
    Mark Cuban did not invest in Miso Music.
    Source: http://www.misomedia.com/2012/03/shark-week/

    Though they may have to fork over:
    “2% royalty of the operating profits of my Business”
    “warrants that give the Shark Tank Entities or their designees a 5% equity interest in my Business”
    to Finnmax LLC, Sony Pictures Television Inc. and American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. (collectively the 
    “Shark Tank Entities”)