On Friday, San Francisco entrepreneur Kent Frankovich made a 10-minute prime time TV appearance, and went home with $300,000.
Frankovich, co-founder and CEO of startup Revolights, made a pitch for his LED bicycle light invention on the ABC reality TV show Shark Tank, a program notorious for its cutthroat competition. Frankovich not only stood up under the pressure of five ruthlessly critical judges, he also impressed them enough to land a $300,000 investment — twice what he went on the show to ask for.
On “Shark Tank,” budding entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to a panel of millionaire and billionaire tycoons and get an immediate answer — either a resounding ‘yes’ to investing for a stake in the company, or a deflating ‘no’ likely followed by some ruthless criticism.
Frankovich had asked for $150,000 in exchange for 10 percent of his company. Revolights, which Frankovich started with fellow Walnut Creek native Adam Pettler in 2011, makes battery-powered LED bicycle lights that mount on the front and back wheels, illuminating the bicyclist’s path without shining in the bicyclist’s face or blinding anyone else on the road. The lights synchronize with the pedal speed, and blinking red tail lights alert others on the road when the bike is slowing.
His pitch was immediately met with praise — a rare response on the show. The investors called Revolights “so cool” and “very smart.”
Frankovich told the investors — called “sharks” on the show — that 70 percent of nighttime bike collisions can be attributed to lack of side visibility.
“We want to eliminate that statistic,” he said.
The $300,000 offer came from Robert Herjavec, founder of The Herjavec Group, a leading IT security and infrastructure integration firm. Herjavec is a longtime tech investor who sold his first company for $100 million. In exchange for the $300,000 investment, Herjavec gets a 10 percent stake in Revolights.
Francovich received a total of three offers, but two “sharks” withdrew theirs when Herjavec made what was clearly the winning offer.
Frankovich said the company had sold $600,000 of product in about 10 months, primarily online, but Revolights was not yet profitable. He wanted the capital to invest in growth and product expansion, and said he and Pettler hadn’t yet taken home a paycheck. Revolights sell for $139 each or $229 for a set of two.
Photo: Revolights Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Kent Frankovich, right, and Co-Founder Adam Pettler, left, demonstrate their product in Emeryville, Calif., on Wednesday, March 5, 2014. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)