Grease Monkey Wipes on Shark Tank
Grease Monkey Wipes
In season one of Shark Tank, Erin Whalen and Tim Stansbury pitched their company, Grease Monkey Wipes. The duo formed Grease Monkey Wipes in response to problems cleaning road slime (grease) off of their hands during bike rides. Grease Monkey Wipes are single use cloths having a special citrus formula. The citrus formula cuts through grease and grime. Ordinary moist towelettes do not wash away grease. For example Wet-naps and baby wipes smear grease around but do not remove it from surfaces. Grease Monkey wipes solve this widespread problem by using all-natural citrus oils.
Grease Monkey Wipes Not Patented
About 2m and 45s into the episode (see below), the Sharks are clearly impressed with the technology. The product solves an existing need and it does so with an all natural solution. At this point, Ms. Whalen and Mr. Stansbury are well-positioned to strike it rich with their invention. However, the Sharks then ask about whether the company has protected the technology by filing a patent application.
At about 3m and 20s into the episode, Kevin O’Leary asks what would stop him from making a competing product. Specifically, he asks the following:
- “is that patented?”
- “is there any patent here?”
- “what stops me from doing this?”
When the Grease Monkey team says “no,” the pitch falls apart. Kevin’s face drops. ABC’s production team cues the dramatic music. See 3m 35s – 3m 45s. Although Mr. Stansbury attempts to offer reasons for why they decided not to patent the invention as part of their business strategy, the Sharks are not impressed. Mr. Stansbury indicates that the company decided not to patent the invention for financial reasons and to keep the recipe secret. But Kevin O’Leary becomes visibly aggitated with these reasons. The photo below sums up how he responded to Grease Money Wipe’s “decision” not to patent the invention.
After the Shark’s uncover the complete lack of patent protection, they start dropping out of the negotiations. They Sharks express concern with the fact that the invention can be easily “knocked off.”
Ultimately, the Grease Monkey Wipes team does get an investment. But, the investment is secured on strictly personal grounds. They Sharks stop treating Grease Monkey Wipes seriously and instead consider pity investments. They jab at one another, saying “look at that face.” Ultimately, the deal goes through based on Ms. Whalen’s repeated assurances that “I promise I won’t let you down.” (That’s not a great business reason).
The situation would have been completely different if the inventors had used the patent system to claim the invention. Properly protecting the invention would have eliminated all of Kevin O’Leary’s concerns about the company having no proprietary content. Securing patent protection would have protected the company from knock off products. In all likelihood, the two business partners would have received a much better deal if they had at least filed a provisional patent application.