Shark Tank Presenter Fired Before Episode Aired

Even sweet Barbara Corcoran called the presentation "terrible and confusing."


Martin Dell'Arciprete pitches SmartPlate on Shark Tank. (ABC/Michael Desmond)

Martin Dell’Arciprete pitches SmartPlate on Shark Tank. (ABC/Michael Desmond)

If you’re a fan of Philly’s budding tech and entrepreneurial community, Friday night’s episode of Shark Tank was cringe-worthy. It featured Martin Dell’Arciprete pitching Mark Cuban and the gang about a Philly-based invention called SmartPlate — which weighs and analyzes food to output calorie counts and other nutritional information.

Like many of you, I can’t help but root for a Philly company when they go into the Tank. The national exposure is great for the city and its entrepreneurial community — and another Shark Tank success like Scrub Daddy or Scholly would mean a big boost to the local economy.

But as soon as the segment began, SmartPlate seemed dead on arrival. Dell’Arciprete asked for the hefty sum of $1 million for a 15 percent stake in the business, leading Daymond John to offer a surprised “whoa.” The SmartPlate was still in prototype mode so Dell’Arciprete couldn’t even demonstrate the plate’s embedded-camera technology.

“Pre-market? It’s pre-product” said Chris Sacca, a Google alum turned venture capitalist who sat in as a guest-Shark.

When Dell’Arciprete said that SmartPlate cost $199, Cuban shook his head in disgust. Kevin O’Leary (you know, Mr. Wonderful) said: “Martin, honey, sweetie, poopsie, that’s crazy.”

Plus the Sharks seemed less than impressed with Dell’Arciprete’s pitch overall. John said: “I’m uncomfortable with the way you’re making this pitch.” Even the normally sweet Barbara Corcoran said: “Your presentation really was just terrible, I’m sorry to say. Terrible and confusing.” Cuban was concerned that the entire business seems to be riding on a third-party design firm to actually create a working SmartPlate: “You’re betting your entire company on some external design company. You guys can’t control your own destiny. You have no idea whether or not this stuff is even going to work. That is a huge problem for me. I’m out.”

Goodbye deal. Goodbye celebrity millionaire partners. (Watch the episode here.)

Filming for the show was in late September, but once everybody was back in Philly, CEO Anthony Ortiz laid off Dell’Arciprete. (He now works as a senior account executive at Moroch Partners.) When asked if he thinks he was laid off due to the Shark Tank appearance, Dell’Arciprete said “that would be my interpretation.” But Ortiz said he laid off Dell’Arciprete for “other performance issues” — but refused to elaborate.

“To be fair to Martin, I think he did a stellar job. He was prepared and I think he did his best,” said Ortiz. “I think the Sharks missed the mark and didn’t ask deep enough questions.”

Dell’Arciprete said he did the best job possible with the hand he was dealt: “I’m pretty hard on myself most days but I know I gave 110 percent. I pitched and represented the product to best of my ability given the state it was in. I saw the Sharks’ responses on the company’s valuation and the fact that it was a prototype — and those were things I red-flagged in my discussions with the CEO.”

Ortiz said he was shocked that the Sharks simply glanced over the company’s impressive $135,000 in pre-order sales and said outsourcing design is a “natural occurrence” in today’s marketplace. SmartPlate signed deals with Tandem Design and Flextronics to help create a fully functioning SmartPlate and expects to start delivering fully-functioning products by summer or fall of 2016. There’s another version that allows users to take a photo of the food with a smartphone camera, then outputs nutrition info.

It should be noted that Shark Tank producers reached out to SmartPlate after seeing it’s successful Kickstarter campaign which raised more than $100,000, according to Ortiz. Sure, Ortiz admits that the product may have presented on the show a bit too early, but when Shark Tank comes calling, you answer the call. Ortiz said that no matter the result, he’s happy to have been the first image-recognition, calorie-counting invention to appear on the show.

The Road Ahead for SmartPlate

Despite the Shark Tank setback, the road ahead for SmartPlate seems positive. Here are a few big events that have happened since the taping:

1. It signed a deal with big-box retailers: SmartPlate secured retail deals with Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Amazon and Jet.com, according to Ortiz.

2. New Los Angeles office: SmartPlate plans to open a new office in Los Angeles where it hopes to focus on fundraising and talent acquisition. It’ll still be headquartered in Philly. “Once a company gets to a certain stage, it’s hard to find a lead investor here in Philadelphia,” said Ortiz. “You’ve got to have 50 options because 49 will tell you ‘no.’ [In Philly] you don’t have that many options. Fundraising is hard anywhere, so you’ve got to get more ‘no’s’ faster to get to a ‘yes’ faster.”

3. It raised some serious funding: SmartPlate has raised $1.2 million to date, and has launched a new round of funding aiming to get another $2 million. Around Christmas time, the company raised $250,000 and has another $500,000 committed from investors, according to Ortiz.

4. The “Shark Tank bump” was very nice: After the show aired, Ortiz said the company’s website got 100,000 unique visitors and made “tens of thousands” in pre-order sales.

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