The ink is permanent on a “Shark Tank” deal landed by a Thornton-based dry-erase whiteboard startup.
But it’s a bit different than the one seen on TV.
Anthony Franco, founder of McSquares (pronounced M-C-squares, like the equation), told BusinessDen that he closed his deal with investor Kevin O’Leary in July.
In an episode filmed in June 2019, and aired on ABC this past May, O’Leary — otherwise known as “Mr. Wonderful” — agreed to invest $300,000 for a 25 percent stake in the company. But that changed in the months since, to $50,000 for 11 percent.
“I would have been willing to simply give Kevin equity for his reach and influence, and I even offered that initially,” Franco said. “He insisted on putting capital in, and we wound up at 11 percent for $50k. As he says on-air, he doesn’t get out of bed for less than 10 percent.”
“I don’t view it as losing $200k; I view it as gaining 15 percent of my company back,” Franco later added. “We’re not cash poor as a company. We’ve had good investments and we have revenue, so having Kevin O’Leary on as a strategic adviser was definitely worth more than 10 percent, and the cash was just a bonus.”
McSquares, which Franco founded in 2016, produces reusable sticky notes, dry-erase tiles and desktop whiteboards. Last month, the company moved into 25,000 square feet in Thornton, a space four times the size of the one they vacated in Denver.
After Franco and O’Leary shook hands on camera, O’Leary’s due diligence team, which is essentially made up of merger and acquisition experts, conducted background research on the company and Franco and sifted through its books to make sure the numbers presented on the show were accurate.
“Your introduction is truly the first time the ‘sharks’ see your face,” Franco said. “They have no briefing about who you are or your company, so not only do they have their capital on the line, but they also have their reputation of making good investments in good founders. They really spend a lot of time looking at the companies before they complete the transaction, and quite a few, from what I understand, actually fall through.”
In addition to helping McSquares with marketing, O’Leary has already helped the company launch a crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine 48 days ago, so customers can invest in the startup’s success. As of Monday, the company has raised $504,420 of its $700,000 goal with less than 50 days to go.
Franco plans to use the funds to continue McSquare’s expansion into several product lines, as well as several new sales channels, including exporting into Europe.
“O’Leary’s media reach is extensive and exceptionally valuable, and he is a great spokesperson for us,” he added. “I did some analysis and estimate the public relations value he brings in the next two years is well over $2 million, and that value does not include his reach into retail, licensing, and strategic partners.”
McSquares did nearly $1 million in sales last year, prior to its Shark Tank episode airing. In the first quarter of this year, the company saw a 600 percent growth in sales. In the second quarter, it saw 500 percent growth year-over-year, Franco said.
“We’re seeing this incredible uptick in people looking for what we do, and to the point where this month, we’re going to sell 500,000 Stickies, which is enough to replace a billion paper sticky notes in landfills, or 21,000 cubic feet of paper,” Franco said.
This week, the company also announced its largest education deal to date — selling personal whiteboards to 6,600 students in the Novi School District in Michigan.
“The Novi deal is a direct result of learning from home amidst the pandemic,” Franco said. “What the school district liked about our product is the durability of our McSquares surfaces because students can use them at home and put them in the backpack and bring them to school, and the teachers are using them in webcam lessons for remote learning.”