When Daniel Newman heard that a group of student entrepreneurs in New York had created a Shark Tank-style competition for undergraduates, he realized USC would be the perfect venue for the West Coast counterpart.
“I thought, we need to bring this to L.A.,” said Newman, a sophomore majoring in business administration and real estate development. “We have venture capitalists who are really focused on students here. And we have the fanatic Shark Tank viewers. Everyone I know watches Shark Tank.”
Newman founded the New York event’s organizers through the TAMID Group, a student organization that supports Israeli startups through consulting and educating American investors about Israeli stocks traded on U.S. exchanges. At the New York TAMID Tank, entrepreneur Kevin Harrington, a former “shark” on Shark Tank, made an on-the-spot $100,000 investment in a student project.
Newman spotted the opportunity to draw attention to USC’s entrepreneurial scene and moved quickly. As the vice president of operations for TAMID at USC, Newman recruited 15 classmates to plan the TAMID Tank event that was held April 24 in Bovard Auditorium.
Three startups were chosen as finalists to present at the event and compete for $3,500 in prize money. To divvy up the cash awards, Newman and his team opted for a different model than the spontaneous buyouts for which Shark Tank is known. Instead, the 500-person audience texted in their votes. First prize and $2,000 went to Aqus, a profit-generating water filtration system for aspiring capitalists in impoverished nations.
Newman suggested the Shark Tank model misrepresents the amount of time that goes into a real investment decision.
“The whole venture capital process takes a bit more than a 10-minute pitch,” Newman said. “There’s a whole due diligence process, which sometimes takes two months, sometimes a whole year. It’s very rare you’ll see a venture capitalist invest on the spot like they do on Shark Tank.”
But that doesn’t mean those who appeared at TAMID Tank were mere referees.
“What I was able to do is connect the winners with the [venture capitalists] afterward for potential investment, after a couple of meetings,” Newman said. “These are all very serious startups that the students are planning on pursuing full time in the summer if not after they graduate.”
In other words, the TAMID Tank finalists will likely reinvest their winnings back into their companies.
Though Newman served in a curatorial role for TAMID Tank, he is an entrepreneur himself, too. In high school, he created a startup employing high school seniors as tutors for younger students in their communities. He also built a marketing agency to help businesses reach millennials with Snapchat geofilters.
In the future, Newman may pursue a career as an entrepreneur, but his work with TAMID has inspired him to take greater interest in venture capitalism. He hopes to deepen his ties to USC’s network of student startups and build a community of student entrepreneurs during his remaining two years in school.
As a next step, Newman will spend this summer interning at UpWest Labs, a diverse venture capital firm based in Tel Aviv, with 240 other TAMID students.