Millions of people watched Scott and me pitch Bitsbox to a panel of celebrity rich people. As experiences go, the taping (which happened the previous September) was stressful, but the runup to the airing made me sick to my stomach. We knew how things turned out, but we had no idea how the reality TV editors would decide to make us look. Arrogant nerds? Bumbling non-trepreneurs? Would I have to move my family to a place with no TV?
We ended up watching the episode at a local beer hall with a couple hundred supporters. It was like a wedding, actually: tons of people who didn't know each other all gathered together to cheer us on. Folks from SketchUp and Google, our families, Bitsbox kids and their parents, friends and investors from around Boulder... I've never felt so loved.
Which was a good thing, because (spoiler alert) most everybody was shocked by the outcome. Recap: We pitched, the Sharks asked a bunch of really good questions, each of them "went out" (decided not to invest) one at a time, leaving only Chris Sacca. Chris is just like Scott and me—41, a dad, a former Googler—except that he invested in companies like Twitter and Uber and now he's a billionaire. It turns out that the three of us even worked at Google at the same time, around when SketchUp (where Scott and I used to work) was acquired. Chris mentioned SketchUp and made me tell the other Sharks about it, but they cut that part out of the segment. Bummer.
Chris made us an offer that was a lot lower than we'd decided we would accept. We countered and Chris surprised us (and millions of others) by acting offended and withdrawing his offer. We floundered for a few minutes (I get sick again thinking about it), he wouldn't reconsider, and we left the Tank without a deal. So we lost, right?
Nope. Not by a longshot. Not only did we end up raising the money we needed from non-celebrity investors, but the TV exposure gave us a boost that was bigger than we'd dared to dream. In the month after we aired, we more than tripled our business and vaulted into the top tier of companies that are teaching kids to code. Our team has grown from five to eight (welcome Emma, Zach and Sadie) and we've doubled our office space—we're setting up a video studio, of all things. Things have never looked better for Bitsbox.
Even more importantly, millions of people learned for the first time that anyone can learn to code. That's why we started this company: to make awesome stuff that enables kids to learn the skills they need to be creative in the 21st century. Was it fun to be on TV? Not really. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat.