clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

'Shark Tank' Gets a Tech Infusion This Season, With Guest Judges Ashton Kutcher, Troy Carter and Chris Sacca

Y Combinator day is cool. Is a hit TV show cooler?

Twitter/Ian Gavan/Nadine Rupp
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

It’s easy to see the link between “Shark Tank” and the current Web boom. The notion that some combination of ingenuity, hard work and luck can unlock an entrepreneurial success story is an intoxicating one, whether you’re watching a reality TV show or a Y Combinator pitch day.

Now ABC is going to link the ideas even more closely by bringing in new talent to its hit show who are specifically known for their ties to tech: Actor/investor Ashton Kutcher, music manager/investor Troy Carter and investor/shirt model Chris Sacca will all be appearing on the show’s upcoming season as guest judges.

“Shark Tank,” which features small companies pitching “shark” investors like Mark Cuban for real investments, has had guest judges/investors in the past; last season featured several appearances from Go Pro CEO Nick Woodman, who has his own tech bona fides.

But most of the companies that appear on the show are usually built on relatively crude, you-could-do-it-too ideas, like hand-built bikes, or swim towels for kids. Sacca, a former Google exec who is best known for his early and significant bets on Twitter, says the show is quite clearly trying to up its tech game in this season, its seventh.

Sacca, who is quite happy to offer people advice, seems like a natural fit for the show. But he insists that he was a reluctant recruit to TV: “I’ve been asked onstage before, and I basically said, ‘No fucking way, it’s not what I do for a living,'” he said.

Sacca says his views changed last year, in part because of the reaction he generated on Twitter after dismissing a “Shark Tank” pitch he’d seen:

The flurry of responses from passionate “Shark Tank” fans — the show, which airs on Friday nights, attracts around seven million viewers an episode, which qualifies as a hit in 2015 — gave him pause, he said. “That night, I started texting with Cuban. I was like, ‘I had no idea.’ and he was like, ‘You have no idea.'”

When Cuban appeared with Re/code last winter at our Code/Media conference, he told us he goes on “Shark Tank” because he likes the idea that the show inspires would-be business owners, particularly kids. As an investment vehicle, it hasn’t been particularly lucrative for him, he said, in part because the companies he bets on require lots of time and hand-holding.

But Sacca says he thought the companies he saw in the two episodes he taped recently were generally pretty good. “The quality of pitches has been pretty high,” he said, adding that he has ended up making investments in two of them. We’ll have to wait to see what he bet on, but if you want to hear more from him about the backstory, he’s happy to oblige now.

This article originally appeared on