Shark repellent company seeking $1 million fails to bait 'Adventure Capitalists' investors
When Jeremy Bloom, Dhani Jones and Craig Cooper headed into shark-infested waters wearing shark-repelling bands around their ankles, they expected to be in the middle of a feeding frenzy. What they did not expect was that the repellent would fail.
Face-to-face with Caribbean reef sharks, the three co-hosts and investors found themselves in a precarious situation on the latest episode of CNBC's "Adventure Capitalists," a reality show in which entrepreneurs pitch their adventure products in the great outdoors.
The investors weren't the only ones feeling nervous. Brian Wynne, the brainchild behind the SharkStopper, an acoustic-based shark repellent that uses killer whale sounds and high frequencies to scare away sharks, was just as anxious.
Wynne spent 10 years and over $300,000 of his own money developing the product. He came on the show in the hopes of securing a $1 million investment in exchange for 27 percent equity in his company.
Wynne's product seeks to mitigate shark attacks, providing protection not only for divers, surfers and swimmers but also for commercial fisherman, who rely on certain species of fish for their livelihoods.
In 2015, there were 98 confirmed cases of unprovoked shark attacks worldwide, the highest on record, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History's International Shark Attack File. As the world's population grows and more people spend time in the water, that number is expected to increase.
The SharkStopper repellent comes in two varieties: an ankleband for individuals that retails for $459 and a watercraft kit outfitted for vessels that retails for $1,299 and claims to protect people for up to 40 meters.
While there are a number of similar products on the market already, including electrical shark deterrent, magnetic wristbands and invisibility wetsuits, Wynne believes his product, which hasn't yet been brought to market, is more effective than the rest.
"Sharks have an auditory system much like ours, with an inner ear canal that can interpret sounds," Wynne said. Because sharks have been successfully hunted and attacked by killer whales, Wynne's idea is to use the sounds of killer whales mixed with high frequencies (below 500 hertz) to scare sharks away.
Wynne says he, along with a group of marine biologists and shark experts, successfully tested the device on over 15 species of sharks, including great white, hammerhead and tiger sharks.
When Jones, Cooper, and Bloom initially tested the product on Caribbean reef sharks while snorkeling off Bimini's Triangle Rocks dive site in the Bahamas, it worked.
"You turn on the SharkStopper, they bolt. They're out of there," said Jones.
But when the three investors tested it a second time to ensure the first test wasn't just a fluke, the sharks didn't leave.
"It seems like there's a learned experience from the shark," Cooper said after the unnerving second trial in the water. "It was kind of like they understood there was nothing there to be fearful of."
As predators that have survived more than 400 million years near the top of the food chain, that ability to understand their surroundings may come as no surprise.
Wynne defended the SharkStopper, though, saying it is designed to work against wild sharks, not sharks like Caribbean reef sharks that regularly inhabit the same areas and get fed by nearby boats. Despite his defense, he lacked evidence and case studies to prove his claim.
Ultimately, Wynne walked away empty-handed, but Bloom said he would reconsider investing if Wynne gathered more evidence that the product works.