Start-ups

'Shark Tank': How this disorganized founder who 'barely graduated high school' landed a 6-figure deal with Kevin O'Leary

ABC/Eric McCandless

Not much can get past investor Barbara Corcoran on ABC's "Shark Tank."

"Her ability to recognize the good and bad in somebody, what they'll be like as an entrepreneur, what they'll be like as a person – Barbara picks up on that stuff in a minute," Mark Cuban said on Corcoran's podcast "888-Barbara."

And on Wednesday's episode of "Shark Tank," Corcoran called out one founder for being disorganized.

"What I'm picking up from you, listening to you, is every question we ask you, you have a three-part answer," she said to McSquares founder Anthony Franco. "You're all over the board. Are you organized?"

Franco, who created a company making reusable sticky notes and dry erase boards, admitted he is not.

"No, but I have organized people around me," he told Corcoran. "It took me a while to get comfortable with the fact that I suck at organization."

His answer impressed the Sharks.

"I love that you're honest," Shark Lori Greiner said.

Guest Shark Rohan Oza agreed. "That's a great answer," he said. 

"Good for you on that," Cuban added.

And when Franco elaborated on his story, it captured the attention of all the Sharks – especially Corcoran.

"I barely graduated high school. I was the stereotypical teased and picked on computer nerd. I was kind of a wallflower," he said. "I didn't engage with our teachers."

"That's hard to believe looking at your right now," Corcoran said. "I don't believe you!"

Franco said the confidence he exhibited in the Tank was "forced."

In fact, his experience with shyness inspired his brand. While working as a consultant, he noticed others had the same fear of speaking up in meetings that he did.

So "I took our white board, carved it up into little squares, and handed them around the room. It was like magic. Everybody contributed," Franco said.

"In certain environments, everyone is scared to speak up. And people with the best ideas are the ones least likely to share them. That's the impetus of the [McSquares] tablets," referring to his company's mini white boards.

Corcoran related to Franco; she was bullied as a child and struggled with her grades due to her undiagnosed dyslexia

"You're the kind of guy that I'm in love with," she told Franco, "because you're the guy that I identify with.

"I was the dumb kid out of 10 kids – all my siblings got straight As without opening a book, and I never got anything beyond a D. I was the kid in school that the kids laughed at when I was made to read out loud. I would've just jumped in any hole I could possibly find. I was the only kid with no friends."

"So, I love people like you," she said.

But despite the connection, Corcoran said she loved traditional sticky notes too much to invest in Franco's reusable version.

But Shark Kevin O'Leary connected with Franco's story as well.

"I was constantly told I'd never graduate as a kid until somebody taught me how to turn my dyslexia into a strength...any product that helps people learn has a soft spot in me," he tweeted as the episode aired on May 13.

So O'Leary decided to make Franco an offer.

"If I'm going to take this journey with you, 10% is not enough given the risk," O'Leary told Franco, who had asked for a $300,000 investment for a 10% stake in the company.

"Here's my offer: $300,000 for 25%," O'Leary said. "I've been where you are already multiple times, my friend. This is not going to be easy. It's hell. For me, that's 25% or nothing."

Franco accepted, giving O'Leary the colorful sticky note-patterned jacket he wore to pitch as part of the deal.

Disclosure: CNBC owns the exclusive off-network cable rights to "Shark Tank."

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