A company with a fun, interesting product, strong sales, and an ethical mission will always be a strong contender on Shark Tank, and Banana Phone is no exception.
But who exactly are the founders, how did the company get started, and what did customers – and the Sharks – think of the novelty device? This Banana Phone Shark Tank update has all the answers.
Banana Phone: Making make-believe into reality
As children, we’ve all held a banana up to our ear and used it as a telephone, right?
Well, while working in an office, Brian Brunsing, one of the founders of Banana Phone and a regular banana eater, often found himself grabbing a banana from his desk and holding it up to his ear. He did this to jokingly fend off colleagues who were coming over to chat while he was trying to work.
One day, while pulling his banana phone gag, he thought, “Hey, this must exist,” so he searched the web for a real banana phone but couldn’t find one. That same day, as a joke, he bought a bluetooth headset and a plastic banana and created the world’s first real banana phone.
Best friends go bananas
Banana Phone founders Brian Brunsing, Charlie Katrycz, and Mark Brown have been friends since they were 10 year-old campers at a wilderness canoe camp in Ontario. They are three best friends who grew up together striving to embrace the moment and take life a little less seriously.
While these guys still love to have fun, they each have successful careers, aside from the Banana Phone business.
Brian Brunsing, President of Banana Phone, is a Senior Account Manager for Visa, and he has experience in product design and development as well as sales and marketing.
Charlie Katrycz, the Chief Technical Officer, has founded two other businesses, Loonskin Labs, an invention studio that builds fabrication machines which use biomimicry, and Undu Wearables, a company that produces natural, reusable heat packs to relieve pain in the abdomen and back. Charlie is also pursuing a Phd in Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Toronto.
Finally, Max Brown, CEO of Banana Phone, is also the President of Garrett Leather Corporation, the world’s largest privately owned distributor of high-quality Italian leather.
As you can imagine, all three of the Banana Phone founders were busy with their successful careers when they found themselves together again in San Francisco. However, when Brian introduced his friends to the banana phone idea, they decided that they had to create a business out of this silly product.
Is that a banana in your pocket…
The Banana Phone is a banana-shaped, bluetooth-enabled handset/speaker which connects to your mobile phone. It is made from ethically sourced, conflict-free materials and 100% recycled ABS plastics. On a single charge, you can talk on the Banana Phone for 10 hours or let it sit idle for up to 70 hours.
On their Banana Phone YouTube video, the Banana Phone guys encourage folks to: “Use your voice, not your thumbs, and help us to make talking cool again.” The company’s vision is to “Talk More, Smile More, Save the Gorillas.” Their hope is that the Banana Phone will help users “to talk more and move away from the frenzied world of texts, emails and push notifications.”
A bunch of great reviews for Banana Phone
Since it debuted in 2017, Banana Phone buyers have given the product overwhelmingly positive reviews online. Indeed, some business people commented that the Banana Phone has been known to break the tense mood in meetings by injecting a little humor when someone excuses themselves to take a call, only to pull a banana out of their pocket!
In her product review, one teacher writes: “Banana Phone has given me a joyful journey. It brings JOY to teachers and students at our elementary school.”
Banana Phone before Shark Tank
In May 2017, the Banana Phone founders launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, and they raised $45,000, which was 145% of their goal. They received more than 1,000 pre orders from 18 countries.
The founders had realized that a successful crowdfunding campaign needed to meet most of its goal during the first few days, so prior to the crowdfunding launch, all three of the guys worked their contacts really hard in order to get the word out, and they were able to meet most of their goal in just a few days.
Bananas and gorillas
Right from the start, the Banana Phone founders knew that they wanted to give back as they built the new business, so they searched for a worthy cause and decided to enroll in the 1% for the Planet program, and earmark 1% of sales revenue to Gearing Up for Gorillas, an organization that works for the conservation of gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Banana Phone Shark Tank update
As it turned out, the Banana Phone was part of a small slice of history: Along with Oogiebear and KENT underwear, the company was featured on the very first Shark Tank Live show which opened Season 14.
Upon entering the Tank, Banana Phone founders Brian Brunsing and Max Brown explained to the Sharks that:
“There are three well-known problems in the world today that need to be fixed when it comes to the 9-5 work life.
- It’s too boring.
- With all of the constant push notifications, emails, and text messages, establishing real human contact is almost impossible.
- And this one is almost universal, there’s just not enough fun in the world, and that’s bananas!”
With their entertaining opening, Banana Phone founders Brian and Max had the Sharks laughing and playing along. And with the light mood in the Tank, they finished their pitch by asking the Sharks for a $250k investment for a 10% stake in their company.
At this point, it seemed as if the Banana Phone guys might just be able to peel away some of the Shark’s cash.
However, the mood started to change as the Sharks questioned these seasoned businessmen about their company.
Barbara Corcoran started out by asking about the founders’ backgrounds. And she seemed a bit surprised to find out that both Brian and Max had challenging full time jobs, making the Banana Phone business a side hustle.
Kevin O’leary chimed in with, “Nobody is in the business full time,” to which the banana boys answered, “Correct.”
Next, O’Leary asked what the $250k would be used for, to which Brian replied, “The next horizon for us is getting into brick and mortar retail.”
Even though this response elicited loud groans from both Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary, Brian continued, “I think that this thing screams to be in the Beyond section of Bed, Bath and Beyond.”
Kevin O’Leary quickly added his thoughts about taking Banana Phone to retail, as he stated: “Guys, I think that what you’re trying to do in retail is beyond insane.”
At this point, the Sharks started to swim away quickly.
First, Mark Cuban congratulated the guys for taking a fruit and turning it into money. However, Cuban remarked, “It’s a great personal business, but it’s not a great fit for me.”
Next, Robert Herjavec also congratulated the banana brigade for taking an idea and turning it into a product, but said that he doesn’t see it as a scalable business.
Lori then bowed out quickly, noting that she’s “not really into novelty products.”
Finally, Barbara admitted that she liked the product, but she told Brian and Max that she objected to investing for one reason only: “I don’t want you working on this part time.”
While Banana Phone founders Brian Brunsing and Max Brown got off to a really positive start, they slipped up a bit when questioned by the Sharks, so they had to leave the Tank without a bunch of new cash for their company.
What is Banana Phone on Shark Tank?
Banana Phone manufactures the world’s first Bluetooth-enabled phone shaped like a banana. The founders went on Shark Tank asking for an investment to help take their business to the next level.
Who founded Banana Phone?
Childhood friends Brian Brunsing, Charlie Katrycz, and Mark Brown founded Banana Phone.
When did Banana Phone go on Shark Tank?
Banana Phone appeared on Season 14, Episode 2 of Shark Tank. The show aired on September 30th, 2022.
Did Banana Phone get a deal on Shark Tank?
Unfortunately, Banana Phone did not manage to get a Shark Tank deal. Their ask of $250k for 10% equity ($2.5 million valuation) was not attractive to the Sharks, who made no offers.