LARQ broke records as being the the company with the highest-ever valuation to appear in the Tank at the time. Against all the odds, this did not prevent the founders from agreeing a deal with two Sharks on the show.
But what happened after? Did the deal close? Is the company still active? Are its sales living up to its founders’ expectations? This latest LARQ Shark Tank update has all the answers.
What is LARQ?
LARQ is a company which manufactures the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle. It is located in Foster City, California.
Larq’s flagship product, the LARQ Bottle PureVis, is a self-cleaning water bottle that uses PureVis UV-C light technology to neutralize harmful bacteria and viruses from drinking water.
Who created LARQ?
Justin Wang and Robert C Walker co-founded LARQ. Justin is the company’s CEO, and he studied at the University of California, Berkeley where he earned a BA in Economics and Political Economy. Prior to founding LARQ, Justin served as Vice President and President of Swedish beauty company Foreo. He also spent three years as an Investment Banking Associate at Merriman Curhan Ford & Co.
Robert C. Walker is an investor and board member at LARQ. Robert holds a BSEE in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a PhD in Nuclear Physics from Caltech. Robert has over 30 years’ experience in tech entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.
How did LARQ get started?
According to C Suite Quarterly, Jason Wang, co-founder of LARQ, was raised in California where he learned to appreciate the outdoors. The parks and bodies of water of the state have always called to him, and that had a hand in the creation of LARQ.
Billionaire Magazine also reported that “tech entrepreneur Justin Wang set up self-cleaning water bottle company LARQ to tackle plastic bottle waste and water contamination.” The magazine states that Justin realized that:
“As a society we are throwing away a staggering one million plastic water bottles per minute, of which less than seven percent are recycled.” And, according to the magazine, “this was the conundrum that Justin Wang grappled with while out hiking, when despite having several reusable water bottles, he still needed to buy more water. He found that often, reusable water bottles would be hard to clean and would go moldy, or he would not be able to carry enough water for the whole day.”
When Justin met his co-founder, who had invented a UV-C LED light technology that kills bacteria, he realized that this could be one answer for the problem of all those disposable plastic water bottles.
What happened to LARQ before Shark Tank?
In November 2017, Larq launched its first product, the LARQ bottle, a self-cleaning water bottle with digital water purification, by means of a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign ran from November 7th to December 7th, 2017, with a goal to raise $30,000. However, by the end of the 30-day Kickstarter campaign, LARQ had raised almost $1.4 million from 12,758 backers.
About seven months after closing their successful campaign, on July 26, 2018, LARQ began its first shipment of products to fill their Kickstarter orders.
How did LARQ develop before Shark Tank?
Two years after the first shipment of LARQ bottles, their products were being carried by 88 retailers in 16 countries, including Nordstrum and Bloomingdale’s in the US, and Selfridges in London.
In its first two years, LARQ saw sales growth of 400% per year. And according to the article in Billionaire Magazine, while LARQ crowdfunded its initial investment with a campaign ask of $50,000 on Kickstarter, in 2020, they secured an additional $10 million in Series A funding from several serious venture capital firms.
In 2020, LARQ also released their first home product, the LARQ Pitcher, a Brita-style water pitcher, which they hoped would revolutionize the home water-filtration industry.
What do customers think of LARQ?
LARQ has a number of products offered on Amazon, but its most popular item looks to be the LARQ Bottle Movement PureVis – Lightweight Self-Cleaning and Non-Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle with UV Water Sanitizer, 24 oz. The product has over 800 customer ratings, and an overall score of 4.4 out of 5 stars, with 70% of customers giving the LARQ bottle a 5-star rating.
What are customers saying about the LARQ Self-Cleaning Bottle?
One recent verified purchaser of the LARQ bottle writes:
“I’ve had this water bottle for a while now and even though I don’t use it everyday, it’s made my life so much easier and has reduced my stress levels when it comes to drinking public water. Also, since I’m a college student, when I go to class, I always get looks because people want to know why the top of my bottle is glowing.”
Another happy LARQ bottle user comments, “The fact that it’s basically self cleaning is great! Especially if you’re a person like I was, collecting water bottles like crazy, but hated doing the cleaning or replacement of the filters. It’s nice to just have one bottle that handles the job!”
While the vast majority of reviews for the LARQ Self-Cleaning Bottle are positive, there are a few customers with negative opinions of the product.
One verified purchaser points out what he perceives to be a design flaw in the bottle:
“The sterilization and cleaning features of the inside of the bottle work pretty well; it rarely needs a good cleaning there. BUT the rolled ring of metal serving as the tip grows the worst nastiness I’ve seen on any bottle and is impossible to clean. Toothbrushes and interdental brushes help, but the blackness felt never-ending. Poured some boiling water and mouthwash through, and it’s seemingly clean, but the images in my head can never be sterilized.”
What are customers saying about LARQ’s newest product, the LARQ Pitcher?
According to the LARQ website, the LARQ Pitcher Pure Vis is an at-home water pitcher which “uses a unique 2-step process to improve the quality of your water using PureVis™ and Nano Zero filter technology–giving you fresh-tasting water sip after sip.”
The LARQ Water Pitcher has 58 ratings on Amazon, and customers give it an overall score of 4 out of five stars, with 63% of reviewers giving the product 5 stars. Interestingly, a fairly large percentage of reviewers, 16%, give the LARQ Pitcher just one star.
One very satisfied verified purchaser writes, “The LARQ Pitcher has been a game-changer for me and my household! I’m a proud owner of one of their bottles as well, but as the COVID pandemic hit, we (and the whole world) had to stay home of course. This theoretically made the Pitcher far more practical and useful in our day-to-day lives than ever before, so we pulled the trigger on one and couldn’t be happier.”
Another happy customer writes, “First off – the aesthetic is absolutely beautiful! This has to be the most sleek and good looking water pitcher on the market. After the first taste test, the water tastes much better than my traditional Brita. This is likely the purest tasting water I’ve ever had. Trust me, there is a noticeable difference.”
Along with the mostly positive reviews, there are a few unsatisfied LARQ Pitcher customers as well.
One unhappy pitcher purchaser writes, “While this product looks beautiful, the taste doesn’t seem to change at all from tap water. Disappointed in the quality of water post filtration with this price tag!”
When did LARQ appear on Shark Tank?
LARQ appeared on Shark Tank in Season 12, Episode 21, which aired on April 16th, 2021. LARQ co-founder Justin Wang pitched to five of the regular Sharks: Mark Cuban, Lori Greiner, Kevin O’Leary, Daymond John, and Robert Herjavec.
Of course, LARQ is far from the only company to enter in the Tank pitching a product to solve common problems with food and drink. Perhaps the most famous of these is Souper Cubes, which went on to enjoy mega success after appearing on the show.
What happened to LARQ on Shark Tank?
LARQ co-founder Justin Wang entered the Tank and asked the Sharks for a $500k investment in return for 1% of his self-cleaning water bottle company. As soon as Justin finished telling the Sharks that he wanted $500k for 1%, all of the Sharks began laughing so loudly that Justin could barely be heard over their howling as he started his pitch.
Justin managed to push ahead despite the raucous laughter, and he told the Sharks that “the average reusable water bottle contains more bacteria than either your dog’s bowl or your toilet seat.” He then tied the problem of dirty reusable bottles to the fact that over 1 million single-use plastic water bottles are consumed every single minute.
Justin explained to the Sharks that LARQ was founded to help cut down on the massive number of single-use plastic water bottles being used. He told the Sharks that LARQ was the world’s first self-cleaning water bottle that purifies water on the go.
Justin next demonstrated the LARQ bottle and told the Sharks that with the simple push of a button on the bottle’s lid, the patented technology would eliminate 99.99% of bacteria, viruses, and mold.
After Justin asked the Sharks, “who’s thirsty for a great deal?,” Robert Herjavec jumped in quickly to confirm that Justin was asking $500k for just 1% of the company. And upon getting confirmation of the offer, Kevin O’Leary congratulated Justin for having the highest valuation ever requested on Shark Tank.
Robert then followed up by telling Justin that he seemed like a reasonable guy, and he asked him, “Why is this worth $50 million?” Justin responded without hesitating, telling Robert that the worldwide water market is a $300 billion business, and reusable bottles make up only 7% of this business.
Justin next took a series of questions on the technology behind the self-cleaning element of the LARQ bottles, and he explained to the Sharks that the bottles use a UV light to purify the water, and that LARQ’s co-founder, a PhD in Physics, engineered the bottle so that the optical light bounces throughout the bottle to purify the water. He also explained that a one-minute blast from the UV light in the LARQ bottle makes the water safer than boiling the water for 20 minutes.
At this point in the pitch, the Sharks were no longer laughing, and they started to ask more detailed questions about LARQ’s finances. Kevin O’Leary asked again, “Why is it worth $50 million?” And Justin replied that they had 10 patents on the technology, and he then told O’Leary, “We’ve been on the market for under two years, and our first full year, in 2019, we did a little over $5.5 million is sales, and in the last 12 months, we’ve done over $7 million.” Finally, Justin told the Sharks that they were projecting over $14 million in the current year.
The Sharks asked about previous rounds of investment, and Justin told them that the company had recently raised $6.7 million. Mark Cuban wanted to know how much money that LARQ had in the bank, and when Justin told him “about $6.5 million,” Cuban seemed pleased that they hadn’t spent all of the money which the company had raised.
Mark Cuban then asked about the retail price and cost to manufacture the LARQ bottles, and Justin told him that they retail for $95.00 and cost about $40 landed.
Lori Greiner then asked Justin about the ten patents he spoke about, and he explained to her that one of them was for a new product, an in-home pitcher to filter water, using the same UV light technology. He believed that the new product was far superior to the Brita and other home water pitchers available on the market.
Daymond John told Justin that “one million on the planet don’t have access to clean water, and 1.5 million don’t have electricity, so I don’t think that any of those people are getting this bottle right now because they don’t have the $95.” Justin told Daymond that the company had committed to donating 1% of gross sales to charity partners, including groups working to provide potable water to those who do not have it available.
While Daymond seemed happy to hear about LARQ’s charity work, he still did not look too pleased about the overall pitch. Daymond told Justin that: “When I signed up to this platform, the platform didn’t start out as the wealthy helping the wealthy. I just could not do this because I am here for another reason.”
Shortly after Daymond went out, Mark Cuban also stated, “This is a place where people come, they just need a little bit more fuel; they need a little help. We’re not here to evaluate companies that may have billions of dollars in sales in a trillion-dollar market in twenty years.” Like Daymond, he declared he was out too.
Did LARQ get a deal on Shark Tank?
LARQ successfully got a deal on Shark Tank. Kevin O’Leary and Lori Greiner agreed to join together to invest $1 million, which was more than the original $500k that LARQ was seeking in the Tank. Kevin and Lori received 4% equity in the business in return for this investment.
After both Daymond John and Mark Cuban went out fairly quickly due to their concerns about whether it was appropriate for such a large, well-capitalized company to be pitching in the Tank, the three remaining Sharks started seriously negotiating for a stake in LARQ.
Kevin O’Leary made the first offer, telling Justin, “I’d never do a deal for 1% for obvious reasons; I’ll do it for 4%. I don’t care how you structure it.”
Lori then came in with an offer of $500k for 5%. And Robert jumped in with an offer of $500k for 3%, with an additional 2% in Advisory shares.
After hearing these offers, Justin countered, asking all three Sharks to go in for $500k each, a total of $1.5 million, for 4.5%, plus 1% Advisory shares split between them. Kevin quickly countered that the three Sharks would do $1.5 million for 6%. And Justin replied that he would be willing to go to 4.5% equity, plus 1.5% Advisory shares, and by this point Robert and Lori were both against receiving Advisory shares; they wanted simple equity. Robert spoke first and told Justin, “It’s too complicated. I’m out because I’ve worked really hard to get to this point, and I don’t need you to interview me.” Lori followed this by saying that she did not want Advisory shares, and Kevin said that he was in for $500k for 2%, but he wanted the same deal that Lori gets. Eventually, Justin gave in and offered 2% up front to make the deal.
What happened next? LARQ Shark Tank update
According to various sources, the Shark Tank deal between LARQ, Lori Greiner and Kevin O’Leary did not close in the end. Despite this, the company continued its successful journey and is still thriving today.
According to an article in Forbes which appeared several months after the Shark Tank episode aired, with the launch of their new product, the LARQ Pitcher, the company was forecasting $30 million in revenues for 2022.
Prior to the Shark tank episode, LARQ had raised $11 million in venture capital funding to launch the new product, and they presold 20,000 of the new LARQ Pitchers.
Co-founder Justin Wang spoke about the Shark Tank effect in the Forbes article. He told the magazine:
“We obviously reached a lot of new audiences through the show, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help,” says Wang. “It just accelerated the journey we already were on.”
Justin added that the timing of the Shark Tank episode was also valuable, as it was the first Shark Tank episode to air since the pandemic shut down production for most of 2020. “Sustainability and wellness were at the top of mind for most people, which is part of the reason why they wanted us on the show,” says Wang. “Our themes were more relevant than ever.”
How much is LARQ worth?
There are currently conflicting reports on the valuation of LARQ; however, with Forbes reporting $30 million in sales in 2022, and the fact that LARQ successfully completed a venture capital round of investment at a valuation of $31.7 million in late 2020, we believe that the current valuation of the company to be in the $30 to $50 million range.