The cat’s out of the bag. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to present my company, Diggn’It, to investors on Shark Tank Arabia. It was thrilling and I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on the experience in the context of everything that goes on with pitching your work/idea.
When I started this company I had no idea it would work. To be honest, I couldn’t really dream that big or imagine it. We had an idea and a commitment to its development, that’s all. When others were going to work in the morning, I remember sitting at my kitchen table and defining the values of the company. I spent one morning thinking that this Arabian Beard Company was Traditionally Inspired, Natural & Healthy, and Proudly Arabian. We would focus on community and impact and wanted to do things differently from what I saw many other companies doing/struggling with.
I remember the term “culture eats strategy for breakfast”, and I learned that firsthand a couple of times. Prior to Diggn’It, I had worked at multiple large corporations in KSA that were struggling with the effects of stifling, outdated corporate cultures. As I sat in the kitchen and worked with the founding team, we knew WHAT we did mattered, but HOW we went about it was even more important. It would be the differentiating factor that would make us not just a product or commodity, but a brand people would want to connect to and a mission people would want to be a part of.
We wanted to create an organization that treated both its suppliers and employees as partners in trying to change the way Arabian companies operate, by setting an example through our actions. I have always believed that it is easy to point the finger at everyone else when being critical, but there are three fingers pointing right back at you.
It is with this spirit that we operated the company, I could not bring myself to work at another company while Diggn’It embodied my mission and required my effort. Our appearance on Shark Tank feels like a culmination of that effort.
Going on Shark Tank, I was extremely nervous and anxious. An inside joke between my wife and I is that Diggn’it is our first baby, and I was going to present it on television for scrutiny and criticism. I was nervous, I arrived at the studio early, and was met with the content manager of the show to give me a brief on what was going to happen. The first thing he said to me was that he was so happy to have us on the show since he had been a user of our products for the last 2 years and it was his preferred brand. I was grateful for him and took it as a sign that we were on the right track.
I was told I would be going first and hurried to set up our table, while the Sharks made their way into the studio. They were drawn to the table, making inquiries about the products before the shooting, I asked them (politely) not to burn my hand. After setting up, I stepped out to prepare to officially step into the Tank. The rest you saw on TV and can re-watch on Youtube.
Well not exactly, I had three minutes to present my company, and then open up for questions. We immediately started with the hardest part, the numbers, and then I had a chance to introduce myself and my motivations behind this company. After at least 45 minutes of discussion and questions, the moment came when we were offered a deal. To be honest, everything is a blur after that.
I was blown away, here was the validation of all our hard work, a desire, and backing with actual money for our company. It blew me away. I felt incredibly grateful, and still do for such a positive reception to our burgeoning little Arabian Beard Company.
I wanted to take a second to thank the Sharks personally, to be honest, they could have ripped me to shreds (no pun intended). They treated me with respect and class, something that I believe they each have. I felt, regardless of the outcome, they truly and genuinely wanted us to succeed, and I couldn’t be more grateful that they received us as they did. They were really lovely people, and I am grateful I had a chance to present it to them, and show them and everyone else, that hard work, patience, self-awareness, and persistence is something that is not foreign to us...and by us, I mean Arab youth. We got this, and I am glad I was able to show that, and they were supportive.
I had to turn down the offers because we were not offered what I was willing to part with in terms of equity. It was a hard ask on my part, and it was extremely challenging turning down live offers, but I went in with a plan and an offer, which we didn’t get. That’s ok though because the real honor was being able to represent my team and my community and share an alternate way.
After I turned down the final offer, I stepped out of the studio shaking, overwhelmed by the experience and what had just happened. I could barely stand, and saw movement all around with people getting ready for the next pitch. In the flurry of action, they had removed my table and decorations so that I may collect them outside the filming studio. Once I stepped out, I was met with the film crew hovering around my table, asking me to explain the products. I could barely speak, but had just enough sense to capture a photo of that moment.
I am constantly humbled and grateful for the response to the airing of the show. I am grateful to our team of founders, and everyone that has worked with Diggn'It, past and present. I am grateful for our community, since they lift us up, and I am grateful to our families who supported us when we gave birth and nurtured our young company. We couldn’t have done it without you. And last but not least I am grateful to God, for watching out for us and guiding us through this ongoing journey called life.