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‘Shark Tank” ideas that have come out of Columbia

Entrepreneurs come from everywhere, including The Midlands. Read about three products that have been featured or inspired by the show “Shark Tank.”

Van Robotics.png

ABii, a product of Van Robotics, was featured on “Shark Tank” in season 11. | Photo via the Van Robotics website.

City Editor Sam here. One of my favorite shows to watch when I’m not caught in a series is “Shark Tank.” I’m always trying to think of cool, helpful products that would be the next great “Shark Tank” idea, and it got me thinking about the ideas that have come out of the Midlands. Here are three local products and entrepreneurs that were featured on (or inspired by) “Shark Tank.”

Beaux Up

Jake Johnson, a former River Bluff High School student, appeared on “Shark Tank” featuring his twist on a classic bow tie. The company made bow tie halves with a universal clasp so people could mix + match different patterns to create unique combinations of bow ties.

Fun fact: this was Johnson’s second time on “Shark Tank,” after appearing on the show in 2010 when he was eight years old showcasing Flipoutz — a trading bracelet company.

GrowCo event

The latest GrowCo event was a pitch presentation that took place in the Boyd Plaza and featured a similar style to a “Shark Tank.” | Photo by COLAtoday team

ABii from Van Robotics

ABii — a product of Van Robotics — is an AI learning robot used by students in 36 states and eight countries to help with math + reading tutoring.

Laura Boccanfuso, the CEO of Van Robotics, got her PhD from USC in Computer Science and Engineering, was featured on season 11 of “Shark Tank,” and is currently on the board of the Boyd Innovation Center, powered by GrowCo — a local organization for entrepreneurial startups in Columbia. Watch Laura’s pitch.

Musical Ladder System

Though never featured on an episode of “Shark Tank,” owner Marty Fort met Mark Cuban at the Inc. Magazine, GrowCo conference + was encouraged to patent his musical idea and license it to others.

He now operates the largest community music school in SC, Columbia Arts Academy, oversees ~70 music teachers, and helps schools across the US and Canada teach students music lessons.

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