My kids' current favorite show is Shark Tank, where budding entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a team of corporate tycoons who double as potential investors. While listening to concepts for, among other things, collapsible kayaks and colored fur spray for dogs, my daughters vigorously interrogate the television.
"What are your yearly sales?" they ask, before Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban makes the same inquiry. Often they throw their hands up in disgust, exclaiming, "I'm out," together with venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary.
"Think you could be on this show?" I asked one evening.
"What, as a shark?" my 12-year-old asked. "I'm not rich enough. Not with my allowance."
"Very funny," I replied. "Could you get the sharks to back you on an idea?"
"Sure," my 17-year-old said. "You just have to be creative and convince them that there's something in it for them."
"Why don't you try it?"
"What? Like, go on the show?"
"No. Find something you're really passionate about. Pitch the idea to mom and myself. If we like it, maybe we'll make an initial investment. Then you can go on the show. "
"You're on!" she said.
The next evening my wife and I sat stoically at the dining room table as my eldest entered through the kitchen.
"Hello, Sharks," she began.
"Please call us mom and dad," my wife said.
"Sorry, "she said. "I'll make it brief. "Vehicular transportation is a multi-billion dollar industry..."
"I know where this is going," my wife said. "Just say it."
"Right," my daughter said. "My idea is called 'A Car for Me.' I'm seeking an initial investment of $13,000 to cover this 2012 Honda Civic I found on Craigslist.
"I'm out," my wife said.
"Give her a chance," I said. Turning to my daughter, I said, "Thirteen grand seems like an awfully large valuation. How much are you putting up?"
"Um, well nothing. At least not now."
"NOTHING," I nearly screamed. "You dare to come into the Shark Tank with NOTHING? Your business model is full of holes. How do you plan to make money? Furthermore, how will I recoup my 100 percent investment?"
"If I have a car, I can get a job," she said. "So $13,000 is really just start-up capital that contributes to my financial well-being. Once I'm operational, I'll drive my sister -- your other daughter -- to soccer practice and sleepovers. Think of the time savings! And sharks, er Mom and Dad, need I remind you of the phrase, 'time equals money'?"
"Okay, you seem like an enthusiastic individual, a real go-getter," I said. "But let's talk inventory."
"What inventory?" she said. "It's ONE car!"
"And what facility will be housing this inventory?"
"Um, our driveway?"
"You don't sound very confident."
"Our driveway, with your permission?"
"That's more like it. What about your supply chain?"
"What does that mean?"
"Are you planning to distribute this commodity?"
"Dad, if that's your tricky way of asking me whether my friends will drive it, the answer is 'no.'"
I leaned back in my chair. "Well, I like some of what I've heard. But I can't commit to $13,000," I said. So here's what I'm offering: $2,000 for something capable of making short trips. In other words, start searching 'Used Chevy Impala' on Craigslist. You pay supplementary costs -- gas, insurance, an iPod dock for your unlistenable techno music -- and I reserve the right to use the car whenever I want, although I doubt that day will occur."
"How about $7,500 and I'll get something in metallic blue, your favorite color?"
"Two thousand is my final offer," I said. "Take it or leave here with nothing."
"I need to think about it," she said, and retreated to the kitchen.
"That concludes this edition of Shark Tank," I said to my wife. We rose from the table just as my 12 year old entered the room.
"I have an idea, too," she said.
"Everybody needs relief during the hot summer months," she began. "And it's a proven fact that swimming is great exercise for middle-aged individuals like yourselves. I'm seeking an in-ground, backyard pool..."
In unison, my wife and I said, "I'm out."