UCD graduate dives into the ‘Shark Tank’

By May 4, 2011

This week, Jason Lucash will swim with the sharks — and hopefully do business with one.

The UC Davis graduate appears on Friday’s episode of “Shark Tank,” the ABC reality program in which entrepreneurs try to convince a panel of wealthy business tycoons to invest in their products.

Lucash, 27, who launched OrigAudio in 2009, will pitch several of his company’s products, including Fold N’ Play recycled speakers — portable speakers that allow users to enjoy music while on the go.

“They either love your product, or they’re going to eat you alive,” Lucash said in a phone interview this week from Gainesville, Fla., where his fiancee, fellow UCD grad Ryan Fussell, is pursuing her Ph.D.

Lucash is prohibited from revealing the results of the show — which was taped last fall — until it airs at 8 p.m. Friday. Only his business partner, Mike Szymczak, is aware of the outcome.

“My family doesn’t know; my fiancee doesn’t even know,” Lucash said. “I can’t wait for this thing to finally air.”

Lucash, a Danville native who graduated from UCD with a degree in managerial economics in 2006, said friends had encouraged him to try out for “Shark Tank,” but he didn’t think much about it.

That is, until one of the show’s producers came calling after seeing the Fold N’ Play speakers on Time magazine’s “Top 50 Best Inventions of 2009” list.

Lucash submitted an audition tape and beat out 25,000 competitors for one of 21 slots on the show’s second season. By late October, he was on a flight to Los Angeles to tape his pitch.

On the show, contestants present their products, then ask the “sharks” — including real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran, infomercial industry pioneer Kevin Harrington, technology innovator Robert Herjavec, fashion icon Daymond John and financial expert Kevin O’Leary — to invest in their businesses in exchange for a percentage of the company.

“It’s super intimidating,” said Lucash, who requested a $150,000 investment in exchange for a 15 percent share of OrigAudio.

While he couldn’t say much more about the negotiations, he did offer one cryptic clue: “There might have been a shark fight.”

One of the highlights for Lucash was pitching his product to “guest shark” Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, whom Lucash describes as “an entrepreneurial idol of mine.”

He said Cuban offered him the following advice: “It’s not always about paying yourself or taking a huge profit. It’s about doing what you love.”

“It definitely hit home for me,” Lucash said. “It’s by far the coolest business experience I’ve been a part of.”

OrigAudio seems on track for success even without the “Shark Tank” exposure. In addition to the Fold N’ Play speakers that earned the Time magazine nod, the company last year sold about 125,000 of its product Rock-It, a portable vibration device that sticks to any object and turns it into a speaker system.

The company also recently introduced “Doodle,” which enables customers to upload artwork, images and designs to create custom speakers, and signed a contract with Zazzle.com to offer custom merchandise such as shoes, skateboards and iPad cases.

“We think 2011 is going to be our year, definitely,” Lucash said.

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048. Follow her at www.twitter.com/laurenkeene

Lauren Keene

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