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Plate Topper Update – Bowl Topper

plate topper update

Michael Tseng from season 4  gave me a call to give me a Plate Topper update last week. In case you don’t remember, he was the guy who had arguably the biggest “train wreck” pitch in Shark Tank history. He went from a million dollar offer all the way down to a 90K offer that ultimately didn’t go through. In an interview with Shark Tank Blog last year, Michael detailed his plans for Plate Topper. He had potential for a huge roll-out with WalMart and Plate Topper was selling well on QVC, but in 2013, Michael found it necessary that Plate Topper update its product marketing strategy.

Plate Topper Update on WalMart

“The WalMart experience was sobering,” says Michael, “we had Plate Topper in 1000 stores for a one time test run. We worked with a company called New Creature to do in store displays with 120 units per display per store, but it was tough to get traction. At the end of the test period, they told us we hadn’t sold the 3.5 sales per week per store minimum.”

“They wouldn’t release the actual sales figures to us, but the bottom line is we can’t pay for the level of advertising to sustain sales there. Every time our episode had a re-run, we saw a 75% jump in retail sales, but it wasn’t sustainable. Plate Topper sells well on Amazon and QVC, but it’s been tough in terms of business outside those channels. It’s been a mixed bag since the show, we have not sustained a sales presence. I really think QVC is the best way to start  with a product because they house the whole ecosystem from sales to fulfillment.”

New Product: Bowl Topper

Despite the fact Plate Topper is, according to Michael,  “running at a break-even clip,” he’s decided to expand the Plate Topper concept to include a new product: Bowl Topper. The Bowl Topper has the same suction/seal functionality as the Plate Topper, but it’s designed for bowls.

“Food storage industry is stagnant,” Michael continues, “with Plate Topper and Bowl Topper,  we have a complete line of food storage products. Now, we can cover everything. The Bowl Topper is actually more functional for family food storage. We’re reflecting on the process we went through with Plate Topper so we have a game plan for Bowl Topper.”

Michael does indeed have a plan for Bowl Topper. He’s produced a professional online video to help increase consumer awareness and he’s running a crowd funding campaign on IndieGoGo to raise $12K to help alleviate manufacturing costs. People who fund Bowl Topper will receive product on a “pre-order” basis.

“We’re offering product combinations on IndieGoGo priced $10-$15 apart. We’re hoping to get an idea of which combinations are more popular for future packaging options.”

The $12K will also help jump-start the initial manufacturing run for another set of QVC appearances. “I’ve worked with a QVC agent since 2009. They introduce the product to the QVC buyer, then the buyer reviews the product. Each product is subject to a separate review and I don’t make assumptions with buyers anymore. It’s a 24-7 hustle, but  we’re charging ahead with QVC until we have a clear idea how successful it will be.”

“I’ve also had conversations with large companies about licensing, but I feel like I’ve made such a committment that I want to carry on, but it’s definitely something I’d consider.”

Shark Tank Thoughts

Mark Cuban recently gave kudos to Michael in a Business Insider article. Cuban said Michael “was a J.D., Ph.D., and MBA, but he thought he was smarter than all five of us. What I loved about him is that he never quit and kept coming back at us with confidence and eventually got a deal.” Mr. Cuban didn’t mention that Lori and Michael’s deal never materialized.

“Mark Cuban definitely thought I have more degrees than I actually do,” Michael chuckles, “but I am continuing my education. I’m attending a ‘programming boot-camp’ to learn how to code. I’d like to get involved with medical knowledge visualization.”

While there may not be a Plate Topper update segment on the Shark Tank anytime soon, Michael is undeterred. He’s pushing forward with Bowl Topper. I asked him if he had any regrets about how things went down in the Tank.

“Part of the shock of not working with Lori was hard at the time, I’d love to have her star power. The one regret I do have is I wish I hadn’t alienated Daymond. I had an inflated sense of value assuming the WalMart deal went through. At the time, I did my due diligence and I had purchase order financing with WalMart.”

Michael sent along a sample of the Plate Topper and the Bowl Topper, so I’ll be reviewing them soon. As for Michael’s parting words: “I am sure I am much more humble and have a greater appreciation of what it takes to finalize retail deals. In the future, I would never make sales projections on anything but prior month sales.”

About Rob Merlino

Entrepreneur, auteur, raconteur. Rob Merlino is a blogger and writer who enjoys the Shark Tank TV show and Hot Dogs. A father of five who freelances in a variety of publications, Rob has a stable of websites including Shark Tank Blog, Hot Dog Stories, Rob and more.


  1. Juana de la Gaviota says

    I’ve watched the Plate Topper episode twice. If Michael Tseng was arrogant, as was charged by the sharks, they were ten times moreso. Humility? Who among the sharks has even a smidgen of that characteristic?

    What difference does it make anyway if a shark or two made Tseng an offer of a million dollars? They can back out after the show and often do.

    • Always remember: Reality TV = 90% TV + 10% Reality. Michael had issues with Lori’s terms – his lawyer told him not to do the deal. They edit the show to make it appear more dramatic….


      Yh, they can be arrogant because they did not go to him…he came to them. You don’t bite the hand that feeds you and that’s exactly what he did. While watching the show, i became irritated with him myself.

  2. Ok. Just seen this episode. What a twat. For people who want to get a kick start, they seem far too invested in the trivialities of small dollars, and have no understanding of the big picture. This guy is a prime example. I feel a little angry, as people like myself would LOVE this opportunity. One of the ‘rich list’ to assist, with immense amounts of connections and wealth of high end business knowledge. most people don’t understand how hard it is to get those connections. When i discovered that he was raising 12k to develop the ‘bowl topper’ i had to laugh. these people could have given him that out of their back pockets. While there is always more behind the scenes that we aren’t privy too, you can tell if someone is wrong when you see him. Shame. I hope that Michael fella passes control over what he’s doing to someone that will actually make something of it!

    • I know what you are saying. I have two ideas that I feel sure would be successful, and I don’t have the opportunity that he did (Although, to be fair, he did have the product already designed and built and selling, so I give him props on that. I would bet that he had a higher level of support from his family and friends than I do, though. Everyone I know works a normal job for low wages and nobody attended Princeton…)

      Finding someone with the capital to get you started and the connections to make it happen are worth so much. I think Keven’s deal was a good one, since he wouldn’t have to give up any equity. But both Lori and Daymond’s deals were very good. Daymond gave the most money in his deal and only 25% of the company in return. Lori gave nearly as much money for 90% but a promise to lend anything that was required as long as the sales were coming in. She also has a lot of experience in the field.

  3. Scott Allen says

    I am a huge fan of Shark Tank and have seen probably 90% of the episodes since season 1. I also watch episodes on CNBC where most are episodes I have seen before but don’t remember the outcomes. I have learned and understand ALL the do’s and especially the dont’s. Over countless episodes I have seen dozen of horrific train wrecks. Mr. Tseng, who is a doctor and obviously as educated as anybody who usually enters the tank, is maybe the worst train wreck in the history of the show. First, he only offered 5% for 90k. Arguably rule 1 is give enough equity for any Shark to be interested. Coming in asking for 5% showed he was clueless to that important rule in getting a shark. Usually valuation is a major issue and usually the big hurdle. Thus this case is much more painful considering 2 Sharks gave him a higher valuation than he was asking (overlooking the gaffe of only 5% offered). Not only did he get a 900k offer for 30% and then 1 million for 25%. Given the risk of waiting, any viewer knows you quickly close within seconds (possibly quickly asking for 5% less from each and deal but if they stay then immediate deal and done). Tseng then says he has a mysterious offer he won’t tell anybody that he originally thought of asking, but won’t say what that is because despite this coming train wreck Tseng thinks this will somehow stoke a bidding war. WOW. Then he is forced to say what the amount he originally wanted to offer: $750k for the same 5%. So, we went from $90k to $750k for the same 5% that doesn’t get any shark out of bed. Then Tseng actually says he hasn’t changed the offer, actually says that. Cuban offers a nice lifeline asking him what evaluation is worth giving him debt (financing). Tseng, supposedly smart because he graduated UCSF, came back asking for $15 million valuation. Cuban obviously goes out and then proceeds to be confused at his disaster. Then Lauri, only one left, offers $90k at 10% and insults Lauri. He counters asking all the Sharks, who are out, to bid the highest at the 5% valuation. He finally takes a $90k 8% deal with Lauri, which he supposedly nixed later. Probably because the taste of $1 million for only 25% was still giving him nightmares. Now his business has basically failed and he doesn’t have $1 million to at least show for it. However, had he done that deal he would have had $900k or $1 million and 75% or 80% of a business worth millions (maybe tens of millions). This is perhaps the biggest debacle I have ever seen on any business show ever on TV. A little research to watch other shows and know the right things to do to maximize success seems obvious. Yet, it was obvious Tseng came in as if he never had watched 1 episode, didn’t know the tendencies of each Shark, and clearly had zero business sense in every way possible. Then every single situation and detail that came up he made it worse….compounding everything to the point of forever memorable horrific TV moments.

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