The Shark Tank cast

33 Key “Shark Tank” Terms: Learn Important Business English Vocabulary as You Watch

Do you like watching “Shark Tank”? I know I certainly do. With zany (funny/silly) pitches and powerful Sharks, the show is often thrilling to watch as high value deals are made at a moment’s notice.

So why not use a show you already like to learn English business and investment terms? Call them “Shark Tank” terms. If you’re in investment or want to get into venture capital, you absolutely need to learn this list.

Read on to learn the key vocabulary of business, finance and investment vocabulary, all by watching “Shark Tank.”


The “Shark Tank” Guide to Business English Investment Terms

1. Angel Investor

Wow, wouldn’t every entrepreneur love to have an angel investor?

What is this? To define it look at the two words. The first is “angel.” An angel is a being that acts as a messenger of God. People sometimes believe that they have a guardian angel. This is a being who looks after them in difficult situations.

An investor is someone who puts money into a business with the hopes of getting something back.

Put the two together and you get the definition. An angel investor is a proven investor who comes in to help the business at an early stage by investing time and/or money.

We never would have made it without our angel investor. He really helped us keep afloat in the early days.

2. Bridge Loan

Ahh. Here’s another term that you can define by looking at the separate words.

A bridge is something that connects point A to point B. Without the bridge it would take you a long time to get from point A to point B, or you would not be able to get there at all. Imagine getting to Marin County from San Francisco without the Golden Gate Bridge (without taking a plane, that is).

Now for the word “loan.” This is when someone gives you money that you have to pay back.

So now let’s put the two words together. In the business world a bridge loan is a loan that people take out for a short period of time to hold them over until they obtain a more permanent form of financing.

We’re in the process of renovating a house that we plan to sell afterwards. We’re looking for a bridge loan to cover the cost of the materials that will cover us until we sell the house.

3. Budget

Most people have a budget of some sort for their home life or their business. This is a plan which shows them how much money they can spend based on how much money they earn.

Companies also have budgets, or at least the successful ones do. Companies look at how much they expect to earn and how much they can spend based on their earning estimates.

Our budget doesn’t allow for the marketing expenditures we need to increase awareness.

4. Burn Rate

The rate at which a company is spending its capital, often expressed as a monthly or yearly figure.

It may sound strange, but new companies go through a lot of money, so a high burn rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the eyes of the Sharks.

Our burn rate is unsustainable. We’re burning through two million dollars a month.

5. Common Stock

Common stock represents ownership in a company.

People who have common stock can vote on members of the board of directors and receive payments in the form of dividends. The amount of the dividend is based on the company’s performance and how much stock is owned.

Person A: You seem to be exceptionally happy today. What’s up?

Person B: I helped elect Acme Inc.’s new CEO.

Person A: No way. How did that happen?

Person B: Well, I own common stock

Person A: I heard about that. The CEO was elected by a combination of common stock owners and the vote of the executive team. That’s a pretty radical approach. I hope it works out well for you.

6. Capital

In the business world, capital is the wealth that a company has from money or other assets (things that it owns).

Our capital comes from our own savings and donations from relatives.

7. Cash Flow

The cash flow is the amount of money flowing in and out of a business.

My job is to estimate the month to month cash flow of the business.

8. Convertible Note

A type of short-term debt that converts into equity at a later date, often used in early-stage financing.

We’re willing to give you a convertible noteso if you win, we win with equity

9. Cost

When a company refers to its costs, it’s talking about the amount of money spent for goods and services. This also includes money spent on time and labor.

Many companies have outsourced the production of goods in an effort to keep the cost of production down.

10. Customer Acquisition

Acquiring customers is the goal of a company’s marketing efforts. Getting customers is called customer acquisition.

How will this new advertising improve our customer acquisition rate?

11. Due Diligence

When an investor is interested in putting money in a business, the business undergoes something called due diligence.

This is when the investor checks the company out to see if it is a good investment. The process involves the investor looking at the major areas of the company’s business plan to judge whether it is realistic.

So far so good, but you know the due diligence process can take several months. 

12. Equity

The word equity is heard all the time during “Shark Tank.” So what are they talking about? They’re talking about ownership in the company. Its investments in which the investor get part (or entire) ownership in a company.

Can you believe that? He just turned down an equity investment from an industry leader.

13. Exit Strategy

The planned approach for a startup to sell its stake in the company to investors, typically through an acquisition or an initial public offering (IPO).

I’m willing to go in on this deal with you, Mark, as long as we know our exit strategy.

14. Expenditure

Expenditures are the amount of money a company spends.

We have to be careful. Our expenditures are already beginning to exceed our projected income.

15. Franchise

When a company gives someone else the right to sell goods or services under their name, the seller owns a franchise.

The franchise owner pays a certain amount of money in exchange for being able to use the company’s name and benefit from its advertising and reputation. In exchange, the franchise owner has to follow specific rules.

Person A: I was thinking of starting my own company, but I don’t really want to have to do all the work it takes to create awareness. It’s really hard these days.

Person B: Why don’t you buy into a franchise? Then you can just build on the good name the company already has.

Person A: I guess there are benefits to being a franchisee

16. Harvest

This is a term that you might be accustomed to hearing in the world of agriculture. Farmers plant crops and when they’re ready, they harvest and sell them. Well the term has just about the same meaning in the business world.

In this case, an investor(s) sells a privately held company for cash or stock in a publicly held company, thus getting the benefits from their investment.

Don’t do it. They’re just going to invest in us and when the time is right, implement a harvest strategy.

17. IPO

The IPO or Initial Public Offering is the dream of many start-ups. This is when a privately owned company goes public and sells its shares to the public.

We have so many people who are interested in investing in the company, I wonder if it’s time to sell shares to the public in an IPO.

18. Leveraged Buyout

leveraged buyout occurs when a company uses a significant amount of borrowed money to become a controlling interest in another company (the target company). Often the target company’s assets serve as collateral for the borrowed money.”

There’s no way that management didn’t know that there was going to be a leveraged buyout. They just kept the news from us.

19. MVP (Minimum Value Product)

The version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.

Let’s call a demo meeting as soon as our MVP‘s ready for review.

20. NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement)

You don’t have to be an entrepreneur to hear this term. Whenever you work with someone who has a product or process that they want to make sure you don’t share with others, you may have to sign a non-disclosure agreement—an agreement that says that you won’t give information about the product or project to anyone else. In other words, you agree to not disclose information.

Before we proceed, I have to ask you to sign this NDA.

21. Purchase Order

A purchase order (PO) is a document a buyer gives a seller detailing the products or services the seller is to provide to the buyer.

I didn’t order that. Look, here’s my copy of the purchase order. I don’t see any mention of this product here.

22. Patent

When people appear on “Shark Tank” with unique products or inventions, the potential investors will almost always ask one question, “Do you have a patent on this product?”

A patent gives the product’s creator or the inventor exclusive rights to the product or invention for a specific period of time. During that time period, others can’t make the product or invention and sell it as their own.

Is there a patent, or at least a patent pending, on this product?

23. Pitch Deck

A presentation that provides an overview of a business, its market and its potential for growth, typically used in meetings with investors.

We’ve got to update our pitch deck with the new product images.

24. Royalty

When someone has a patent or copyright to a product one hopes that they don’t sell it for a flat fee. Instead it would be better for them to get royalties. You know, like authors do.

Some people have gotten really rich off of royalties. That’s because the creator gets money every time someone buys or uses the product or service.

Person A: We are willing to pay a flat fee.

Person B: Then there’s no deal. I want royalties.

25. Runaway

The amount of time a startup can operate before running out of money, usually measured in months.

With our current burn rate, our runaway is June of next year.

26. Seed Financing

Seed financing is the small amount of financing an entrepreneur or inventor seeks to prove that their concept works. It can come in three different rounds. The first round is Series A, the second is Series B and the third is Series C.

We’re in the process of preparing our pitch to obtain seed financing.

27. Stake

When you have a stake in something, you’re involved in the outcome in some way. The same is true when you have a stake in a business. That means that you have a share or interest in a business.

Keep me abreast of the situation. I have a large stake in this company. 

28. Term Sheet

A non-binding agreement outlining the basic terms and conditions under which an investment will be made.

I’ll get our term sheet to your assistant by Friday and then we can discuss.

29. Trademark

A trademark is a name or a symbol, or even a motto, that’s distinctive and legally helps you recognize a company or its services or products.

Be careful with that. Since your blog is for-profit I’m not sure you can use that image. It’s protected by a trademark.

30. Value

The value of a company is its estimated monetary worth.

So, what is your company valued at?

31. Valuation

The estimated worth of a startup or company, often calculated based on factors like revenue, market potential and comparable company analysis.

With a ten million valuation, a 10% stake in our company will cost one million.

32. Venture Capitalist

If you have a small or medium sized business that needs funds, but is too risky for other investors, you may turn to a venture capitalist. That’s what they’re there for.

Venture capitalists started paying much more attention to business plans after the dot com bust.

33. Warrants

Investors, who are not employees, are sometimes given the right to buy common stock shares at a fixed price for a period of time. Even though they have the right to do this, they don’t have to act upon it.

They tried to sweeten the deal by offering warrants.

How to Understand “Shark Tank”

Every “Shark Tank” contestant begins on the show in the same way.

They introduce themselves and their businesses, and they also indicate how much of an investment they’re looking for and what percentage stake in the profits they’re offering the sharks.

In order to understand what’s happening in each episode, you’ll need to understand these introductions. Try to watch as many of these as possible on YouTube to practice!

What Strategies Can You Use to Learn from “Shark Tank?”

The fact that you’re interested in business and finance gives you a big advantage in learning business English vocabulary from the show. This fact will motivate you to watch and pay attention to it. That’s an important first step.

To really learn English from the show, simply watching it casually won’t be enough. You’ll have to take a more active role. Here are some tips for you to try.

1. Acquaint yourself with the show’s format. The structure will help you find patterns. The information will fit together and help you connect words with meanings—much like a puzzle.

2. Listen to everyone on the show. Listen to everyone, including the announcer, the entrepreneurs and the sharks. You can learn from the repetition of terms, the announcer’s summaries of the situations, examples that apply to the terms, answers to questions and the conversations between the sharks.

3. Watch some episodes with a pen at hand. When you decide to watch and take notes, you should choose to watch an episode that you have already recorded, or that is available on the ABC website or YouTube. This allows you to slow things down, rewind and catch those important terms that you may have missed during the live airing of the show. Listen for key terms and pay attention to how they’re used in context. You can always go back and look them up in a dictionary later if you don’t know the meanings of the words.

But, hey, don’t wait until the next episode to start learning, Read on and get a head start.


Now it’s your turn.

Armed with this list, you’re ready to add terms to your list as you watch episodes of “Shark Tank.”

Remember to keep paper and pencil nearby and put the words to use to keep them in your mind.

Happy vocabulary building!

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