The window industry experienced a first this year, when a familiar face appeared on the ABC television network’s show Shark Tank. Aired January 5, Joe Altieri, president of FlexScreen, pitched his “first and only flexible window screen” to a panel of investors, walking away with a deal for $400,000 in upfront capital, plus a $400,000 line of credit for a 50% stake in the retail side of his business. As you might expect, the impacts go well beyond just financial support. [DWM]’s editors caught up with Altieri to gather the personal side to his experience.

You’re now several weeks past the air date. So far, how are the aftereffects?

Joe Altieri, president of FlexScreen, was featured on Shark Tank in Janaury.

There’s a lot of prep to ensuring that you’re as ready as a company can be to handle this … We were watching the website traffic of all of the companies that aired on the same night as ours, and two of them went down … thankfully ours stayed strong … I have three people in customer service who process retail orders and deal with homeowners. For the first week after, and I’m not exaggerating, 10 hours a day these people did nothing but answer phone calls.

How long do you expect these initial impacts to last?

This can go on forever. That’s the thing about Shark Tank—it isn’t just a Sunday evening thing. It’s on Hulu and ABC.com and I believe it’s the only show that is on 24 hours a day on network TV. So, it’s on constant replay.

When did it first occur to you that you should apply for the show?

Actually, we didn’t. Shark Tank found us … Over the years, I heard over and over, “You should go on Shark Tank. You should go on Shark Tank.” For us, it was just like, “What are the odds that Shark Tank is going to be interested?” We had never even thought about going on the show, when one of its casting producers reached out to us in March of last year. They said, “Hey, we saw you on social media. We did some research on your company. We love your product and we’d love for you guys to be on.” That was the actual email we got. I almost filed it away as a joke, like one of those scams! We were kind of 50/50 on whether or not it was legitimate … When they called and Sony Pictures Studios was on the caller ID, I was like, “Whoa!”

So that was last March. How did things go from there?

Then you go through this process … it’s rigorous … At any time if you don’t check a box off for one of the things they need, you’re just out … There’s a tremendous amount of anxiety that happens, because you’re getting closer and you’re getting closer …

One of the things we noticed includes how the industry’s channels to market seemed to stump the Sharks. Did you feel like you were able to adequately explain to them?

If you’re not deep into the window industry, it is hard to explain it to an outsider … one of the things that is really important for everybody to understand … I think our whole segment was probably 12 to 14 minutes … There’s a lot that happens between then and three sharks wanting to make a deal—hours of it. All of that in between stuff? Unfortunately, it just doesn’t make for good TV … Lori [Greiner] was the one who 100% understood the business. She understood that you can’t sell a window screen to a window manufacturer for $70. She understood that they all have to be different sizes.

Did you hear from any Monday morning quarterbacks after the show’s airing?

Oh yeah … If you go online, of course everything that goes on Shark Tank gets critiqued like you wouldn’t believe … of course, as soon as you air, there are 10,000 people saying how they could run something better, based off of the 14 minutes they actually saw. You have to take all that with a grain of salt and have thick skin through all of it.

How did their decision to fund the retail side of your business change things?

It’s changed the value proposition to a lot of window dealers and also window manufacturers … Now the demand has looped around to where homeowners want it. As a result, window dealers want it, which means now window manufacturers have to have it. We’ve seen this just in the past few weeks … That’s a dramatic shift from us trying to push demand out through manufacturers. Now it’s being pulled through them.

How about your personal life? Is dad now a rock star?

One of the things that my wife and I have been very careful of is to make sure that we have engaged our kids throughout this entire process—from the growth of the business through Shark Tank … We don’t want to set unrealistic expectations for them. Shark Tank is a one in a million thing. And yes, dad worked hard and dad had a great idea, but there’s just so much that is just sheer luck … Whatever your dream is, do it as best as you can and you’ll be a success. You don’t have to go on national TV. Those things are just so rare and we’re so fortunate. And we have a tremendous amount of gratitude.

Has the experience made you want to get back in the garage, as an inventor?

It is so weird to call me an inventor. It still doesn’t ring right in my ears … But yes, it does … One of the things that I’m challenged with right now is my schedule has gotten absolutely insane. I think I’m on 20 flights in the next four weeks … and I still have to run the business

… But yeah, that desire is definitely still in me.

1 Comment

  1. I hope Joe doesn’t forget the “little people” such as GEM Windows who saw Flexscreen early on and immediately promoted it!

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