What Really Came Of VerbalizeIt From Shark Tank?

Sometimes things on "Shark Tank" just take off. The product is ingenious, the sharks love it, and the inventors get the capital they need to see their idea take off. We love seeing these wins. If anyone's washed their dishes with the amazing Scrub Daddy, you already know that "Shark Tank" can make things happen. We certainly saw this with the brand Cincha, a company that designs straps to secure your bag to your suitcase handle. Thanks to "Shark Tank" and a great deal with Barbara Corcoran, Cincha blew up and continues to thrive. Other times, a brand flails even after doing well on the ABC reality show. This was the case with the Space Traveler Kid's Car Seat Cover. They were never able to get the idea off the ground, largely because of production issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another innovative idea that aired on "Shark Tank" was VerbalizeIt, an app that promised to link travelers with in-person translators instantly, so that travelers weren't stuck relying on technological translation, which can often lose the nuances of a language. Innovators Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda, who met at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, pitched their translator app to the sharks. Their episode aired in May 2013 on season 4 of the show. Frankel had the idea for the app after getting sick in China; even though he knew what medication he needed, he couldn't communicate effectively with the pharmacist to get the help he needed. So the idea was born.

What happened to VerbalizeIt on Shark Tank?

Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda made their pitch on "Shark Tank" in the hopes of securing an investment of $250,000 for 15% of their company. Frankel and Sarda had obviously worked hard before their "Shark Tank" episode to make sure that their company was already a well-oiled machine. When they pitched their idea to the sharks, they already had over 2,000 translators working for them and claimed that a live translator could be reached within 15 seconds. They even had a translator with them for their pitch. The VerbalizeIt app was free, but it cost up to $1 per minute to use. They were also able to report to the sharks that they had made $10,000 in two weeks. At that time, VerbalizeIt had only been on the market for one month.

The sharks had questions about VerbalizeIt. Mark Cuban was wary of the pitch. Based on the math, translators were only making about $15 an hour by working for VerbalizeIt, and Cuban didn't think high-caliber translators, ones who could work on business deals, would work for so low.

Despite some skepticism, three sharks made an offer. Cuban offered $250,000 for a 25% stake. Kevin O'Leary offered $250,000 for a 20% stake, while Robert Herjavec offered the same terms as Cuban. They ended up picking O'Leary.

What happened to VerbalizeIt after Shark Tank?

While Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda came to an agreement with Kevin O'Leary, the deal for VerbalizeIt never actually went through. This isn't a totally unusual process on "Shark Tank." Behind the scenes, the inventors and the investor go through the paperwork and one party ends up pulling out during the fine print. It appears that it was Frankel and Sarda who pulled out of the deal rather than O'Leary. Instead, Frankel and Sarda sought out more funding and they were successful in achieving this.

When they were on "Shark Tank," Mark Cuban urged them to lean more into the business side of translation rather than personal travel needs, and it looked like Frankel and Sarda took Cuban's advice. After their time on the reality show, the two channeled their energy into creating more of a business-focused model. They expanded their reach to include translations for videos and websites. The company thrived with this new focus.

Is VerbalizeIt still in business?

While VerbalizeIt didn't get the "Shark Tank" boost from a deal, the company continued to thrive anyway. Only three years after their episode aired, Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda were able to sell their company. In 2016, VerbalizeIt was acquired by Smartling, a cloud-based translation company that specializes in helping businesses with effective communication. According to Smartling's website, they wanted to acquire VerbalizeIt in order to focus on translation strategies for video, audio, and web content.

According to a press release from Smartling, Frankel and Sarda would stay on in the company. Frankel would work on partnership alliances while Sarda would focus on product experience. "Smartling's acquisition of VerbalizeIt brings together two world-class technology companies and a leadership lineup of entrepreneurs unrivaled in the industry," Jack Welde, CEO of Smartling, said in the statement. "By joining forces, we're taking the language services industry by storm. We now offer the most comprehensive enterprise translation management platform on the market today. No other company can help ambitious brands access new markets, reach more customers and provide greater value than we can." The founders also appeared to be happy with the sale. Frankel said, "Technology should enable human-to-human connections, not impede or replace them." He added that the acquisition would make that possible.

What's next for VerbalizeIt's founders?

Ryan Frankel and Kunal Sarda were able to get VerbalizeIt off the ground and sell the company only three years after their episode aired on "Shark Tank." When Smartling acquired their company in 2016, both Frankel and Sarda stayed on, but not forever.

According to Frankel's LinkedIn profile, he stayed with Smartling until October 2016 and then went on to other ventures. He published a book in November 2016 called "The Making of an Entrepreneur: Lessons from a Winding Journey Towards Entrepreneurship." In 2019, he founded an app called This App Saves Lives. The app is free and it rewards drivers with points for focused driving. When a driver doesn't use their phone behind the wheel, they accumulate points and eventually get free gifts.

Meanwhile, according to Sarda's LinkedIn profile, he stayed with Smartling until January 2020, working as the vice president of customer engagement. Then, in January 2022, he co-founded Arya, a platform that assists in management and compensation. His focus now has to do with payroll and how people are compensated for their labor. So these two innovators obviously aren't slow to the draw when it comes to new, successful ideas! Meanwhile, VerbalizeIt continues to be a key part of Smartling's performance.