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18th July 2017

Why We Turned Down $500k On Shark Tank Australia

In July 2017, Sleeping Duck founders Selvam Sinnappan and Winston Wijeyeratne entered the feeding frenzy that is Channel Ten’s Shark Tank Australia. After some intense grilling and negotiations, we were offered a $500,000 deal from Steve Baxter. Which we then turned down.

We know plenty of viewers will think we’re crazy for walking away from a half-million dollar investment. But the reality is when you’re giving away a stake in your business, it needs to be right, and that night it wasn’t.

Why we entered Shark Tank

Before we get into the details, we thought we should share why we decided to go on Shark Tank in the first place. Since we hatched Sleeping Duck in 2014, we’ve been actively trying to change the way the mattress industry works. Sleeping Duck came about because of our own frustrations with the process of buying a mattress. Over the years we’ve worked hard to make our buying experience as smooth and risk-free as possible, nurturing every single person who’s come into our (virtual) store. We even pioneered the 100-night trial.

But with new brands entering the market all the time, along with the massive challenges that come with going up against the mattress industry heavyweights, we felt it was the right time to find experienced investors to help Sleeping Duck grow.

In the weeks leading up to the show we discussed whom of the Sharks we’d most like to make a deal with. Janine Allis and Steve Baxter were at the top of our list, based on their experience. But we thought any of the Sharks would be able to contribute valuable insight and connections to help us reach our goals.

We went on the show asking for $500,000 in return for a 5% stake in Sleeping Duck, with a valuation of $10 million.

We knew we were asking for a higher investment than what you normally see on the show. And we knew going in we’d have to be prepared to back up our valuation and show the Sharks why Sleeping Duck was a good investment.

The half-million dollar offer

We received two offers on the night. Andrew Banks was first off the bat, offering us a deal that included an ongoing royalty until the investment was paid off.

Then Steve Baxter came in and made us an offer of $500,000 for a 15% stake in the business. This effectively cut the valuation of Sleeping Duck by a third, from $10 million to $3.3 million.

While this was a lower valuation than we had wanted, we thought Steve probably knew the most about the online mattress business and would have valuable insights to help us grow.

We went back into the tunnel to discuss the deal. We decided to counter with a 10% stake for $500,000, at a valuation of $5 million.

But when we went back to face the Sharks, the feeding frenzy began. Glenn Richards said we shouldn’t take the deal because all Steve wanted was to take the brand and sell it to a competitor. Steve was pretty upfront about this, saying we were a prime target for takeover.

We reiterated the work that had gone into developing the mattress, our technological investments and our plans for Sleeping Duck: how we see it as more than just mattresses.

We believe our product will revolutionise the way mattresses are bought and thought of... and we have the reviews to back it up.

Why we turned down the deal and where to now

In the end, we couldn’t move forward with the deal because the future the Sharks saw for us didn’t align with where we wanted to take Sleeping Duck.

For us now it’s about continuing to up-end the industry with what we know is the most advanced mattress on the market.

The next evolution of the mattress industry

If you are reading this article, you may have bought a mattress before or are currently in the market for a mattress and are finding it very difficult to choose the mattress for you.

There are a bunch of confusing sales tactics and there are a large array of technologies used. Choosing what is right for you can be one of the most daunting tasks especially if you cannot return it.

From our point of view, we think the next evolution of this industry is 'individualisation'.

For a large percentage of our customers, shopping for a new mattress revolves around a need to improve health and well being. We all come in different shapes, sizes and have different sleep habits, which means to truly get something that is suitable it needs to be tailored to your unique needs.

A mattress that can be tailored for performance

Our mattress comes with a 100 night free trial. The mattress has a modular construction – which means that during your trial you can adjust the firmness and feel of your mattress with a simple pull of the zip. If for example you have lower back pain, we can make it firmer in that region only, and if you have shoulder pain, we can soften it in that region.

Depending on how well you are sleeping, we uniquely tailor the mattress to get you the best night's sleep possible.

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Torin DidenkoBedroom connoisseur

Torin loves all things about the bedroom and given that we spend a third of our lives in bed, it’s therefore all the more crucial that our bedroom should be as beautiful – and practical – as possible.

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About us

Hatched in 2014, Sleeping Duck was founded by Melbourne-based engineers Winston Wijeyeratne and Selvam Sinnappan. Frustrated by the expensive, tedious, and confusing process of buying a bed, the duo took on the mattress industry.

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