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The eighth season of ABC’s “Shark Tank” opened on September 23, 2016, and the final pitch of the episode was arguably the best one. There, then 16-year-old Trisha Prabhu solicited an investment in her start-up, ReThink, which built a mobile app designed to detect the typing of abusive language and persuade the writer to think twice about sending the hurtful message in question. Some of the Sharks were skeptical that it was a viable or investable business, even with getting schools or mobile carriers involved, as opposed to being a potentially viable nonprofit organization. Still, backed by studies that showed kids largely did take the app’s advice, Prabhu’s pitch was impressive enough to get multiple offers before agreeing to a two-Shark deal
ReThink is fairly different from a lot of “Shark Tank” products, as it’s less likely to benefit financially from the “Shark Tank effect” because the consumer-facing version is free and the real money is to be made at scale with schools and carriers. With that in mind, how has it done?
What happened to ReThink on Shark Tank?
When she entered the titular “Shark Tank” in 2016, then-high school junior Trisha Prabhu was seeking $100,000 for 20% of her mobile app startup, ReThink. The ReThink app is a safeguard to keep kids from sending bullying messages or social media posts by analyzing the text input.
Barbara Corcoran had the obvious question: Why would bullies install this on their phones? Prabhu responded by explaining that they wouldn’t, which is why ReThink targets parents, schools, and, as she’d note later in the segment, potentially mobile phone carriers who could pre-install the app. Robert Herjavec then asked the other obvious question: Who’s to say that bullies won’t just click through the warning and send abusive messages? Prabhu responded by saying she initially had the same concerns and conducted “a 1,500 trial study” that showed teenagers took the prompt’s advice 93% of the time.
Barbara opted out thinking that it was more of a charity than a business, with Kevin O’Leary following for similar reasons and Robert joining them because he felt it wasn’t particularly distinct from existing content filtering software. The bomb that Prabhu turned down an offer from T-Mobile shocked the Sharks, but she explained that she felt it was too early and that she didn’t want a single carrier to have exclusivity. Daymond John felt there was a viable business and offered the requested $100,000, but for 30%, only for Lori Greiner to counter by offering the deal Trisha asked for and asking other Sharks to join in. Mark Cuban, seemingly feeling he could help land a carrier deal, was happy to split the investment with Lori, and Trisha said they had a deal.
ReThink after Shark Tank
It seems as if something derailed the deal that Trisha Prabhu solicited from Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner to invest in ReThink. Both Sharks have official websites that list their “Shark Tank” investments, and ReThink is not on either Mark’s or Lori’s. This isn’t exactly out of the ordinary, though. A 2023 Forbes analysis showed that, of the 112 businesses from seasons eight through 13 that responded to their inquiries, “roughly half those deals never close and another 15% end up with different terms once the cameras are turned off.”
“Well, in general, I’ll tell you – it changes from year to year, but I’ll give you a macro view,” Robert Herjavec told Motley Fool in 2021. “In general, probably about 50% of the deals close. As the show goes on, the reason they don’t close has changed. Meaning, when the show first started, we had a very unsophisticated level of entrepreneur.” He added that these days, there’s much more due diligence than there was early on, so the deals that don’t close are mainly due to the business owner having second thoughts. “People can change their mind; it’s not binding,” he said. “it’s a verbal negotiation. But most of the deals are pretty true to what they are.”
In 2020, while a junior at Harvard, Prabhu secured $300,000 for ReThink from the Elevate Prize Foundation. When she spoke to the Boston Globe about the grant, the newspaper covered the “Shark Tank” investment as if it had closed, though it doesn’t explicitly quote her saying that. Shortly after her episode aired, though, she was named a “Health Hero” by WebMD at their annual awards gala.
Is ReThink still in business?
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As of this writing, ReThink is still an active company, with its apps still readily available in both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. The Android version has been updated much more recently, though, by a count of about seven months. The update history for the iOS version shows that before the previous update, in January 2022, ReThink had not been updated in over four years. The user reviews on both platforms are on the positive end of mixed, with the iOS version averaging 3.1 stars out of five and the Android version slightly higher at 3.5 stars. The most common complaints include the app missing obvious, common insults and the ReThink keyboard being inferior to the alternatives.
Prabhu does not appear to have updated the ReThink website much in the last few years, but she’s been busy, as she was selected to be a Rhodes Scholar in 2021 and continues to live in England as part of the program. And though most of her press clippings dried up after the 2020 grant, that changed recently when ReThink Citizens, the nonprofit arm of ReThink that launched earlier in 2023, got $50,000 from Prince Harry and Meghan Sussex’s Archewell Foundation. The grant was specifically earmarked for expanding ReThink into the Caribbean. “We understand some of the internet’s most pressing challenges and have experienced both the positives and the harms of the internet,” Prabhu told the Chicago Tribune. “But we also have the knowledge to make changes and we need to put young people in the driver’s seat.”
The Chicago Tribune article, though, does not mention “Shark Tank” once.