Since I’ve now been blogging for a full decade, I frequently see news stories that update news stories I posted about in the way back.
The latest was an article from The Boston Globe last week about Alan Kaufman and his Nubrella, the subject of a post I did in 2010.
For those who haven’t memorized everything I’ve written, the Nubrella was the umbrella reimagined, a hands-free helmet like apparatus. When I wrote about it, I was considering investing in a Nubrella – which I really want to type as “NUMBrella” for some reason – rather than continuing to buy a couple of crummy umbrellas each year. At the time of my writing, Kaufman was about to appear on Shark Tank. And I was going to watch to see what happened:
I will definitely be tuning the Tank in when they consider Kaufman's Nubrella. And I'm absolutely considering a purchase - although, at $49.99 plus shipping, that's a good 5 or 6 crappy, fall-apart umbrellas from Filene's....
Plus there's the goofy-looking factor. Do I have the courage to be seen in one? Can I, for once, be an early adopter of brave new technology, rather than a second-waver?
Stay tuned. I'm seriously considering a purchase. (I will be ordering the one with the black back, which looks like a cross between a gun turret in a WWII bomber, and an Amish buggy. What's not to like?)
Well, I guess I get to award myself a couple of Pinocchios here. Not only did I not watch Kaufman on Shark Tank, I did not seriously consider a purchase – at least not starting the minute after I hit “publish” and uploaded the post. (Meanwhile, forgive a bit of a sniff-sniff boohoo-ery here. In 2010, I was buying all those crappy umbrellas at Filene’s Basement, which went out of business in 2011. Fortunately, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx, or Staples in a pinch, are good sources for cheap near-disposable umbrellas. Still, having shopped there for my whole entire life up until 2011, I do miss me my Filene’s B.)
Anyway, Kaufman is back in the news. In fact, he’s suing the Sharks.
By now, most of us know better than to take “reality” TV at face value. But Alan Kaufman, a Newton entrepreneur who pitched his hands-free “Nubrella” on ABC’s “Shark Tank” back in 2010, claims in a lawsuit that the show’s producers didn’t just fudge a few inconsequential details for the sake of drama — they lied about nearly everything.
A verbal agreement made on air that would have seen two of the “sharks,” or judges, invest $200,000 in Nubrella? Kaufman said he never got a penny. And a follow-up episode in which Nubrella appears to sign a distribution deal with The Sharper Image? Completely fabricated, he claimed.
Kaufman claims these distortions — along with re-runs of the show that depict an outdated version of his product — have brought him to the brink of ruin. So last week, he filed a pro-se lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against the media and production companies behind Shark Tank, seeking compensation for lost investment opportunities, a cut of the revenue earned each time an episode featuring Nubrella airs, and a clear label indicating when the episodes originally ran. (Source: Boston Globe)
Is Kaufman the only person on the face of the earth who doesn’t get that “reality” shows are anything but? And after they treated him so shabbily – the two Sharks who said they were considering investing in him ended up blowing him off – why did he agree to make a follow up, ‘where are they now’ episode, in which he’s seen making a deal with Sharper Image. (Which he now claims had such a rotten reputation that they were the last place he’d have done a deal with.)
Anyway, Nubrella is running out of money, and Kaufman believes that the fact that neither the Shark money nor any deal with Sharper Image materialized is making investors reluctant to smile on his Nubrella.
There are a number of things that Kaufman has going against him.
First, he’s representing himself. I suspect that whatever defense Shark Tank mounts will be anything other than pro se.
Second, he had sued the show earlier, and:
…accepted a $20,000 settlement from Sony. His new lawsuit focuses on the damages allegedly caused by frequent re-runs of the episodes since then.
I’m just a pro se blogger, but I’m guessing that this isn’t a really strong legal leg to umbrella stand on. Don’t we all know a rerun when we see one?
On the other hand, a couple of the other entrepreneurs who’ve gotten into the tank with the Sharks have also had issues with them.But no one, it seems, has been as litigious as the Kaufman.
The Nubrella look has improved over the years: it’s not quite as ridiculous looking as it once was. It’s grown up. It looks like something that an amateur drone operator, or a birder, might wear. And Kaufman’s positioning instincts also seem to have sharpened up. He’s now more narrowly focused, aiming his ware at “people who work outside: photographers, construction workers, and so on.”
Anyway, both money and inventory are running low for Nubrella. Alas, because there’s supposedly a big deal in the making:
A major fast food chain is considering a large order, he said; its workers, who use tablet computers outside to take orders from cars stuck in long drive-through lines, will wear Nubrellas when it’s raining, to protect the devices.
Having worked for many years in a seat of our pants tech company, I know those ‘prosperity is just around the corner’ deals quite well. Good luck with that.
In the meantime, despite all that’s happened, Kaufman would like to appear again on Shark Tank.
“Just be fair. Tell the truth,” Kaufman pleaded. “Put me on the air and let’s tell the audience, ‘this is the new design, and I never did a deal with Sharper Image.’ ”
Now that episode I’ll tune in to.