What Really Came Of Oru Kayak – The Fold-Up Boat From Shark Tank

Big on outdoor adventures, but low on space? That's the exact dilemma budding entrepreneur Anton Willis faced and set out to solve via the Oru Kayak – a fold-up, 100% watertight boat that makes the business of storing and transporting the watercraft easy peasy! "I moved into a studio apartment in San Francisco and had to put my kayak in storage," Willis recalled to CNN Business in 2013 about his lightbulb moment. "And at the same time, I read this magazine article on origami and people doing new and amazing things with folding technologies, and that just got me thinking about if it would be possible to actually build a kayak and fold it up just like a piece of paper." EUREKA!

Following the epiphany, Willis brought on two more founders and partners, Roberto Gutierrez and Ardy Sobhani. The trio of founding fathers set out to raise more capital and secure a deal on — you guessed it — the popular reality television business series, "Shark Tank."

Oru Kayak secured a deal with Robert Herjavec

Row, row, row your [fold-up] boat ... all the way to ABC! Business partners and pals Anton Willis, Roberto Gutierrez, and Ardy Sobhani waltzed onto the set of ABC's "Shark Tank" in 2014 with one goal in mind: secure $500,000 in exchange for a 12% stake in their company, Oru Kayak. But as we all know, all is fair in love and "Shark Tank," and the appearance didn't go exactly as they had hoped.

While all of the "Shark Tank" investors, including Robert Herjavec, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin O'Leary, Daymond John, and Mark Cuban, initially appeared interested and even impressed with the product, in the end, it was only Herjavec who took the plunge and made the Oru Kayak crew an offer. "Sometimes I invest because, you know, I'm a Shark, and I want my money back ... and sometimes I just think it's really cool. But I'm still a Shark. Five hundred thousand for 25%," Herjavec offered the business hopefuls. As one can imagine, the offer was initially met with some resistance, including a counteroffer from Willis of $500,000 for a 15% stake and a seat on the board. In the end, however, Herjavec held firm, and both parties shook on his initial offer including 25% equity. But what happened following the product's five minutes of "Shark Tank" fame? Let's get to it!

Oru Kayak's Shark Tank deal never came to fruition

Sadly, nothing actually came of Oru Kayak's on-air handshake deal with "Shark Tank" investor Robert Herjavec. Although the founders have remained relatively quiet regarding the scrapped deal (presumably due to an airtight nondisclosure agreement), many can assume that the breakdown occurred during the due diligence phase. As it turns out, it's actually quite common for the show's investors to pull the plug on a deal during this particular stage of the business transaction. "We poke holes, look for gaps in processes, and really try to understand what is driving the decisions that are being made," Herjavec explained to Inc.com back in 2017 about the process. 

In fact, Forbes found in a 2023 study that Herjavec only closed about 30% of the deals he made on the show. So what was next for the kayak company? Did they recover from the "Shark Tank" setback? Here's what we know...

Oru Kayak still flourished

Fortunately, even after the rescinded "Shark Tank" deal, the Oru Kayak team kept their head above water. "By the time 'Shark Tank' aired in May 2014 to an audience of 10 million viewers, our manufacturing was running at full capacity, and we were able to manage a spike in orders that accompanied the broadcast. Since we filmed 'Shark Tank,' the Oru Kayak has received more mainstream TV exposure, most recently as a prize on The Price is Right," Willis gushed to the Metropolis in November 2014. 

The company expanded its offerings with seven different models of their original prototype and various other products, including paddles, personal flotation devices, gel seat cushions, and even waterproof backpacks

In 2015, Oru Kayak teamed up with GetOutfitted to offer their watercraft as a rental. "This partnership with Oru is yet another win for us and for customers interested in experiencing the water. We did a quiet launch of the Oru service a few days ago and we're already overbooked," GetOutfitted Founder and CEO Julian Flores boasted in a press release about the booming business deal.

Oru Kayak was acquired by another company

Alas, in 2021, Oru Kayak went through a corporate shakeup when Solo Stove acquired the brand for an impressive $25.4 million. Despite this financial windfall, Anton Willis and Ardy Sobhani opted to stay on with the company, serving as the chief design officer and chief executive officer, respectively. Hey, whatever floats their boat, right?

It should be noted, however, that Oru Kayak was adamant that the merger wouldn't change much — at least not where their customers were concerned. "We're still running the company with the same team, in our same digs. We are working to reduce lead times and improve community support in this still-crazy time," the company maintained in a revelatory Instagram post on September 5, 2021. "We look forward to many more years of paddling, innovation, and gawking at your Instagram posts," the brand vowed. Alexa, play "Float On" by Modest Mouse.