What Really Came Of AirBedz From Shark Tank?

"Shark Tank" hit TVs back in 2009. Since then, hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs have jumped bravely into the metaphorical shark tank, where many were also metaphorically chewed to pieces. One of the many companies scrutinized publicly by the team of elite venture capitalists was AirBedz. The founder and owner of AirBedz, James Pittman, appeared on the show in 2012 on Season 3, Episode 13. Pittman enthusiastically offered his best pitch to the judges, explaining the value of his unique invention — a truck bed air mattress.

Pittman boasted that AirBedz — an air mattress sized and designed to fit seamlessly into the back of a pickup truck — was the first of its kind, reflected in its slogan, "The original truck bed air mattress!" With highly durable material, multiple sizes, and a built-in inflator, the product promised to cater to the needs of outdoor adventurers. At the time, Pittman said it made $210,000 gross revenue in the previous year and $220,000 that year, so you would think the sharks would be impressed. Unfortunately, the judges did what they do best — judge. And, boy, did they judge harshly.

What happened on Shark Tank?

Just many of the bright-eyed entrepreneurs who step onto the "Shark Tank" stage, the founder of AirBedz, Jim Pittman, got a fair share of criticism from the sharks. The Season 3 team of judges on this episode were Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Robert Herjavec, and Mark Cuban. For anyone familiar with the show, you know this is a tough crowd. Pittman asked the judges for a $250,000 investment and a 15% stake. All of them had something to say. Hate to spoil it, but it wasn't a yes.

After Pittman revealed that he had $400,000 worth of products in storage, O'Leary, Jon, and Herjavec all agreed that the product had too narrow of a market and not enough sales to prove otherwise. Meanwhile, Cuban doubted Pittman's ability to make sales happen, declining the deal and remarking, "Get off your ass and get out there and sell." Pittman's last chance was Corcoran, who offered $250,000 for a 50% stake in the company. Pittman deemed the ask too high and declined. As a result, AirBedz left with no investment deal.

AirBedz after Shark Tank

After leaving "Shark Tank" empty-handed, Jim Pittman continued moving forward with AirBedz. However, in doing so, the company hit a few roadblocks. While Pittman had claimed the truck bed air mattress was his own unique idea, some questioned whether or not this was true. It turns out that back in 2004, the company Truck-Bedz came out with an almost identical product to AirBedz.

In a cheeky, drama-stirring blog post by the Shark Tank Blog, a reporter suggested that this caused a series of legal issues surrounding AirBedz patents. The author also claimed that the product was definitely copying the Truck-Bedz product. While the report doesn't appear to have any verified evidence supporting this, the AirBedz Instagram page does seem to suggest that the company was concerned about such allegations.

In a 2023 post by the company account @pittman_outdoors, the social team seemed to take a defensive stance, writing, "Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery" and further reinstating that "the Original Truck Bed Air Mattress was conceptualized, designed and patented by us."

Is AirBedz still in business?

If there were any legal issues around the truck bed air mattress patent, it seems that none of them led to any business-impeding consequences. Today, AirBedz is up and running. We'd even go as far as saying the company is thriving, as it has expanded from its narrow niche of air mattresses to a wide variety of outdoor gear. While the product itself is still called AirBedz, Pittman's business has been renamed Pittman Outdoors

AirBedz are being sold in top-competing outdoor and sporting goods stores like Tractor Supply, Wal-Mart, and Amazon. The product has a 4.2 rating average on the latter with almost 3,000 reviews. As of September 2023, the most recent review was positive, saying, "The mattress was very comfortable and I had a good resting night." Based in Placentia, California, founder Jim Pittman currently holds the position of president at Pittman Outdoors, per his LinkedIn. It looks like Pittman and AirBedz did just fine without the sharks' help.

What's next?

Along with their original AirBedz product, Pittman Outdoors now offers a wide range of inflatable products like SUV air mattresses, rear seat mattresses, water floaties, and more. In addition to its inflatable selection, Pittman Outdoors also has a collection of innovative products such as truck bed tents and rooftop tents. These tent sets connect perfectly to the backside of a truck or the rooftop of a car and provide an elevated space for campers to sleep in the night, helping them secure their tent to feel safer while camping.

The company offers many products that can improve how you sleep in your car on a road trip. Not to mention, Pittman Outdoors also sells a variety of straightforward, useful recreational products like drinkware, coolers, tents, river drifters, and home mattresses. It appears that Pittman took the sharks' criticism around being too niche a company. Doing so has definitely been to the company's benefit.