What Really Came Of Rumpl From Shark Tank?

Claiming to have reinvented a household item that we take for granted might seem akin to reinventing the wheel, but that was Wiley Robinson's chief selling point when he pitched Rumpl to his potential investors in "Shark Tank" Season 12.

Fashioned from durable sleeping bag-style material, the Rumpl blankets were inspired by a potentially life-threatening situation. Robinson told the sharks that the idea came about when he and a friend were stranded in their car in the Sierra Nevada mountains during record-breaking low temperatures. Huddled in their sleeping bags, they wondered why regular blankets weren't made from the same kind of insulating material. Once they got home safely, Robinson got to work with the sewing machine and began developing the Rumpl, a range of puffy blankets made from the same technical materials usually reserved for outdoor use.

Robinson's blankets also have an appealing environmentally friendly feature; they are made from recycled plastic bottles that otherwise might end up in a landfill site. The sharks liked the product, but serious questions arose when they started digging into the figures. Could Rumpl still wrap up a deal?

What happened to Rumpl on Shark Tank?

Wiley Robinson didn't endear himself to the "Shark Tank" investors when he asked for $600,000 in exchange for 4% equity in his company. Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes, loved the blanket but didn't love Robinson's valuation. Another red light for the sharks was Robinson's admission that 15 other companies were selling similar products.

Robinson tried to ease concerns by revealing that the company had raised around $4.8 million from seed funding and currently had $3.5 million in the bank. This prompted Mark Cuban to ask the entrepreneur why he was even on the show. Robinson's explanation that he wanted to take the product into sports licensing didn't wash with the Dallas Mavericks owner, who said it was the "worst excuse ever."

After Cuban dropped out, Robinson changed the deal to a loan with royalties attached. Mycoskie teamed up with FUBU founder Daymond John for a loan offer: Mycoskie would look after wholesale while Johns would target licensing in return for 5% of sales plus 4% equity. Software magnate Kevin O'Leary offered the full amount as an investment for $10 per blanket up to $1.8 million and the same equity. Lori Greiner then dropped out, and things got worse when Mycoskie revised his offer to 10% equity.

Robinson's counteroffer caused Johns to drop out, and Mycoskie didn't think an investment was worth his time without a 10% stake in the company. With a tricky decision to make, Robinson walked away from both offers.

Rumpl after Shark Tank

The venture capitalists of "Shark Tank" can get a little edgy with entrepreneurs if they suspect they are just using the show for publicity. This resulted in a notorious incident in 2017 when Mark Cuban labeled Yunha Kim of Simple Habit a "gold digger," a term loaded with sexist connotations. Wiley Robinson's admission that Rumpl was already pretty cash-rich raised similar skepticism from the sharks, and the term came up again on discussion threads and social media as fans of the show felt he was seeking free advertising from his TV appearance. 

The negative backlash didn't harm Robinson's business at all. By July 2021, the company was pulling in $8 million in revenue annually, and the Rumpl range of products is now stocked in major retailers such as Walmart, REI, Bass Pro, and many others. The Rumpl blanket's appeal hasn't just stopped at the domestic market; the company has also signed a licensing deal with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletics Association) and teamed up with Oxcart Assembly, NASA's chosen marketing agency, to design the wardrobe for commentators covering the Artemis program.

The company has stuck to its social causes, redesigning its core range to only use 100% recyclable materials and committing 1% of all revenue to environmental non-profit organizations. Rumpl has also joined the Climate Neutral Coalition to offset its carbon footprint. The success of Wiley Robinson's blankets demonstrates that a fiery showdown with the sharks can provide a jumping-off point for bigger and better things.