Another D.C. entrepreneur will be entering the Shark Tank come January. CJ Isakow, the founder of the Eyebloc, will present his laptop and tablet webcam blocking technology to the Sharks and a national audience at 9 p.m. Jan. 10 on ABC. Earlier in November, two D.C. sisters also pitched their startup, Surprise Ride, to the Sharks.
When we last wrote about Isakow and his Eyebloc, news had just broke about Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf being spied on through her webcam. “Since we started in July there’s been a steady drumbeat of news making people concerned about their webcam privacy,” he said. “Obviously the NSA stuff, Miss Teen USA got spied on, a couple weeks ago there was talk of the FBI using webcams to spy on people, and actually [Wednesday] there was an article about people hacking Macintosh computers. This is a real problem.”
In that time, he’s also advanced his product some. Originally, he 3D printed it, which obviously made it difficult to scale production. But with the help of some freelance designers, Isakow has patented a mold that is much easier to produce. Also, he’s selling them on Amazon, which helps with fulfilling any orders. Lately, sales have been great, he said, plugging that it’s a great stocking stuffer for Christmas, priced at just $6.99.
The idea to apply for the show, Isakow admitted, all came from a guy renovating his bathroom. He himself, though, wasn’t a huge fan of the show before. “But obviously I know who Mark Cuban is, and Daymond John, and all these entrepreneurs, so it was pretty exciting to get to meet them,” he said.
Since day one, Isakow has been following the lean startup philosophy, yet to pursue any funding. Though obtaining and negotiating investments is the premise of the show – of which he said “Obviously I can’t talk about what happens in it since it’s a reality TV show, but I’m super excited about to see the results” – whether he walks away with a check or not, he hopes that the boost in attention from it will give him the sales he needs to pursue some growth of the product.
“Supposedly about eight million people view and I’ve heard as many as a quarter million people visit your website after you go on,” he said. “We’re hoping by the end of the show we’ll be able to break even and then decide what we need to do to grow. That might include funding, it might not.”
“It’s just a real simple product, a simple idea and it will be fun to see where this takes it,” Isakow said of the Eyebloc, which he’s also designed to fit the Xbox Kinect. Born July 4th here in D.C. at 1776, the Eyebloc was never meant to be something to take on this kind of attention, Isakow said. Really it’s just a side project of his. But as far as it receiving the attention it has to get picked up for Shark Tank, he said, “Even if it’s just a blip on the radar of my career, it’s been an awesome time.”