I’m sure the guys from ABC’s reality show Shark Tank are eating their words right now. I can’t stop laughing because this poor woman honestly and clearly has a brain. Irina Blok can now stick two middle fingers up at Kevin Harrington, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec for rejecting her idea of fashion surgical masks.
If there’s one thing you need to realize about Irina Blok, it’s that she is a Silicon Valley-based graphic designer who designed the Google Android logo. So take what you want from that, but this woman definitely has the smarts and an artful eye. But in the sharks’ defense, it did seem like a pretty lame pitch.
Irina pitched the idea of “face blok,” a fashionable surgical mask that was apparently a hit with many surgeons. She had done her research clearly, having stats behind why these face masks would be such a popular investment. But the Sharks just thought it was too silly of an idea to even consider. Again, in their defense, the face masks weren’t even the same types of surgical masks that surgeons actually use.
When Irina explained how the interesting spike in publicity and website traffic compensated for her low sales, O’Leary asked her, “But is that because swine flu was all over the news for two weeks? Now we don’t see it anymore. It’s an epidemic that came and went. You need a new epidemic to get that kind of hit profile again,” because, keep in mind, this Shark Tank episode came out in the reality show’s first season back in 2009. Funny how well this comment aged.
All jokes aside, as Irina looked back over a decade ago, she told Vulture that “the Sharks’ response to her pitch was ‘understandable,’ and ‘if we could predict the future, we could all be rich. Manufacturing at the scale needed a considerable investment of time and money; for example, printing designs on surgial masks is not trivial, as machines were not set up for it.'” So maybe she’s not sticking her tongue out at the Sharks with an “I told you so” mindset.
Irina now currently works as the product-design lead at Google Research/AI. Her face masks are still online, but are not available to buy. She does have a line of greeting cards called “Only in Silicon Valley” and continues to work on design projects as a way to pass time during the COVID-19 lockdown.
She still plans to make “face-blok” happen, explaining, “I’ve designed the masks, but in order to have physical masks available, they need to be produced and distributed. I am currently looking for a manufacturing partner to produce these.”
What do you think of this now, Sharks?!