Five questions: Aaron Hirschhorn

Philly winner of ABC's Shark Tank Aaron Hirschhorn
Aaron Hirschhorn and his grand idea walked away $500k richer. | Image courtesy: Aaron Hirschhorn

Ever dream about hitting the stage on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” blowing the room of stodgy, wealthy investors away with your pitch and pocketing big bucks for your company?

Some dude from Philly named Aaron Hirschhorn recently did just that.

Gallant, a biotech company that banks stem cells and develop regenerative therapies using a pet’s natural biology to treat future diseases, appeared on Shark Tank recently and struck a deal with 23andMe’s Anne Wojcicki and Lori Grenier. Both Sharks are investing $500,000 in exchange for 5% of the business.

Hirschhorn said, through this partnership, Wojcicki’s expertise in biotech and Grenier’s experience bringing products to the consumer market will help continue consumer education on the power of stem cell therapy.

Hirschhorn started Gallant after his own decade of back pain was cured by stem cell therapy. While he healed, Hirschhorn’s dog Rocky suffered from arthritis so painful that she couldn’t walk. He wondered if the same stem cell therapy that cured his back could be used to help various pet ailments – from here, Gallant was born and the idea appeared on Season 11, Episode 8 of the show.

Philadelphia Weekly recently caught up with Hirschhorn to talk about his idea and how he was able to bank off of it. 

You’ve done a lot of things in your life and had a lot of success. How did growing up in Philly prepare you for all of the challenges you’ve faced and overcome?

Philadelphia is all about being real. Growing up in Center City and going to high school at Central High taught me that if you want something, you have to make it happen yourself. No one is going to do anything for you. 

How did you prepare for your “Shark Tank” appearance?

I have a lot of experience pitching investors; I’ve been CEO or board member for companies with over $500M in capital raised, but “Shark Tank” is different. Yes, there are questions that investors ask, but the way they ask and the way you need to answer are different.  I went in asking for $500k for 2% of the company – a pretty steep ask considering that at the time of filming we had $0 in sales! I prepared “soundbite friendly” answers to the questions we knew I would get asked. I also had my current investors and friends pretend to be Sharks and we did mock shows. It was fun!

One thing I highly recommend is that you have a ‘pitch’ for each individual Shark. I knew if every Shark had a pet and what their names were!

Winner of ABC’s Shark Tank and Philly native Aaron Hirschhorn

The lights and cameras are on, you roll on to the stage and face the Sharks. What were you feeling? Are the Sharks really as tough as they seem?

It really is just like they show it on TV – you walk into a room with five Sharks (and a lot of lights and cameras), and they dive right in. It happened so fast! I was nervous, but I knew why I was there and what I had to do… it was almost an out-of-body experience. 

What advice do you have for, first, entrepreneurs who want to appear on “Shark Tank,” and, second, those lucky few who actually make it to the stage?

It was Edison who talked about “99 percent perspiration” – and I think that holds for “Shark Tank,” too. You have to prep your business plan, your application, and most importantly, practice practice practice for the show.  One thing I highly recommend is that you have a “pitch” for each individual Shark. I knew if every Shark had a pet and what their names were! I knew where each could specifically add value and was prepared to make the case to them on national TV. 

Look ahead five years. What does Gallant look like? What’s Aaron Hirschhorn doing?

We are just getting started! Introducing regenerative medicine to the world will take a lot of time and a lot of education. You’ll find me right here, as CEO of Gallant, working to enable our dogs and cats to live healthier longer.

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