Presentations are stressful, particularly when they involve a group of powerful investors and are broadcast on national television. 

The season nine premiere of ABC’s entrepreneurial show, Shark Tank, featured Yunha Kim, Trinity '11, who pitched her meditation app Simple Habit. Kim—who graduated with an economics degree—launched and sold the software business LOCKit and then founded Simple Habit. The company has had tremendous success since its launch in 2016, with over 500,000 users estimated and $2.8 million raised from investors. 

Before stepping into the shark tank, Kim made sure to meditate. After all, she planned to ask for an additional investment of $600,000 in exchange for a five percent stake in her company.  

Two of the sharks did not take kindly to her request.

“She’s a gold digger,” said shark, Mark Cuban. 

After Kim said she wanted to attract more customers through celebrity endorsements, Cuban accused Kim of going on television not for the deal, but rather, for the customers that the live broadcasting would bring her. 

Fellow investor Daymond John said he agreed with Cuban, explaining that he would not invest in Simple Habit because he would rather devote his money to “someone who desperately needs it.”

Sir Richard Branson, guest shark of the week, thought the accusations were completely unfair. In a perfect made-for-TV moment, he threw his cup of water onto Cuban in frustration. Cuban swiftly repaid the deed, flinging his cup of water on Branson. 

Ultimately, Kim rejected the offer of $600,000 for a 15 percent stake from Branson and Robert Herjavec, thus leaving without a deal.

Kim said she did not expect her pitch to invoke such a negative reaction from the sharks.

“At the moment, I was surprised and shocked,” Kim wrote in an email. “When the comment was made, I took a deep breath and made a choice to not react to his comment and instead, focus on what I could control, which is speaking to the credibility and value of the company I’ve built.” 

Alex Dehgan, Chanler Innovator in Residence in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, said he believes the sharks were just trying to add drama to the show.

“To criticize someone for coming on the show is really a criticism of the show itself for accepting her because they know exactly what she has to offer,” he said.  

Although her motives and capital may have been scrutinized, her app itself was generally well received by the sharks. 

Simple Habit offers five-minute guided meditations from a wide variety of acclaimed teachers. There are meditations for any circumstance, including a car ride or a stressful day. Kim said Simple Habit’s mission is to make mindfulness and meditation more accessible then ever before. 

Her app comes at a time when meditation is becoming increasingly more mainstream. The 2012 National Health Interview Survey found that 18 million American adults used meditation and IBISWorld reported that meditation was a $1 billion industry in 2015.  

Senior Gigi Falk—president of the Buddhist Meditation Club at Duke—said she supports businesses embracing meditation for its numerous health benefits.

“As we see the cultural view of meditation shift from being this thing for hippies to being this thing everyone should be doing, I think having the business world involved is really important,” she said. “Eventually, when you develop a practice, you’re able to interact with the world in a much healthier and calmer way because you’re not as emotionally reactive.”

Of course, having a valuable product is not enough to grow a successful business; passion, persistence, savviness, and a strong education help tremendously. 

Dehgan acknowledged Duke’s commitment to solving the world’s problems through entrepreneurship and preparing students to apply what they learn outside the classroom.  

Kim also noted that she was grateful for her time at Duke, because it offered her the relevant resources and networking opportunities to support her and other entrepreneurs. 

And of course, she's grateful to meditation for helping her stay calm in the feisty waters of business.