Oct 29, 2019

Jared Ward Goes From One “Shark Tank” to Another

By Barbara Huebner

It’s not the first time Jared Ward has walked into the “Shark Tank.” It’s just that his are usually called marathons, where’s he’s doing the investing.

“In the marathon, once the gun goes off it very much feels as if I’m in control of my own race,” said Ward, who finished sixth in the 2016 Olympics.  “In the Shark Tank … it very much feels like it’s only partly in your control, and that’s nerve-wracking.”

Ward, 31, appeared on an episode of ABC TV’s “Shark Tank” Sunday night as part of a team from MyoStorm that pitched a heated massage-therapy ball, seeking $150,000 in return for 10 percent equity in the company. Along with Myostorm co-founders Jonothan DiPeri, a mechanical engineer, and Shaquille Walker, a retired 800-meter athlete, Ward was peppered with questions from a panel of five potential investors – or “sharks” – who give budding entrepreneurs the chance to secure business deals.

Ward amongst fellow "sharks" at Road to Gold in Atlanta in early 2019

The team and its “Meteor” massage ball were grilled and tested – Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban even shed his suit jacket to get on the floor and roll his hip and lower back – but what happened next was the one thing, said Ward, they weren’t expecting. Were they ready to defend the product? Absolutely. Ready to defend their dignity? That, too, if necessary.

“We were not,” acknowledged Ward, “prepared for the scenario where everybody wanted to buy in.”

First, Cuban offered $250,000 in return for 20 percent equity, but promptly took it off the table when the Myostorm team elected to hear the other offers. Tension rose. The final offer came from Lori Greiner, known as the “queen” of shopping channel QVC, who matched a previous offer of $150,000 for 5 percent equity and a royalty of $1 a ball until $500,000 is recouped.

A fateful decision had to be made, and quickly.

“It’s a very real experience in the tank,” he said of the pressure. “It feels kind of like it looks on TV.”

The team quickly huddled, discussed the pros and cons of what was on the table and – based largely on her insights on lowering the Meteor’s price point and visibility at QVC – went with Greiner, who since the show aired has already tweeted about the product several times to her 1.9 million followers.

Even before the episode ended, many of its 3 million or so viewers were in action, too. Ward said that go.myostorm.com saw a wave of web traffic hit each time the show aired across the nation’s time zones. “As soon as it started airing on the East Coast we were watching viewers on our website go from the hundreds to the thousands,” said Ward, a father of four whose role with MyoStorm, centered on promotion and publicity, is sandwiched into a schedule that includes teaching statistics courses at BYU.

“My wife always gives me a hard time for having more baskets than eggs to put in them,” said Ward.

Ward’s next project – competing in Sunday’s TCS New York City Marathon – is fast approaching.

After battling injuries since the 2016 Olympics, Ward last year began putting less emphasis on making sure his workouts were as fast or faster than ever (“less fireworks”), and more on staying consistently healthy. He bounced back to finish sixth in New York as the top American, and in Boston this spring he ran a two-minute personal best of 2:09:25. He said on Monday that his strength feels as good or better than it was leading into Boston, but that he has more speed, and a recent Instagram post mentioned the best long tempo of his life.

The looming 2020 Olympic Team Trials – Marathon on February 29 in Atlanta are in the back of his mind, he said, and he hasn’t been willing to risk a long-term injury that would affect his quest to make a second Olympic team for the sake of running lights out in New York, but his long-standing goal to finish in the top three of a World Marathon Majors race means he never strongly considered skipping a fall marathon.

“It means something to me,” he said, “so I want to take as many opportunities when I’m fit and healthy to make a run at that podium as I can.”

The run on Sunday will be made in a refined prototype of the shoe he wore in Boston, one he has helped Saucony develop and calls a fantastic racing shoe in which he is running faster.

That said, he has mixed feelings on this “interesting time.” It’s the job of a shoe company to make a faster shoe, he said, but wonders where the line is.

“I do think we ought to be regulating stack height and I do think we ought to be regulating what’s a spring and what’s not a spring and if we’re putting plates in shoes, how they should be shaped. It matters. It’s a historic sport, a raw sport. The wonderful thing about running is that you don’t need anything to do it. It’s just you and the road, and you throw a pair of shoes on your feet. I want the sport to still stay mostly about runners pushing our bodies as much as we can and it’s us versus the road. Shoes should get better and shoes have gotten better for decades, but when the conversation moves from what athletes are running to “what shoes are you wearing,” I think we’ve lost something.”

The shoes he will wear Sunday, he said, “kind of check all the boxes for me in terms of what I think the IAAF ought to decide in terms of shoes and regulations.”

Ward said he knows it will take an A+ day, coupled with A- or B+ days for a few of his rivals, to reach the podium in New York, but – like Des Linden (Boston 2018) and Meb Keflezighi (New York 2009, Boston 2014) – he believes that if a window opens, he’s ready, relying on a mantra of “Embrace it, figure it out.”

Then the focus switches to Atlanta. “I hope [his performance Sunday] puts me in a position where I can really thrive mentally preparing for the Trials, having the blessing of thinking about New York to help me … as we get closer and closer.”