Sometimes it pays to swim with the sharks.

Question: What do you get when you combine a reality show, a smartphone, colorful light bulbs and two creative UT Dallas alumni?
Answer: You get the backing of one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and the opportunity of a lifetime. At least that’s what happened to two of our MBA graduates when they struck a deal with Mark Cuban on “Shark Tank.”
When you're swimming with the sharks, just being smart isn't good enough. Sometimes you have to be a little ingenious.

From the Think Tank to the Shark Tank

The University of Texas at Dallas alumni Corey Egan MBA’10 and Swapnil Bora MBA’11 emerged from the “Shark Tank” reality television show with a $350,000 deal with entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.


Corey Egan MBA'10 and Swapnil Bora MBA'11 pitched their business idea on the reality television show "Shark Tank."

Egan and Bora, who appeared on an episode of “Shark Tank,” developed the idea of smartphone-controlled light bulbs for their Plano-based business, ilumi, as students in the Naveen Jindal School of Management Full-Time MBA Program. The company makes LED “smartbulbs” that allow users to control lighting levels and colors through a mobile app. They asked for $350,000 from the “sharks” (who are well-known business people and investors) in return for 15 percent ownership. “Your money gets our products into customers’ hands,” Egan told the investors, explaining that the product was in the final stages of development.

Cuban offered $350,000 for 25 percent. He then backed out after seeing Egan’s hesitation, but then gave the men a second chance.

“Mark, would you be willing to meet in the middle at 20 percent?” Egan asked.

“I’m going to stick to the 25, guys, because you know I can bring a huge amount of value,” Cuban said.

In the end, the classmates-turned-business-partners accepted the deal and have now welcomed Cuban to their newly formed team. The product began shipping in April 2014.

“The great thing about getting Mark Cuban on-board is that we’re able to grow our team,” Egan told a group of about 100 Jindal School administrators, professors and friends who attended a watch party the school hosted. “This is not the destination. This is just one of the milestones along the way.”


Corey Egan, ilumi co-founder and CEO, answered questions during a watch party for his company's appearance on "Shark Tank." Egan is shown with Jackie Kimzey (right), executive director of the Jindal School's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The entrepreneurs met at the Jindal School while earning their MBAs. Egan earned his MBA in marketing with a focus on product development, and Bora’s focus was finance and strategy.

The “Shark Tank” victory is not the students’ first. Ilumi won the 2010 UT Dallas Business Idea Competition.

After they graduated, Egan and Bora continued to seek input from professors as they developed their business. They were open to feedback and didn’t give up when faced with setbacks, said Jackie Kimzey, executive director of the Jindal School's Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Number one, they were very passionate about their idea,” Kimzey said. “And they were very serious and persistent."

During the “Shark Tank” presentation Egan explained that users of the product can program lights to create a sunrise effect, romantic candlelight or even a post-Dallas Mavericks game celebration. “Mark, represent your team and ours by lighting it up blue and green on game day,” Egan said. “After the Mavericks win, let the celebration begin.” Then, Egan and Bora danced as the lights changed colors.

The pitch worked.

“Mark’s going to be just like fuel on the fire,” Egan said in an interview on the show. “This thing is going to spread like wildfire and ilumi’s going to shine across the world.”

During the watch party, Egan thanked his professors and other mentors for their assistance and support during years of hard work developing the business idea. “In the end, we’re very excited with the outcome that we hooked a big one,” he said.