The Banana Phone is a novelty Bluetooth-enabled device that can connect to smartphones. However, the company is driven by its mission of protecting endangered gorillas in the wild. Brian Brunsing and Max Brown pitched the business on season 14 but didn’t get a deal. As of 2022, Banana Phone is worth $2.5 million.
About the Founders
Brian Brunsing and Max Brown are natives of Buffalo, New York. They are childhood friends who both attended the University of Colorado Boulder. They have a third partner, Charlie Katrycz from Toronto who is the CTO. He has founded companies such as Loonskin Labs and Undu Wearables.
Max started his career as the VP of Sales for the Garrett Leather Corporation. After 11 years, he was promoted to president. Brunsing has worked as a consultant at Ecosystems and is currently a Senior Account Manager at Visa.
Founding the Company
The three amigos are best friends who share a love for gorillas and bananas. And this was what inspired them to create the Banana Phone, a retro banana-shaped phone with “cool” features.
It doesn’t have touch screen technology, but it’s compatible with Bluetooth-enabled voice assistants such as Siri and Alexa. The device connects to a smartphone to play songs and receive calls. But it doesn’t have text/email notifications or TikTok for that matter.
When the startup launched in 2017, they partnered with Gearing Up 4 Gorillas to donate 1% of its revenue to protect mountain gorillas in Congo and Rwanda. They created an IndieGoGo campaign that raised $45,000, with over 1,000 units in pre-order.
Getting on Shark Tank
Getting on the show was the culmination of 5 years of building a brand that takes us back to simpler times. The success of the crowdfunding campaign made the trio realize that their product has potential.
Also, having a wacky product definitely helped get them on the show. In the past, bizarre businesses such as “I Want To Draw A Cat For You” did bag a deal!
Shark Tank Appearance
Brian and Max gave a strong but lighthearted pitch. The Sharks were shocked when they revealed, Banana Phone had $1.2 million in lifetime sales and $400,000 in net income. In 2021, the novelty item did $540,000 in sales and a profit of $123,000. One by one, the Sharks dropped out and the fact no one was working full-time on the business wasn’t appealing.
After Shark Tank
Banana Phone sales are mainly driven by online advertising and Amazon. Although they didn’t get a deal, the publicity from Shark Tank will give them a temporary boost in sales. Some fans disliked the product but loved the charity aspect.
— John G (@JohnG500) October 1, 2022
The founders don’t spend a lot of time operating Banana Phone as they are an Amazon FBA business. This means they outsource all of the shipping to Amazon who takes care of everything.
You can buy the handset device for $39.99 on Amazon or their website, BananaPhone.io. The company works closely with AVC Sense, a “full-service Amazon account management consultancy” to drive revenue. They are now offering a special discount for Shark Tank fans on their website.
The product mainly has positive reviews on Amazon, where it averages 4.5 stars from over 1,280 users. Currently, Banana Phone will make around $500,000 in annual sales and is worth $2.5 million. Given that Bannan Phone is a one-off product they may struggle to grow sales after the Shark Tank effect fades.