RIVER NORTH — An Airbnb-type service that caters to college towns is entering ABC's "Shark Tank."
Rent Like a Champion, a River North startup founded by two Notre Dame alumni, will appear on the network reality show airing Friday night.
Playing off the famous "Play Like a Champion Today" placard familiar to Fighting Irish football fans, Rent Like a Champion is a website that allows homeowners in college towns to rent out their properties during football games, graduations and other events that draw lots of visitors to places with often not that many hotels around.
By Friday night, millions will get to see how the company, led by Mike Doyle of Wicker Park and Drew Mitchell of Hinsdale, will be received by a panel of celebrity investors including Mark Cuban, the temperamental owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Doyle and Mitchell said they asked the "sharks" for $200,000 in exchange for a 10 percent stake in their company.
"We tangled with Cuban and we tangled with a couple of the other sharks, and guarantee it’ll make for some terrific television," Doyle said.
Mitchell said the business started around 2006, when he and a partner began buying and leasing out cheap homes in South Bend. By 2012, he and Doyle corralled their network of websites for specific towns under the "Rent Like a Champion" banner. The company is a product of the 1871 tech incubator in the Merchandise Mart and now operates out of a nearby coworking space.
The service has now booked more than 30,000 stays across 21 college towns including Ann Arbor, Mich., and Athens, Ga. Though short-term rental websites abound, Doyle said their business captures a market that big competitors like Airbnb miss.
"They're destination focused [and] we're event-focused," he said.
The duo, who taped their episode in June, said there weren't many scripted moments or behind-the-scenes dramatics with the show, in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to big-name investors. Their only banter with the "sharks" outside their pitch was discussing the Blackhawks' latest championship run with Chicago native and "QVC Queen" Lori Greiner.
"You have one minute of pleasantries after you pitch," Mitchell said.
Doyle and Mitchell declined to disclose the outcome of their episode, which airs at 8 p.m. Friday on ABC. But regardless they say they treasured the experience. Rent Like A Champion will appear on "Shark Tank" after other local startups including Spikeball and IWantToDrawACatForYou.com.
"I think having the two of us there allowed us to have a good time with it," Doyle said. "We have a lot of fun with our business and wanted to make sure that came across to people who watched our show. If somebody stumbled the other was there to pick them up."
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