by a.b.

As banks tighten their hold on credit, and interest rates continue to be pitiful, peer-to-peer lending has taken on a shining light sort of quality. It allows people to continue borrowing money, and when they (hopefully) pay it back, it gives investors comprised of everyday people a better return than the banks have been offering. Now Hollywood wants their cut.

It isn’t that Shark Tank is a far less genial rip-off of BBC’s Dragon’s Den, a show I like very much. It isn’t even that the panel is comprised of business people, former entrepreneurs, that bothers me. I can’t even completely put my finger on it, but I don’t find this show very worthwhile.

The desperate entrepreneurs applying for the shark’s money pitch their sob stories to the viewers at home, and their brief marketing shpiel to the sharks. While the panel bickers amongst themselves about company valuation, we have no idea how they reach that conclusion. Many of the people approaching them are doing so from a position of desperation, a last hope before everything in their life crumbles. It was equally sad to watch as panelists who were once great innovators shied away from anything outside of their current comfort zone; you could almost see liability warning lights flash across their foreheads.

I don’t think this show will have legs (or maybe I just hope it won’t). Many people who have gotten involved in peer-to-peer lending, have done so to create a supportive and mutually beneficial environment. A great example is Matt Jabs at Debt Free Adventure, who consolidated his debt with Lending Club with the help of fellow personal finance bloggers. Watching the hopeful, desperate, and innovative get scolded on national TV is not going to lift people’s spirits in this economy, and I believe people are disheartened enough that they are far past “misery loves company.”

If you are listening ABC, I would prefer to watch Extreme Business Makeover, where your sharks go to these people and show them how to create profitable businesses, teaching the audience important business skills in the process. At the end, the former shark can decide to be an angel investor, or not, telling us why. You can even partner with Lending Club, Prosper, or one of the other peer-to-peer lending sites so that at home viewers can invest in these businesses based on what we see.

In today’s economic times, we are tired of sharks; bring on the angels.

Photo Courtesy of StormyDog