Voyage Air Guitar guy turned down a million-dollar deal on “Shark Tank”

Voyage-Air Guitar founder Jeff Cohen and his son Josh Cohen.

‘Shark Tank’ contestant turned down deal, but he’s still making millions


Jeff Cohen was on the first season of “Shark Tank.” He was on the show three more times. He turned down a million-dollar deal. But perhaps most famously, he was the first entrepreneur to make Kevin O’Leary say, “you’re dead to me.”

What do you think it was about your pitch that made the sharks bite?

First and most important, it’s easy to understand and it was easy for me to explain. I had to view my appearance on “Shark Tank” almost like a 60-second elevator pitch. I was able to accomplish that visually without a lot of words. Quite frankly, I don’t think Kevin O’Leary heard a word I said. He’s a musician and he instantly got the concept, interrupted my pitch and couldn’t wait to get his hands on the guitar.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC, Shark Tank's Kevin O'Leary demos the Voyage Air Guitar.Second, it’s a fun product that conjures up fond memories of friends and family. It’s also not a controversial product. Nobody is going to pass a constitutional amendment banning the guitar. It is controversy free and let’s face it, who doesn’t fancy him or herself as a rock star?

The truth is that a Voyage-Air Guitar could have been built 200 years ago. It doesn’t incorporate any microchips or nanotubes. It is simply an extremely well-designed, manufactured and patented guitar and hinge.

You turned down a million dollar dealwhat was that like?

Well, it wasn’t easy. Although as you see in the show, I was desperately trying to think through a way to do this deal. I even stalled by asking Kevin why I needed him. Then a couple of now classic “Shark Tank” quotes emerged. Kevin told me that he made his money in licensing by selling his software company to Mattel for $3.4 billion. My mind was still racing as I tried to find a compromise and I blurted out “billion with a b?” Kevin still wasn’t getting me to cave in to his terms, so at that point he started to pick on my son Josh. That pissed me off a little, so I said I don’t accept the deal that’s on the table. That’s when Kevin first uttered the classic line: “You’re dead to me!”

How has Voyage-Air Guitar done since being on “Shark Tank?”

I was first on “Shark Tank” five years ago. There is absolutely no way I could have gotten this much publicity without “Shark Tank.” So while I’m confident I would have made the company a success on my own, we have been able to achieve a much higher level of name recognition, notoriety and sales because of “Shark Tank.” I was back in the tank on season three, but again Kevin and I got into too much negotiating detail for TV and the producers couldn’t think of a good way to edit the segment. So when we came back for another update during season four, they simply said last season Kevin and Jeff did a deal, now here they are at Fender headquarters… Voyage-Air Guitar now sells millions of dollars of guitars a year and we are growing!

Lastly, not to dispel any myths, but once you get past that hard coating on the outside, Kevin is soft and mushy on the inside. He’s been a fantastic partner!

Tuesdays have more bite with back-to-back episodes of “Shark Tank” on CNBC every Tuesday night.

Liza Hughes Special to