Case Detail

Case Summary

Jonathan Miller: Custom Energy Bar Entrepreneur Pitches Sharks

Case Number: 5-111-003, Year Published: 2011

HBS Number: KEL565

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Authors: James B. Shein; Scott Whitaker; Matt Bell

Key Concepts

Valuation, Cost of Capital, Equity, Mezzanine Financing, Debt Financing, Bank Debt, Credit Union, Valuation Methods, Debt Coverage Ratio, Debt-to-Equity Ratio, Angel Investors,  Unsecured (Junior) Loan, Entrepreneurship


In September 2009, Jonathan Miller appeared on Shark Tank, the ABC television reality show in which entrepreneurs face off against four "sharks": angel investors who evaluate the entrepreneurs' business value propositions and decide whether or not to invest. The company Miller founded, Element Bars, a maker of custom energy bars, needed investment capital. Prior to appearing on the show, Miller had considered several financing options available to entrepreneurs: loans and other debt capital and equity capital, each of which are evaluated in the case. Miller had a good feel for the different types of capital to use for this new venture, having started several ventures in the past and winning the Kellogg School of Management business plan competition, the Kellogg Cup, in 2008. The case looks at Miller's decision to forego the investment offer he won on television in favor of pursuing lower cost of capital equity.

Learning Objectives

Students will learn several aspects of raising capital, including raising equity and debt capital. Students need to know as much or more about fundraising as the professionals who provide the capital--in fact, entrepreneurs have to understand the interaction among combinations of capital within their enterprise, whether debt and/or equity in different combinations. Often, teaching about equity relates to teaching how venture capital investment professionals look at deploying funds. Receiving equity into the entrepreneurial firm has different attributes and issues. Teaching about debt often occurs at much higher volumes in typical MBA courses; this entrepreneurial debt must occur at a much smaller dollar value. The protagonist, Jonathan Miller, has exceptional preparation habits, which teaches students the value of the skills to prepare themselves and their businesses for investment.

Number of Pages: 11

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Entrepreneurship

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Industry: Nutrition

Organization Name: Element Bars

Organization Size: Small

Decision Maker Position: Male

Decision Maker Gender: Founder

Year of Case: 2009