It’s no secret that bad habits can be hard to break. While behavioral science experts claim that it takes twenty one days to break a habit, not many people last that long. To combat this problem, Maneesh Sethi created Pavlok–a small armband that when pressed, the user is given a small shock. The goal here is that whenever the user performs their bad habit–such as nail biting–they press the armband for a shock. Although Sethi might not have been aware the kind of stir his product would cause, his appearance on Shark Tank in 2016 certainly shook things up.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Pavlok–similarly sounding to Ivan Pavlov and his famous experiment with salivating dogs–uses a behavioral therapy called aversive conditioning. Essentially, aversive conditioning is the therapy of breaking bad habits. Every time an unwanted behavior is performed, an unpleasant stimuli–such as a shock–is given to train the brain that said behavior is bad. Sometimes, rehabilitation programs might use aversive conditioning on alcoholics so that whenever they drink, they get sick and therefore do not even crave drinking after several treatments. Pavlok is no different in this respect, and can be used for any kind of bad habit. The owner, Sethi, actually used the product to combat his ADHD, which frequently distracted him from getting work done. Whenever he stopped working and looked at Facebook, Sethi would give himself a shock, and after awhile, he didn’t have to anymore.
WHAT HAPPENED ON SHARK TANK
When Maneesh Sethi presented Pavlok on Shark Tank, he made a very bold proposal–$500,000 for a less than five percent of the company. Immediately, the Sharks were almost hostile to this idea, and questioned Sethi extensively about why he believed his company was valued high. After explaining Pavlok and all of the Sharks actually experiencing a shock, Maneesh received very mixed responses: Mark did not believe Maneesh had done enough research, Robert was unsure that anyone would have the self-discipline to shock themselves, and both Lori and Barbara bowed out in the complicated explanatory process. At the end, after quite a few outbursts from the judges, it was Kevin who offered Sethi the $500,000 as a loan he would pay back in two years with a high interest rate. Compared to what Sethi walked into the Shark Tank asking for, this was quite a far cry. Instead, Sethi politely declined–despite Kevin’s not-so-polite response–and went on his way.
Now, a nearly a year later, Sethi’s product garnered 10,000 new users and customers raving about how Pavlok has changed their lives. The armband, which can be synced with Amazon and GPS, has expanded. Sethi has made an extension for Google Chrome that is designed to help users be more productive, and even has courses on how train yourself to get rid of bad habits. Despite his unwelcome appearance on Shark Tank, Sethi’s product has still continued to succeed. The simple behavioral therapy behind it, aversive conditioning, has been used by psychologists for a long time, and more than enough experiments and studies have shown its worth. In a world where many wish they could just “shock away their bad habits”, Pavlok might be exactly what is needed.