Shark Tank Pavlok
Maneesh Sethi pitches his idea to the panel. Michael Desmond—ABC/Getty Images

Would You Use a Device that Shocks You When You Spend Too Much?

May 23, 2016

A device called "Pavlok" has been making waves recently, most notably in the reality television show Shark Tank. A wristband that looks similar to a fitness tracker, it functions as a small dog collar-like device that shocks you if you indulge in bad habits—like spending too much.

Named for Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov, who demonstrated the power of classical conditioning with reward and punishment, the device aims to change behavior.

According to marketing materials, sensors and apps can trigger shocks, and you can manually shock yourself if you're self-aware. Testimonials include people who say they've stopped biting nails, quit smoking, and eating sugar in just a few days.

The start-up has been around for a little while, but just gained some mainstream exposure thanks to the ABC show, where it finished off the seventh season with a bit of a zap.

Pavlov CEO Maneesh Sethi rejected an offer of a $500,000 loan at 7.5% for two years and 3.14% equity from "Mr. Wonderful," due to not wanting to work for Wonderful, which sent the panel of potential investors into a very classic Friday-night reality-show conniption, complete with the weird zooms, music, and very poor acting.

Of course, it's very possible Sethi did Wonderful a favor. The device has one big pro, it's social media-friendly concept, but it's likely to be simply a curiosity unless Sethi pivots significantly. It looks like a house-arrest bracelet for your wrist with loud branding, and the speed-bump of getting people to agree to shock themselves may be more like a wall.

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