Preparing For The Shark Tank Effect

By Steve Yu, President, DDP YOGA

When we first launched the DDP YOGA brand in late 2011, it was just former pro wrestler Diamond Dallas Page (DDP) and a couple of his friends working out of our homes to try to make DDP YOGA the next global fitness craze.

With a limited budget, our primary marketing strategy was a grass-roots effort – as we researched ecommerce platforms, we experimented with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. We were building the DDP YOGA brand from scratch.

At the time, we launched our ecommerce site on a shared hosting environment, and all seemed to run fairly smoothly with the limited traffic was getting.

In May 2012, we were almost instantly thrust into the spotlight by a viral video posted on YouTube showing Arthur Boorman’s transformation using DDP YOGA. When I mentioned to DDP that the video had “gone viral,” he didn’t know that that meant – he does today! Millions of people shared the video via Facebook, Twitter and email – even celebrities like the Jonas Brothers, Tony Robbins and David Copperfield joined in. Astonishingly, our sales grew by over 1,000 percent overnight. After almost of decade developing the product, DDP YOGA had officially arrived.

Our website held up with all the new traffic, but we were about to get some major media attention. Because of the viral video, shows like the Today Show, The Doctors and HBO’s Real Sports contacted Dallas and Arthur Boorman for appearances.

We decided to move to a dedicated server, thinking this would allow us to handle much more traffic. The sales kept pouring in and the dedicated server stood up to the traffic spikes. Then our hosting provider began having multiple hours-long outages. Each outage cost us thousands of dollars in lost sales. We decided it was time to move to a more reliable hosting provider. We chose Rackspace.

Previously, our small web team had been self-sufficient. But with the rapid growth of DDP YOGA we decided we didn’t have the time to troubleshoot server issues ourselves. For the first time we felt a managed service plan would save us valuable time and ensure the right decisions were made (we are by no means experts when it comes to web server configuration). Rackspace Managed Cloud allowed us to focus on our core business and marketing rather than worry about our hosting configuration and management. It was a relief to have a team of experts at Rackspace to call on whenever we had any type of issue with our website, and to know that we weren’t alone to figure everything out for ourselves.

With a single dedicated server at Rackspace, our web hosting was on autopilot. Everything ran smoothly with zero downtime. We were ready for just about anything… That’s when we got the call from Shark Tank.

As big fans of the show, we knew it could be amazing exposure for DDP YOGA and could generate more web traffic than we had ever seen. But we had no clue how to prepare for such an event.

We thought that a single, powerful web server dedicated to DDP YOGA could handle a great deal of traffic, but we soon learned otherwise when DDP appeared on WWE’s Monday Night Raw for an “Old School Raw” episode where they bring back wrestling legends.

We didn’t think much of it, but they allowed Dallas to promote DDP YOGA on the show. That was a big surprise. It was an unexpected event that caused our server to slow down, and then crash. Even on our dedicated server, the RAW segment stunned our site. Our database got corrupted. The site was down for six hours. That’s a massive amount of lost revenue. It was an expensive wake up call that we needed to prepare for Shark Tank in a big way.

Shark Tank typically draws between 2 million and 7 million viewers. In the industry, the “Shark Tank Effect” is well known – it’s the massive traffic explosion a small business’ site sees from a Shark Tank appearance. It can last days, weeks or months based on how your business or product is received.

I contacted our dedicated support team at Rackspace and, upon hearing the news of our upcoming Shark Tank appearance, Rackspace assigned us a Project Lead to prepare for the event (at no additional cost). Thankfully, Rackspace had prepared other clients for similar events.

Because we have a managed cloud account, we have access to our support team at Rackspace. They made recommendations and answered all of our questions, and made sure we were informed of any cost implications. Rackspace interviewed us about our web application and assessed the need to create data redundancy and improve its efficiency under heavy load. They brought in a partner, ScaleArc, which specializes in database caching and efficiency. Our dedicated Rackspace project lead coordinated meetings with all parties and made sure we understood the recommendations they made to prepare for Shark Tank. We were nervous, but felt confident that we had a strong team to prepare for the impending traffic onslaught.

By the time of the airing – February 21 — our web architecture comprised 25 8GB Rackspace Performance Cloud Servers, and our database architecture consisted of four 8GB Performance Cloud Servers and two 30GB Performance Cloud Servers.

During the Shark Tank airing were able to relax and host a viewing party at DDP’s home in Atlanta, knowing that Rackspace and ScaleArc would monitor our site and traffic that entire evening (for airings on both coasts).

We waited anxiously to see how they edited our Shark Tank segment, and if we would look like fools on the show or not… all the while watching our real-time analytics on ScaleArc’s custom tool. We knew the outcome of the show, but we had no idea what it would mean for our business.

It was fascinating to see how this type of event impacted our business. We saw our traffic increase slightly while our segment played, and we were happy with how Shark Tank portrayed us.

Suddenly, our simultaneous visitor traffic climbed to numbers we had never seen – it grew by several hundred every few seconds. It was exciting. Sales poured in and we did tens of thousands of dollars in business in a matter of minutes!

As we celebrated, we had no idea that the Rackspace and ScaleArc teams were furiously monitoring and configuring the environment to meet the demand of so many visitors to our website. They later informed us that there had been a brief database failure because of the query volume, but our Rackspace and ScaleArc teams resolved it within minutes and made the decision to add five additional Cloud Servers and another database server prior to the west coast airing. Their expertise and real-time response saved us hundreds of thousands of dollars – it was a situation we would have not been able to manage ourselves.

In the end, our site traffic ballooned from an average of 4,500 visitors per day to nearly 57,000 on the Friday the show aired – a more than 1,000 percent increase. On Saturday, our traffic exceeded 122,000 visitors for the day– our highest traffic day ever. And on Sunday it reached 85,000. The ripple effect was still going days later, with 52,000 visitors on Monday and 31,000 on Tuesday. Even a week after we were more than five times over our average.

On the sales side, we also saw a major boost. Saturday and Sunday sales were roughly 2,000 percent – that’s about 20 times – higher than average. Within five days we saw over $1 million in revenue. Two weeks later our sales were 250 percent to 300 percent higher than our average. Even five months later, we still feel the Shark Tank effect!

While we didn’t get offered a deal from the sharks, the experience had an incredible positive impact on our company – from both a sales and visibility perspective. We are well on our way to becoming a household name.

We went into this having no idea what to expect. Ultimately, our Shark Tank experience was a great success, and our Rackspace Managed Cloud helped ensure our site and our business survived the Shark Tank Effect.

This is a guest post written and submitted by Steve Yu, President of DDP YOGA, a Rackspace customer. DDP YOGA is a hybrid workout that incorporates yoga positions with calisthenics, rehabilitation techniques, dynamic resistance exercises and active breathing techniques for a more challenging and results-oriented workout with minimal impact.


  1. So you’re paying for a rackspace server, and it goes down corrupting your database. Then they sell you 30 additional servers, and it goes down. Then they sell you six more servers.

    You are talking about 57k visitors a day, that’s only a single visiter every two seconds. Your website is essentially static content. You should be able to host it from a service like Amazon S3 for a few dollars a day. The shopping cart portions (if you decide you need to host it yourself and not use a much cheaper option like Shopify), should not require dozens of servers. That’s just crazy. I’m sure Rackspace is only selling you the hardware you need, but the problem here is how your application is architected, not the number of servers you have.

    • Is that really your takeaway Zack? The guy just wrote an interesting story about the real impact (both in revenue and traffic) that an appearance on an internationally syndicated show had on his product, and your response is to criticize his explanation of the tech?


      • I’m not criticizing his explanation. It’s great he took the time to write it out. One of the benefits he is getting in return is the opinion of other professionals who might read his story.

        • Zach makes a good point. The article is very informative. I would add(from experience) that with a S3/Shopify architecture, there are some limits on design and process by Shopify’s API & scripting language(liquid). The article seems to be addressing completely custom web application scaling. Also, depending on the site’s content, you can’t be sure all of the increased traffic will be isolated to order flow. It could also extend to exploring the site’s ancillary content (which could have dynamic
          components that S3 wouldn’t help with).

  2. That’s a great story from the server side, thanks for sharing it. But what about your software architecture? What were the optimizations needed and were they made? Sounds like you still have some work to do to close the loop.

  3. Very interesting article. Thanks for sharing. My interest would also be in the scale down. Did that happen? Or are you now paying for all that compute power just sitting around waiting for another Shark Tank effect, which probably won’t happen any time soon, right?



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