‘Shark Tank’ takes chance on Fairfield virtual pinball company

A Fairfield-based company that puts virtual pinball and video games into cabinets, which make them look like real arcade machines, now has the backing of a “Shark Tank” entrepreneur.

During the May 13 episode of the TV show, Daymond John, an entrepreneur best known as founder and CEO of the FUBU apparel brand, agreed to invest in VPcabs LLC, owned by Brad Baker, a Fairfield native.

Baker, 40, has worked for himself most of his life, he told our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side. About three years ago, his brother, who owns Arcade Legacy inside Forest Fair Village in Forest Park, told him he had seen something cool online — virtual games being put into old pinball machine cabinets. They put together their own model and set it up inside his brother’s arcade.

“Within a few weeks, eight people were asking me to make a machine for them,” Baker said. He decided he had found a market for a new business.

Initially, he made the machines in his garage, and later moved to rented space in Forest Fair Village. Asked to leave because the manufacturing process was too noisy, he moved to 6,000 square feet in a Fairfield industrial park, where he now has seven full- or part-time employees.

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Baker told “Shark Tank” investors he was working the trade show circuit but hadn’t reached profitability after being in business for about a year and a half.

That scared off some of the Sharks, but not John. His initial offer was for a 30 percent stake at $200,000; Baker countered for a 20 percent share.

In the end, they split the difference and made the deal. John agreed to invest $200,000 in Baker’s VPcabs LLC for a 25 percent stake in the company.

Long-term, Baker’s plan is to sell the machines to owners of arcades, restaurants and bars where customers could use coins to play.

He hopes that the “Shark Tank” broadcast will lead to all kinds of new opportunities.

“It has consumed our entire lives for the past few months,” he said of the show. “We’ll see what comes of it.”

This article contains reporting by our news partner WCPO 9 On Your Side.

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