Pratheek Palanethra ’16G

Pratheek Palanethra ’16G appeared on Shark Tank India to seek investors for freebowler.

For the Love of Cricket

Pratheek Palanethra pitches his bowling machine on Shark Tank India.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Growing up in India, where the love of cricket runs high, Pratheek Palanethra ’16G developed a strong emotional connection to the sport. He eventually chose academics over the pursuit of a professional cricket career, but he always sought ways to combine his passions for both cricket and entrepreneurship.

Enter freebowler, a startup he initially co-founded with a fellow student while pursuing his M.Eng in technical entrepreneurship at Lehigh. The company developed a non-electric, portable ball thrower—the first of its kind—for individuals and teams to use for practices.

Freebowler was born of necessity, Palanethra has said. While a student at Lehigh, he had recognized the need for a personalized bowling machine after racking up miles on his car to travel out of state for an hour of cricket practice.

Shark Tank India

In February, with business partner Vishwanath HK, Palanethra appeared on Shark Tank India to seek investors for the company, which has so far sold 1,000 products in about 15 countries. He and his partner were in the “tank” for over an hour, he said, though only a portion aired.

“It was a great experience, but they grilled us to an extent that we didn’t expect,” said Palanethra, in a Zoom call from India.

The experience paid off. Palanethra said one “shark” offered to invest $100,000 in the venture, which will allow freebowler to expand to additional international markets. He said the company saw a surge after the show aired, leading to other partnership and investment opportunities.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

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