Dragon’s Den first aired back in 2005 and has since contributed 15 series of investment entertainment to the world. In the most recent episode, five investors pitch their ideas to the Dragons, with ideas ranging from gluten-free cakes to colorful pocket squares. The judges decide on who to invest in based on the product, the numbers, and the people. It’s all or nothing in the cut-throat business world!
It must be a daunting prospect to enter the realm of seriously successful investors and come under their scrutiny, but that is exactly what each entrepreneur must do if they are to secure the cash and assistance they need to carry their business to the next level. The odds of becoming rich are not great, but with a Dragon on your side, they are pretty much guaranteed.
The first entrepreneur to enter the Den was Australian Sarah Hilary with her “Be Tempted” range of gluten-free cakes. She came prepared with a temptress whose role it was to hand out snacks and wink at the Dragons to sweeten them up. Sarah presented a pretty classic story: She went gluten-free but couldn’t find enough delicious cakes on the market, so she made her own. We’ve heard it all before, and so had the Dragons, but did her numbers add up and would they be willing to invest £75,000 for just 5% of her business?
Hilary stumbled and fumbled over her figures; never a good move in the Den. Despite outlining a £500,000 turnover since 2012 and describing her connections with high-end stores like Harrods, she stuttered when asked to share her gross profits, and it quickly became obvious that her £1.5 million valuation of the business simply didn’t add up.
That was enough to turn off most of the Dragons, who couldn’t see an opportunity to make their money back and weren’t satisfied with the overvaluation and lack of business strategy. Tej Lalvani picked up the pieces of her shattered pitch, offering the full amount of money but demanding 40% of her business. The pair settled with a 10% buy-back, and the first deal of the day was made!
To read more about this episode and meet the other entrepreneurs, jump with me!
The second entrepreneur was Nigel Mills, an engineer who had come out of retirement to invent a wireless sensor system for the elderly. The idea of the product was to reduce reliance on the care system so that relatives can look after their loved ones using what is effectively a very advanced intercom that would usually be given to a different market. Mills had already made himself a neat £17 million in his satellite communications company, so it was difficult to understand why he would need investors.
It was an interesting product and good to see innovation in the Den (I mean, we’ve all seen gluten-free brownies before), but the Dragons were very quick to pull the idea apart so that the initially pleasing-sounding pitch soon came across as ridiculous. Jenny Campbell points out the almost comedic elements of the technology but at the same time highlights the major flaws. She wouldn’t want to monitor her mother, and she wouldn’t want to accidentally ring an ambulance when her relative was just taking a long bath. In the end, the Dragons agreed that the product was too flawed to be investable.
The third investor, Nigel Bamford, stepped up to try and make his mark in the Den with his eco WaterBlade product, designed to spread water to reduce the amount needed to wash your hands. This was innovation at its finest. The product was neat and useful, and initial trials showed that it reduced water consumption by up to 60%. Nigel Bamford wanted £85,000 for 10% of his business, but despite Dragon’s congratulating the product itself, the business was in early stages and the retail value and market size were questionable. No investment for Nigel!
The fourth one in was Sophia Woo with her YHIM products: men’s pocket squares with multiple designs on one square. Jazzy, yes! Investable? Definitely not, but it’s great to see Dragon’s Den giving us a break from the serious tones of most pitches and bringing that lighthearted touch that we used to see more of in early series’. Woo had made only £4,000 turnover in her nine months of trading, and after the Dragons made their move to get out of the deal, she even offered to read them a poem. Cute but not going to secure any money! No deal!
The final entrepreneur was a 400m sprinter who brought forward his sports bottle shaker idea: Shakesphere. The product was designed for making protein shakes after a workout, and the athlete had already made ground with £18k profit in just three months of trading. He was looking for £75,000 for 10% of his business. Peter Jones and the other Dragons questioned the quality of the product, but the entrepreneur insisted that these problems were already in the process of being ironed out. Eventually, he walked away with all the money but had to give away 30% of his business, with Deborah Meadon and Tej Lalvani splitting the deal.
Overall, Dragon’s Den provided a good hour’s worth of pretty light entertainment. If you’re interested in the business and investment world, then this show will give key glimpses of some of the concepts involved and the sort of criteria that makes an investable business, but most of all, it’s just a bit of fun (and an opportunity for the Dragons to line their already bulging pockets and scoop up emerging businesses for their portfolios).
Only two of the original Dragons remain since the first series, namely Peter Jones and Deborah Meadon. Touker Suleyman joined in series 13, and both Jenny Campbell and Tej Lalvani are brand new to this series. As such, the dynamics that gave the earlier series a sprinkle of charm are not quite there. The Dragons come across as five individuals more than they do a team. The spark between Deborah and Peter Jones is still there, but it is punctuated by awkward looks and obvious power dynamics. If anything needs improving, it is the team spirit of the Dragons, who, while acting as separate investors, should step up and realize the need to entertain the audience. Other than that, it’s an awesome show for the capitalist buried deep within.
Dragon’s Den airs in the UK, so check your local listings if you’re in the area!