Sometimes I’m surprised how many mistakes people make when appearing on long-running TV shows. You’d think they would learn from the mistakes made by past contestants.
For example, it never ceases to amaze me how many of the same mistakes Apprentice candidates make on a series by series basis. The same could be said of Dragon’s Den, which is already in its tenth season. After having watched seven episodes, I already know that it’s not a good idea to value your business too high and in addition you should have already done your market research before even entering the den. However, in this episode all the entrepreneurs seemed to have made the same mistakes.
Matt King proved my point at the start of the first pitch. Matt came in wanting £150,000 for just a 1% stake, a request that Peter Jones questioned straight away as that meant he valued his business at £15 million.
The business in question was called Queue For You and was a piece of technology that waited for customers while they were put on hold by call centres before ringing them back when they finally got through. Matt’s big customers were the call centres several of which had already bought the product though we never really found out what he would do with the £150,000 that he wanted.
From Peter Jones’ question onwards, it was clear that Matt wasn’t going to get anyone to invest in him, though apparently he arrived at the figure after consulting the market research. A couple of Dragons did poke holes in his product with Theo commenting that call centres shouldn’t be putting people on hold while Duncan noted that many of these centres now communicated with customers via e-mail. Generally though, the feeling was that Matt had valued his business too high and some even felt that it was a wind up telling him that he’d insulted them.
Hilary was the last of the Dragons to decide asking Matt about automated systems however when he didn’t stop talking when she asked him to she got completely frustrated and had two words for him – I’m out. As I already mentioned Matt’s fate was sealed when he valued his business so high which is a shame as he seemed to be an intelligent guy and Debra even commented that she would’ve invested if he’d asked for less money.
Next in was likeable Umer Ashraf who wanted £80,000 for a 30% share in his coffee house business called iCafe. The business first started as a university project, but had ballooned into two stores as well as a Coffee To Go outlet but he now wanted to open a fourth flagship shop as well as franchise out the brand.
It was this franchising idea that got the Dragons all riled up as each of his two shops were turning over just over £30,000 a year, yet he wanted just under £110,000 for the would-be franchisees. Debra was the first of the Dragons to really question if he’d thought the franchising idea through. She said he hadn’t considered the type of person that would go for this deal, and ended this diatribe by pulling out.
Theo and Peter both applauded Umer’s achievements up to this point, but said that he had no business plan, meaning that he was uninvestable so they both had to pull out. Hilary, who seemed to be in a foul mood in this episode, told him that to run a franchise he’d need a USP and testimonials, neither of which he had so she also pulled out. Duncan disagreed with his rivals but suggested to Umer that he sell one of his existing businesses as a franchise as a trial run and use that money to create his new flagship store.
Duncan eventually agreed to put through the full amount of money for 49% of the business and after a brief consultation with himself Umer accepted the offer. To be honest I didn’t think he’d get the money after everybody had completely rubbished his franchise idea though Duncan obviously saw something in him that the others didn’t.
Colin Bruton wants to wipe away the competition
The third big pitch of the episode was from Staffordshire-based toast master Colin Bruton who wanted £60,000 for a 20% share in his intimate cleaning wipes for men which he had called Fellas.
Colin seemed fairly passionate about his individually wrapped products, but his lack of knowledge about the industry seemed to frustrate the Dragons. Theo, for example, questioned him over how much research he’d done into Fellas’ biggest rival Wingman and the fact that he had done very little didn’t go down too well in the Den. It later transpired that Colin had only made a turnover of £4,000 despite pumping in £50,000 to the wipe business including the money from the sale of his house.
The Dragons seemed to be flummoxed over how he’d gone about setting up his business and the fact that he seemed to be clinging onto the fact that there’d been interest from a couple of Americans who were interested in parting with $23,000. As well as questioning his business sense, Duncan wasn’t sure how practical the wipes were as it would take a lot of effort to individually unwrap each sachet of Fellas however Colin explained that a lot of truck drivers used his product.
Eventually one by one the Dragons pulled out urging him to stop pedalling these wipes as financially it was a product that could never get off the ground. Debra in particular seemed concerned telling him to seriously consider quitting if the American money doesn’t come through. Unsurprisingly, he failed to get one Dragon on board. I personally feel Colin was doomed after revealing that he’d done no market research and once again I wonder if he’d ever seen the show before appearing to ask for an investment in his wipes.
The final entrepreneur to enter the Den was Ben Hardyment who wanted £250,000 for a 7.5% stake in his business: a website called Zapper on which people could sell their unwanted books, CDS, DVDs and games. I was confused as I thought I’d used his service before but then realised it was Music Magpie, which Ben describes as his greatest competitor; however Zapper seems very similar indeed.
As with Matt King, Ben faced some tough questioning about why he valued his business at £3.3 million. He answered them well, though his stumbling block came when he revealed that he already had three investors who collectively had put in £50,000 for a 10% share each.
Once this secret was out Debra, Peter and Hilary all felt insulted pulling out almost instantly, with Peter particularly seeming like someone had slapped him across the face. Duncan at least cut Ben some slack learning about his previous successful business and also hearing that he had planned an exit strategy however ultimately he thought he’d priced his business too high and pulled out. Theo though seemed completely interested thinking that he’d make a lot of money however wanted 30% which would ultimately mean that Ben wouldn’t have a majority share in his business.
Ben bought out his business partner Matt, who I was convinced would be the same Matt from the first pitch, who eventually urged him to take the deal due to Theo’s connections. I personally felt that this was a great business and Theo was right to invest also meaning he went into the Dragon’s Den record books as £250,000 was the highest amount of money ever given to a product by a single Dragon.
When compared to previous episodes of Dragon’s Den I felt this one fell short and wasn’t nearly as entertaining as last week’s affair. This was one episode where I wish some of the smaller pitches had been given more time as I was intrigued by the horror-themed paintballing experience as well as the portable darts oche however instead we got fairly run-of-the-mill pitches. I think my main problem with this episode was that I was frustrated that none of these people pitching had gone out of their way to see what winds the Dragons up the wrong way as if they had they’d have priced their businesses accurately and gone out and done some market research.
What was your favourite pitch this week? Who do you think deserved the highest investment? Leave Your Comments Below.