Lessons from the Dragons' Den: Tune in, read on, lift off

Written by Ian Portsmouth

Tune in, read on, lift off
Capital connections

What Dragons want

Here be dragons: 
Jim Treliving
Kevin O’Leary

Laurence Lewin

Jennifer Wood
Robert Herjavec

If you’re looking for solid ways to send a new product or business skyward, Dragons’ Den is the most entertaining option around

Rest assured that Dragons’ Den is not a retail chain specializing in comic books for pimply preteens. Nor is it an interactive medieval thrill ride at Disney World. Rather, it’s a business-themed reality-TV concept that has played in more than 20 countries and makes its Canadian debut October 4 on the CBC. Watching Dragons’ Den could make a big difference to your business.

That’s a bold promise to make about a TV series, especially one that’s as much game show as it is documentary. But there’s real business value in Dragons’ Den. This editorial package proves it.

The Dragons’ Den concept is simple: aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners with ambitious growth plans walk into a room (the “Den”) — usually alone, sometimes with models or partners, often with product — and face a panel of five multimillionaire entrepreneurs (the “Dragons”) who are looking for investment opportunities. The contestants then pitch their product or business plan in the hope of earning some of the Dragons’ cash. Unlike TV talent contests in which a single winner is selected by a panel of judges, Dragons’ Den involves real deals for real money, negotiated in front of the cameras.

That’s right: the Dragons — alone or in groups — can invest $50,000, $100,000 or any amount they choose in a contestant’s budding business, right on the spot. Or the Dragons might chastise a contestant for bothering to show up.

Just as if they were making a formal presentation to a venture capitalist, the entrepreneurs in the Den are grilled by the Dragons about valuations, proof of concept, market penetration, intellectual property protection and just about every other facet of a business that can help a would-be investor determine whether the opportunity is a diamond or a dog. Some contestants stand the heat, while others melt under the pressure.

It makes for TV that’s both entertaining and instructive — a rare combination in the 500-channel universe. It also provides great fodder for a magazine dedicated to Canadian entrepreneurs. CBC gave PROFIT unmatched access to the set and to the Dragons, and one of our contributors, venture-capital consultant Sean Wise, helped the producers select contestants for the show and acted as a special advisor during taping, which took place over eight long days in August.

As a result, PROFIT could extract the very best management and financing information from the show, and present it to you in this package. So tune in, read on and gain a few insights that will help your business lift off.

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