All the contestants on Dragons’ Den are trying to sell you something. Most pitches involve small-scale manufacturing like plastic deck chairs or magnetic schedules for children, with entrepreneurs looking for the seed funding to get their dream venture off the ground. But Morgan Carey wasn’t looking for money, and his company, Real Estate Webmasters, is far more established and profitable than the show’s average startup.
Real Estate Webmasters builds web products and creates online and conventional marketing campaigns for real estate agents, a business Carey got into in the early 2000s after a successful first career as the “SEO Guy.” The company is based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, an unlikely place to put a tech company with self-reported eight-figure revenues.
A fortuitous encounter with former Bruce Croxon and Robert Herjavec at a PROFIT 500 CEO Summit convinced Carey to try out for the show. “I thought they were probably not going to listen to us, because we’re a huge business and that’s not normally what you see on Dragons’ Den,” he admits.
Carey filmed his segment in April, pitching for what he calls “the largest legitimate ask in reality TV history”: $2 million for four per cent of his company, for a $50 million valuation. The web entrepreneur got the money (albeit for a five per cent share), with franchise specialist Jim Treliving and new Dragon Michael Wekerle splitting the deal.
MORE: The rise and fall and rise of Michael Wekerle »
Carey discussed his Dragons’ Den experience and plans for the future.
Canadian Business: Why do you think you were chosen to appear on the show?
Morgan Carey: When you do the initial interview, they have to make sure that you’re not just trying to get on TV and that you have a legitimate business. So their main question was, “You have a ton of money, why do you need to be on Dragon’s Den? Are you just here for TV?” I said to the producer, ‘I’ve taken this company to a hundred people. Do you know how to take a company from a hundred to a thousand people?” She said, “No,” and I said, “Neither do I. And that’s why I need the advice and leadership that the Dragons would bring to the table.” I’ll lever know what statement got me on the show, but I think that statement left an impression.
READ: True confessions of a Dragons’ Den survivor »
You filmed in April, so you’ve been sitting on this good news for a while. That’s hard to do.
Luckily I have a big, busy company. I’m the webmaster for Barbara Corcoran [of American version Shark Tank] in the United States, so I know her quite well. She told me that a lot of entrepreneurs fall down in the due diligence process because they start getting distracted with, “What am I going to do with the money? Am I going to be famous?” and they really lose sight of their business. So I really learned to focus.
Right now, we’re learning to leverage the PR. To be on a show like this is absolutely amazing, and you need to be prepared for it. It’s physical and mental preparation. I’m up at six in the morning doing early morning radio shows on the east coast, because I’m on the west coast—you’ve really got to be prepared for that. It’s the greatest gift that Dragon’s Den gives you, that national exposure.
What’s changed since you filmed?
We had a professional recruiter starting December 1. We wanted to dovetail those things with the national exposure, because it’s obviously a lot easier to sell an executive-level recruit on Nanaimo and Real Estate Webmasters if they actually know who we are. In the past, we’ve been the biggest company that nobody knows about, so recruiting executive-level talent or top-tier talent was a challenge. You’re trying to sell a sleepy little town that has had a bad reputation in the past, but actually happens to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. I think at the time of the show we were 100 people; now in the aggregate with our restaurant downstairs we’re around 170. We’re definitely achieving our goals in terms of recruitment, and we’ve launched a new $5.5 million facility since then. Everything is scaling pretty fast.
MORE: Does Dragons’ Den encourage a short-sighted approach to business? »
On the show you seemed to be encouraging Michael Wekerle and Jim Treliving to go in on your company together. The more mentors the better?
I don’t need $2 million, I need contacts, I need mentors. I would have taken all of them, even though Arlene [Dickinson] was mad at me! I think it’s pretty well-known for people who watch this show that the value of having multiple people compounds the value of the show. For us, $2 million for four per cent, that’s a month’s sales. That’s not something that’s going to skyrocket our business into the stratosphere. It’s a very small financial commitment to our company. But for anyone who’s investing, to consider a $2 million investment is huge because that all money that you’ve already earned that you have to put on the table.