When people think about the typical entrepreneur they tend to imagine the slick Silicon Valley startup founders who changed the world in a day with an incredible idea and no outside help. However, this is not the case, and initiatives such as Dragons' Den can be the difference between take-off and failure.
Almost every startup has help from the outside, whether that be through investment, consultancy or planning. This is why the idea that ‘real entrepreneurs’ don’t need tools to help them kick start their ventures is ridiculous. The Dragons are an extremely experienced collective and besides their financial support, can help with almost every other area of starting and running a business, right from your first round of investment, to helping the business to scale and grow.
The classic definition for an entrepreneur, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money,” which to an extent is true. However, a true entrepreneur is a disruptor, someone who is willing to risk it all to make a notable impact within a sector and challenge the pre-concieved ‘norm’.
For people who simply fit the definition of an ‘entrepreneur,’ mechanisms like Dragons Den may not be of use. For example, a local landscaper who technically ‘is risking loss to make money’ does not need investment from some of the UK’s top business people to succeed. However, for a true entrepreneur who is risking everything to try and change the world in some way, having backing from business experts not only gives them the best possible chance of success, but also provides them with the support they need in order to fulfil their vision, and grow their idea into a fully-fledged business.
Even some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs had help during the early days of their ventures, and Dragons’ Den is a great way to find the support you need from some of the top business men and women in the UK. Away from this, it is also an extremely good way of gaining experience pitching your business to the best. We took away so many invaluable lessons from the whole show, from applying to the preparation, all the way through to the pitch.
The Dragons' Den pitch can last up to two hours.
One of the reasons people think that ‘real entrepreneurs’ don’t go on Dragons’ Den is because of its likeness to a reality TV show. In the same way the public think that people who become famous through shows like Geordie Shore, Love Island etc. aren’t celebrities, they also think that entrepreneurs who go on Dragons Den aren’t genuine disruptors and innovators, which just isn’t true. The whole experience from start to finish is a real life, in-depth pitch to potential investors, despite the fact that the final pitch is televised.
When you look at previous successful Dragons’ Den entrepreneurs, you will have a hard time arguing that they are not ‘real entrepreneurs’. Look at Levi Roots, who quit everything he was doing to pursue his dream of making food, which people across the world can enjoy. He is arguably one of the most successful candidates to come through the show and in our eyes a true entrepreneur.
An important thing to remember is that the people entering this show have sometimes given up everything to make their idea a possibility, which is why I consider the candidates ‘real entrepreneurs,’ despite the television show’s format.
The preparation process for the show is rigorous and the pitch itself can last up to two hours. The small clip you see on television is an edited down version made to please the audience watching, however, the pitch itself is real. The investors in front of you are looking for another Levi Roots, to invest their own money, so they want lots of information about not just the business, but yourself as well.
Dragons’ Den is an extremely useful tool for entrepreneurs and business owners, not just because it is an incredibly rare opportunity to sit down and pitch your idea to the likes of Deborah Meaden, but also because the show is watched by millions of people around the UK. For a product like Pouch each and every one of them is a potential customer. What other marketing tool gives you the opportunity to be in front of that many potential customers, where you’re able to tell them exactly what your product or service does and how it can benefit them?
The only tool I can think of is a prime time television advert, and most entrepreneurs don’t have that kind of money and most viewers fast forward adverts anyway!
We would recommend Dragons’ Den to any startup founders or business owners, if not for the potential investment and increase in brand awareness, but for the amount of experience it gives you.
Pouch received £75,000 in exchange for 18% equity split between Tej Lalvani, Jenny Campbell and Touker Suleyman (following investment offers from all five Dragons).
About Jonny Plein
Start up co-founder and chartered accountant working in e-commerce / marketing technology. Interested in venturecapital, start up fundraising and technology transactions across the UK, Europe and China.