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What Lessons In Entrepreneurship Can You Learn From The Dragons' Den?

Entrepreneurs are the basis of much of the world’s economic growth: the right idea at the right time with the right backing can cause fortunes to be made almost overnight. This is what lies behind the popularity of Dragons’ Den and our online course in Entrepreneurship.

BBC’s Dragons’ Den is based on a Japanese format that continues to attract viewers around the world. From Shark Tank in the US to The Dragons’ Nest in Sweden, the format remains the same: entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists hoping to attract investment and mentoring. After the initial presentation the panel of ‘Dragons’ have the chance to extensively question the contestants to decide whether they want to invest, and as an added twist the contestants are not allowed to take notes into the Den.

What you don’t see on the show is the months – or years – of work that goes into each pitch. The rewards can be great: not only investment from a well-connected and experienced entrepreneur, but also what amounts to practically a 15-minute advertisement in prime time on the BBC. And the BBC never carries advertising.

So even if you are deemed ‘unsuccessful’ and don’t attract investment, if your pitch is interesting enough you will still get publicity – and that may be all you need.

Introducing … The Winners!

A number of businesses have expanded considerably after successfully attracting investment on the show. Here are a few of the winners …

Levi Roots – Selling Sauce

The most famously successful business to have come through Dragons’ Den is Levi Roots and his range of spicy condiments.

The success of Levi’s pitch was due to:
– a strong product that was selling well, even if it was only at one annual 3-day event;
– a creative pitch, and a catchy song;
– some impressive figures – although not as impressive as Levi originally thought;

It also showed that even if you are missing in some aspects required for an ideal pitch, creativity can see you through. It is unlikely that the pitch would have worked without the man who was the company.

The Generating Company – One Trick Pony? 

An early successful pitch that also relied on the force of creativity was The Generating Company.

You can see their story here:

Their blend of circus, dance, and theatre was an unusual prospect for investment, but once again, what brought the investment home was:
– a strong product;
– some impressive figures;
– a fairly creative pitch.

What they were missing in terms of creativity, they made up for in terms of numbers and vision.

Worthenshaws – Unique Nutritional Prospect

A more straightforward idea that also worked was Kirsty Henshaw’s Worthenshaw’s Frozen Desserts. Her pitch combined passion and creativity with a good grasp of the numbers:

How could the Dragons resist Kirsty’s proposal? She combined:
– a strong, healthy product with mass appeal;
– a good knowledge of the figures;
– a pitch which included a taste of the product.

One Of Many Losers

So how about those that didn’t fare so well under the scrutiny of the Dragons?

VeryPC: Trying to Blind With Science

Everyone likes to save energy, and green computing should have gone down well. But he reckoned without experienced technology entrepreneurs like Peter Jones and James Caan …

optimistic figures that didn’t add up;
technological claims that didn’t stand up to scrutiny;
– no ownership of patents;
over-valued business.

One That Got Away

Trunki – It Did Have Legs …

No description of the winners and losers on Dragons’ Den would be complete without an acknowledgement that the Dragons miss some winning companies. A case in point would be Trunki:

Although Rob Law gave a fluent presentation, the pitch fell down because:
– figures seen as being too optimistic;
– no ownership of patents;
product broke during the pitch.

It was the broken strap that was the key feature that turned the Dragons off the product.

But 6 years later? The company has gained numerous awards, has carefully expanded its repertoire of travel accessories for young children, and has made significant profits without having to hand over a percentage to one of the Dragons.

Learn Business Start-Up and Entrepreneurship

Looking at these examples you can see that product, passion, pitch and research are key aspects that can convince investors that you are worth the risk.

Fortunately, many successful businesses have grown without having to pitch to a team of investors without notes. They rely on their own entrepreneurial spirit to take their ideas out to market. Take an online course in Business Start-Up and Entrepreneurship and you will learn about the aspects of planning, invention, marketing and research that every business needs to make their products and services really stand out.

So have you got an idea you’re just itching to build on? With the right training you can be your own Dragon!

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