One of the questions we often ask investors who come into the Smarta office for an interview is whether they invest in the business or the entrepreneur. The answer, almost invariably, is the entrepreneur – investors say they need to be able to rely on the person entrusted with their money to ensure it’s being used responsibly.
Last night’s Dragons’ Den featured the Karens O’Neill and Coombs, a pair of white-trousered ice skatists whose chorus of bright exclamations (Hi! I’m Karen! And I’m Karen! Ice blading! Learn to ice skate! Without the ice! Music, please!) gave them a an air of Kubrickian menace.
Confronted by this alarming duo, Theo – a man for whom we usually have nothing but the utmost respect – jumped up and said ‘yes’.
The Karens had invented a sort of in-line skate which simulates ice-skating. Nothing like in-line skates, they assured us – you can’t pirouette on in-line skates. “People lose interest because you can’t take it any further”, complained one of the Karens.
Anyway, we digress – for the business they’d come up with was essentially very good. In the absence of any concrete orders, they had found other streams of revenue – teaching classes at schools and leisure centres – as well as clinching a seal of approval from the National Ice Skating Association.
Evan Davis’ voiceover praised the Karens’ ‘eye-catching’ pitch, and Theo leapt – Torvill and Dean-like – at the chance because they had the figures, potential and enough support from their industry to prove they were producing a great product.
Elsewhere, we saw a marked contrast between posh boy William Sachiti, who pitched his ad-supported rubbish bins business and Geordies Tony Earnshaw and Steven Pearson, who wanted investment to expand their cleaning business. Sachiti was turned down, while Earnshaw and Pearson, whose business is already in profit, cashed in.
Interesting to see the ad-supposed model no longer holds sway with the Dragons, while a few years ago investors were falling over themselves to inject finance into anything which involved advertising. How tastes change – even in the Den.