Lesson from the Den: Dragons’ Den episode Six reviewed

This week’s episode started slowly: unclear figures and commercially unviable products left the Dragons underwhelmed, but Smarta is a little embarrassed to admit it sort of enjoyed hearing repeat-pitcher Samantha Gore’s plaintive cry of ‘help me’ echo around the Den.

Gore, a brave woman indeed, was ready to prove she could to better than during her last visit to the Den, when Deborah Meaden accused her of being ‘potentially brilliant, but the worst pitch I’ve ever seen’. Would the Dragons see more than just potential this time around? Her new automated retrofit curtains were, in Gore’s opinion, likely to be a successful new product ‘within the line of criminal protection devices’. But when push came to shove, the all-important demonstration failed.

Each Dragon had a different opinion. Peter Jones, justifiably, didn’t really believe in the product, and Meaden simply didn’t like it because it worked at a snail’s pace.

Jones and fellow Dragon James Caan were both of the opinion the product wasn’t commercially viable – something only an outsider could spot, especially if you become too attached to your product. One by one, the Dragons dropped out, believing this particular product wasn’t worth the investment.

It was curtains for many of the other investment opportunities featured in the episode – all for quite different reasons. There were highly creative products such as the folding trailer and the Grill Stream rack where engineering experience had provided the inventors with products the Dragons liked, but they fell down on their figures: no clear returns for the former and no solid business plan for the latter.

Ronan McCarthy’s was the first pitch to spark any interest from the Dragons. His Spit n’ Polish Shoe-Shine booths were created to update shoe blacks’ staid image. By improving the industry’s image, he said, he could expand his income. After a good pitch, the follow-up was disappointing because, again, McCarthy lacked precise figures.

Jason Roberts’ laptop- and mobile-phone luggage company Tech21 was up last. Roberts daringly asked for £150,000 for just 5% of his company – an ask so large, Evan Davis’ voice quivered slightly as his voiceover confirmed it would have to be backed up by big figures.

In fact, Roberts’ projections sounded appealing: net profit from the previous year was £170,000, (minus the £150,00 taken for reinvestment). But he valued the company at £3m, which the Dragons didn’t like.

Roberts thought by revealing the deals he has with various computing companies, he might get support, but Caan lacked faith because of Roberts’ lack of knowledge about the company’s financial history.

With two out, Theo Paphitis delved deeper and Roberts revealed his trump card: an order worth $850,000 a year, proving although his company valuation was overinflated when looking at current and past financial records, the potential for a big valuation was backed up by the order.

Both Paphitis and Jones offered half the money for 20% - way above what Roberts was asking, but Jones had stated the case for deserving such a large portion of the equity – the vital expertise in the mobile and technology market, which meant Roberts didn’t have to think twice about accepting the Dragons’ investment.

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