Return of the Dragons: episode one reviewed

True to the format, we started with the calamitous with poor Derek Cozens perfectly casting himself as the hopelessly blind optimist. Looking for £50,000 in exchange for 10% equity for his bizarre invention of a flashing light attached to one way road signs (which would have involved an entire rewriting of the Highway Code), Derek clearly hadn't heeded the hazard warning signs of previous pitchers who've fallen foul to a savaging from the Dragons.

So Dragons' Den is back for an eighth series - but what's changed? Well, not much. Last night's opening episode was very much business as usual for an unchanged line-up of Dragons, with the usual mix of fingers-over-eyes cringe-inducing, car-crash pitches; stinging one-line castigations; moments of genuine business insight; and the heart-warming funding of a barmaid done good, with a potential gem of a business on her hands. In short, last night's episode had everything we've come to love, loathe and long for from Dragons' Den over the past five years.
True to the format, we started with the calamitous with poor Derek Cozens perfectly casting himself as the hopelessly blind optimist. Looking for £50,000 in exchange for 10% equity for his bizarre invention of a flashing light attached to one way road signs (which would have involved an entire rewriting of the Highway Code), Derek clearly hadn't heeded the warning signs of previous pitchers who've fallen foul to a savaging from the Dragons.
In fairness to them, what do you say to someone who openly concedes his chief prospective client hates the concept and that not a single person has every told him it's a good idea? The producers must have been rubbing their hands with glee the moment flashing Derek arrived bearing his prize pole for inspection. The Dragons didn't disappoint slipped straight into character. Duncan Bannatyne proudly told Derek this was 'the worst invention ever to be brought onto Dragons' Den', Peter Jones chirped 'this is ridiculous', while Smarta's own Deborah Meaden sympathetically urged: "Derek, I'm pleading with you not to take this any further."
Of course, as you'd only expect, Derek knew best and refused to budge -literally. He resolutely attempted to pitch on long after the Dragons' all declared they were out, forcing them into a collective, dare I say, Apprentice-esque banishment.  Poor poor Derek, but classic Dragons' Den 'how not to do it' TV.
Just when we thought desperate Derek had used up all the classic Dragons' Den disasters, father and son duo Bob and Rob Cribb reminded us we'd yet to see Theo smash the hell out of a product.  Smarta's other prize Dragon duly obliged by crushing their not-so-secure shed lock with his bear, sorry, bare hands.
Now for something straight out of leftfield, as former environmentalist Geoff Bowen pitched his Devon-based organic vineyard experience business Pebblebed Vineyard, with a unique model. Things started badly for Geoff as he became this series' first rabbit in the headlights, suffering a wince-worthy mind-blank for a full 45 seconds of sheer agonising 'um, er...' interrupted silence.
Just as Geoff got it back on track, he first upset Deborah by failing to clearly explain how he'd provide a return on her potential £60,000 investment for 20% stake (not that it seemed a realistic prospect), then sparked a spat between the Dragons as Duncan jumped to his defence, leaping to the floor to hijack the pitch and explained what Geoff couldn't.
Deborah was not best pleased. 'Duncan, I'm not investing in you! I want to hear it from you Geoff,' she shrieked before turning attention firmly back to Geoff's in ability to articulate. "Don't look at me like I'm silly, your job is to explain to me how I'm going to get my money back." Ouch.
Theo and Peter lined up behind Deborah while James ruled himself on religious grounds. But, BUT... Geoff's guardian angel Duncan once again came to the rescue, seemingly 'getting' the model the others couldn't and piling in with the full amount for double the equity - hardly believing his luck, Geoff shook on it and, somehow, we had deal number one of series eight. Hurrah!
Back to the bamboozling for a brief snippet of rigid dog lead swiftly sent packing and someone who'd poured all their passion into making rubber bands for drawers full of cables. Yes, really.
Dance teacher and choreographer Nas Choudhry waltzed up the stairs snappily dressed and oozing confidence, pitching with aplomb for a whopping £200,000 for his The Flex Effect Enterprise dance extravaganza, show and troop. Just 26 but with a decade of dance success behind him and a track record of selling out the Albert Hall, Naz promised to follow in Michael Flatley's footsteps before introducing an impeccable dance routine from his team which garnered rapturous applause. So far so good.
The Dragons are no fools, though, of course and will find gristle to chew on from the smoothest of pitches. "So you're putting in £50,000 for 70% and I'm putting in £200,000 for 30%, does that sound like a good deal to you?" fired Duncan with a classic Dragons' Den argument.
Theo picked up the mantle demanding to know about Nas' personal wealth, while Deborah exposed a frailty for figures with some basic arithmetic. Within seconds, the curtains had come down on Nas' big show. 'You're the creative sort, get yourself a business partner," was the Dragons' advice as Duncan reflected how at 26 he was penniless and didn't even have a bank account. Plenty of time for Nas to make good, then.
Last but definitely not least up was Kirsty Henshaw, a 24-year-old part-time barmaid seeking £65,000 for 15% investment in her healthy low fat ice cream alternative Worthenshaws. An anxious but impressive presentation grabbed the attention, but anyone looking to sell into supermarkets is also going to be in for a grilling - would Kirsty have the answers to the Dragons' interrogations? Damn right, she did.
Credible ingredients? Tick. Interest from buyers? Er, how about Tesco?! Yes, but how many units would they take? Try four cases of 12 in each flavour in 400 stores! Ahh, but how will you meet the demand? Already got the UK's major ice cream manufacturer lined up.
Theo spoke for us all when he admitted he was 'blown away' by what Kirsty had achieved juggling three jobs and a four-year-old, with no outside investment and even having to drop out of uni to make the business work. As Theo eulogised, Kirsty began to weep and we veered dangerously towards a hideous ex-Factor 'I need this' moment before Peter rescued us with the rather less romantic notion that if she played her cards right and joined the Jones' empire then Kirsty could become the Levi Roots of frozen desserts.
Sympathy thankfully abandoned (she certainly didn't need it), we were back to hardball business. Theo weighed in with a less weepy 40% offer but for £100,000, while James and Deborah decided it wasn't their thing and Peter and Duncan both tabled £65,000 for 25%.
Kirsty wisely opted to keep hold of the equity she'd worked so hard for and then used the 'pause for effect' negotiation technique to perfection under the pretence of trying to choose between her two remaining suitors until Peter made the offer she was surely angling for and offered to share the investment with his counterpart. Deal done. Definitely one of the best in the show's history for the viewer and you sense for the investors. Well done Kirsty and welcome back Dragons' Den!

In fairness to them, what do you say to someone who concedes his chief prospective client hates the concept and not a single person has ever told him it's a good idea? The producers must have been rubbing their hands with glee the moment flashing Derek arrived bearing his prize pole for inspection. The Dragons didn't disappoint slipping straight into character.

Duncan Bannatyne proudly told Derek this was 'the worst invention ever to be brought onto Dragons' Den', Peter Jones chirped 'this is ridiculous', while Smarta's own Deborah Meaden sympathetically urged: "Derek, I'm pleading with you not to take this any further."

Of course, as you'd only expect, Derek knew best and refused to budge -literally. He resolutely attempted to pitch on long after the Dragons' all declared they were out, forcing them into a collective, dare I say, Apprentice-esque banishment.  Poor poor Derek, but classic Dragons' Den 'how not to do it' TV.

Just when we thought desperate Derek had used up all the classic Dragons' Den disasters, father and son duo Bob and Rob Cribb reminded us we'd yet to see Theo smash the hell out of a product.  Smarta's other prize Dragon duly obliged by crushing their not-so-secure shed lock with his bear, sorry, bare hands.

Next up was former environmentalist Geoff Bowen, who pitched his Devon-based organic vineyard experience business Pebblebed Vineyard, with a unique model. Things started badly for Geoff as he became this series' first rabbit in the headlights, suffering a wince-worthy mind-blank for a full 45 seconds of sheer agonising 'um, er...' interrupted silence.

Just as Geoff got it back on track, he first upset Deborah by failing to clearly explain how he'd provide a return on her potential £60,000 investment for 20% stake (not that it seemed a realistic prospect), then sparked a spat between the Dragons as Duncan jumped to his defence, leaping to the floor to hijack the pitch and explained what Geoff couldn't.

Deborah was not best pleased. 'Duncan, I'm not investing in you! I want to hear it from you Geoff,' she shrieked before turning attention firmly back to Geoff's in ability to articulate. "Don't look at me like I'm silly, your job is to explain to me how I'm going to get my money back." Ouch.

Theo and Peter lined up behind Deborah while James ruled himself on religious grounds. But, BUT... Geoff's guardian angel Duncan once again came to the rescue, seemingly 'getting' the model the others couldn't and piling in with the full amount for double the equity - hardly believing his luck, Geoff shook on it and, somehow, we had deal number one of series eight. Hurrah!

Back to the bamboozling for a brief snippet of a rigid dog lead swiftly sent packing and someone who'd poured all their passion into making rubber bands for drawers full of cables. Yes, really.

Dance teacher and choreographer Naz Choudhury waltzed up the stairs snappily dressed and oozing confidence, pitching with aplomb for a whopping £200,000 for his The Flex FX Productions dance extravaganza, show and troop. Just 26 but with a decade of dance success behind him and a track record of selling out the Albert Hall, Naz promised to follow in Michael Flatley's footsteps before introducing an impeccable dance routine from his team which garnered rapturous applause. So far so good.

The Dragons are no fools, though, of course and will find gristle to chew on from the smoothest of pitches. "So you're putting in £50,000 for 70% and I'm putting in £200,000 for 30%, does that sound like a good deal to you?" fired Duncan with a classic Dragons' Den argument.

Theo picked up the mantle demanding to know about Naz' personal wealth, while Deborah exposed a frailty for figures with some basic arithmetic. Within seconds, the curtains had come down on Naz' big show. 'You're the creative sort, get yourself a business partner," was the Dragons' advice as Duncan reflected how at 26 he was penniless and didn't even have a bank account. Plenty of time for Naz to make good, then.

Last but definitely not least up was Kirsty Henshaw, a 24-year-old part-time barmaid seeking £65,000 for 15% investment in her healthy low fat ice cream alternative Worthenshaws. An anxious but impressive presentation grabbed the attention, but anyone looking to sell into supermarkets is always going to be in for a grilling - would Kirsty have the answers to the Dragons' interrogations? Damn right, she did.

Credible ingredients? Tick. Interest from buyers? Er, how about Tesco?! Yes, but how many units would they take? Try four cases of 12 in each flavour in 400 stores! Ahh, but how will you meet the demand? Already got the UK's major ice cream manufacturer lined up.

Theo spoke for us all when he admitted he was 'blown away' by what Kirsty had achieved juggling three jobs and a four-year-old, with no outside investment and even having to drop out of uni to make the business work. As Theo eulogised, Kirsty began to weep and we veered dangerously towards a hideous ex-Factor 'I need this' moment before Peter rescued us with the rather less romantic notion that if she played her cards right and joined the Jones' empire then Kirsty could become the Levi Roots of frozen desserts.

Sympathy thankfully abandoned (she certainly didn't need it), we were back to hardball business. Theo weighed in with a less weepy 40% offer but for £100,000, while James and Deborah decided it wasn't their thing and Peter and Duncan both tabled £65,000 for 25%.

Kirsty wisely opted to keep hold of the equity she'd worked so hard for and then used the 'pause for effect' negotiation technique to perfection under the pretence of trying to choose between her two remaining suitors until Peter made the offer she was surely angling for and offered to share the investment with his counterpart. Deal done. Definitely one of the best in the show's history for the viewer and you sense for the investors. Well done Kirsty and welcome back Dragons' Den!

 

 

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