Dragon' Den: episode four, reviewed

 

This week in the Den we learnt as much from the pitches that didn't get investment as from those that did. And it was an odd old bunch of companies too. Let's take them one by one.
First up with Leila, with her falcon Monty, who was considerably well behaved bar the occasional coo for food. Leila's proposition sounded distinctly un-Dragony from the outset, but her uber-calm pitch and familiarity with her figures swiftly earned her the respect of all the investors.
Hawksdrift had a couple of clear revenue streams: using its more than 30 birds of prey for humane pest control (Leila had secured a contract with the biggest pest control company in the UK for next year); putting on displays; and novelty falconry such as one of the birds delivering a wedding ring.
Leila was clearly devoted to the business - her and her partner lived off a combined income of £12,000 a year, and she'd put worked her socks off in any way possible to buy her plot of land in Wales five years previously, aged 21.
Her perseverance, ability to consistently double turnover (or more) year on year with very limited resources, and her cool, assured pitch drew much respect from the Dragons, but for £50,000 for 25% of a company with £22,700 gross profit it just didn't seem that investable. Theo Paphitis, however, made an offer of £50,000 for 40% - and was swiftly reprimanded by Duncan Bannatyne for 'not being fair'. Duncan made her the full offer, though cannily structured his deal to include the land Leila owned (which had shot up from £5,000 to £75,000 after she got planning permission for a caravan on it) plus anything built on it. So a charitable offer in part, yes, but one which perhaps a slightly cannier entrepreneur might have realised was not just celebrating the prospects of their business.
Nevertheless, without Leila's calm, endearing nature, combined with her unflappable knowledge of her business and obvious devotion to it, we doubt she would have got anywhere. Which goes to show again how important all those attributes are in a pitch.
Which brings us neatly to Buzz Games Limited, this week's disaster. Buzz Games, fronted by Tony, made a football attached to a rigid pole that swung (very slowly) around a fixed base. Like Swingball, except for footballs, and, as Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis pointed out, without any of the fun of the range of shots you can take, or different angles, or different strengths or even any competitive edge to the game at all. "You've taken all the USPs out a great product and transferred it into this." Peter concluded in utter dismay.
Things went from awful to diabolical for Tony. Despite investing nine months developing the product in China and promising he'd spoken to 'lots of industry experts and major retailers' who all said it would sell really well, he has no confirmed orders. At all. What he does have is an exclusive licensing agreement with Muki, makers of the Swingball - it'll give Tony 8% of wholesale price. Which might sound redemptive, but actually, as Duncan sighs: "A licence agreement only has a value is they have a minimum amount they're going to sell or if they give you an upfront amount of money. Otherwise it actually devalues your product, because you can't sell it outside that licence agreement. And if they don't sell it, you're in big trouble. I'm out."
Listen and learn business owners: not every deal is a good deal. Some are positively rotten.
Chuck the fact Tony's £1.5m valuation of his business, weighing in at 10% for £150,000, is ludicrously far of the mark, and you have five Dragons distinctly unimpressed - and certainly not going to invest.
We then breeze through a sweet but slightly hopeless pitch from a couple of cousines with a well-patented flower watering device and vertical pot that's quite nice but doesn't offer any ROI so doesn't entice anyone, and onto the final main pitch of the episode: Lumacoustics.
Lumacoustics, founded by friends Tim and Tom, had many of the defining characteristics of a Dragon-friendly company. The duo gave confident pitch on their big digital wall display, that let people play around with a graffiti can to produce a big digital image on the screen which could be uploaded onto social networks or printed out on the spot onto T-shirts for events. They were already making profit, had turned over £116,000 in the last 11 months, counted MTV, Chevrolet and Red Bull as clients and had a clear idea of which markets they could expand into (events mainly, and also schools). The pair had other products to their name (projectors and the like) and had developed the software and technology themselves. Lots of big ticks there.
They asked for £50,000 for 10% of the business, and ended up with Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones each taking 20% for that amount (after a good bit of negotiating!).
But there are interesting lessons to be learnt from why the others pulled out. James Caan was concerned the other areas for expansion weren't developed enough.  Theo was concerned the novelty value of the product would expire, leaving them with no market.
So what swung it for Deborah and Peter? Deborah said the product was fun enough that people would attribute value to it, which meant it would continue to sell. Peter Jones, electronic whizz that he is, saw a new use for it. He thought the value lay in the actual electronic spray-can device, which could be scaled down so that kids could play with a mini version of the software on their PCs at home. And when you can pull in investors who can spot whole new markets like that, it's worth giving away that extra chunk of equity.

Hawksdrift had a couple of clear revenue streams: using its more than 30 birds of prey for humane pest control (Leila had secured a contract with the biggest pest control company in the UK for next year); putting on displays; and novelty falconry such as one of the birds delivering a wedding ring.

Leila was clearly devoted to the business - her and her partner lived off a combined income of £12,000 a year, and she'd worked her socks off in any way possible to buy herself a plot of land in Wales five years previously, aged 21.

Her perseverance, ability to consistently double turnover (or more) year on year with very limited resources, and her cool, assured pitch drew much respect from the Dragons, but for £50,000 for 25% of a company with £22,700 gross profit it just didn't seem that investable. Theo Paphitis, however, made an offer of £50,000 for 40% - and was swiftly reprimanded by Duncan Bannatyne for 'not being fair'. Duncan made her the full offer, though cannily structured his deal to include the land Leila owned (which had shot up from £5,000 to £75,000 after she got planning permission for a caravan on it) plus anything built on it. So a charitable offer in part, yes, but one which perhaps a slightly cannier entrepreneur might have realised was not just celebrating the prospects of their business.

Nevertheless, without Leila's calm, endearing nature, combined with her unflappable knowledge of her business and obvious devotion to it, we doubt she would have got anywhere. Which goes to show again how important all those attributes are in a pitch.

Which brings us neatly to Buzz Games Limited, this week's disaster. Buzz Games, fronted by Tony, made a football attached to a rigid pole that swung (very slowly) around a fixed base. Like Swingball, except for footballs, and, as Peter Jones and Theo Paphitis pointed out, without any of the fun of the range of shots you can take, or different angles, or different strengths or even any competitive edge to the game at all. "You've taken all the USPs out a great product and transferred it into this," Peter concluded in utter dismay.

Things went from awful to diabolical for Tony. Despite investing nine months developing the product in China and promising he'd spoken to 'lots of industry experts and major retailers' who 'all said it would sell really well' (ahem), he had no confirmed orders. At all.

What he did have was an exclusive licensing agreement with Muki, makers of the Swingball - it'll give Tony 8% of wholesale price. Which might sound redemptive, but actually, as Duncan sighs: "A licence agreement only has a value is they have a minimum amount they're going to sell or if they give you an upfront amount of money. Otherwise it actually devalues your product, because you can't sell it outside that licence agreement. And if they don't sell it, you're in big trouble. I'm out."

Listen and learn business owners: not every deal is a good deal. Some are positively rotten.

Chuck in Tony's ludicrously far of the mark £1.5m valuation of his business (weighing in at 10% for £150,000), and you have five Dragons distinctly unimpressed - and certainly not going to invest.

We then breeze through a sweet but slightly hopeless pitch from a couple of cousins with a well-patented flower watering device and vertical pot that's quite nice but doesn't offer any real ROI, so doesn't entice anyone, and onto the final main pitch of the episode: Lumacoustics.

Lumacoustics, founded by friends Tim and Tom, had many of the defining characteristics of a Dragon-friendly company. The duo gave a confident pitch on their big digital wall display, that let people play around with a graffiti can to produce a big digital image on the screen,  which could then also be uploaded onto social networks or printed out on the spot onto T-shirts for events.

They were already making profit, had turned over £116,000 in the last 11 months, counted MTV, Chevrolet and Red Bull as clients and had a clear idea of which markets they could expand into (events mainly, and also schools). The pair had other products to their name too (projectors and the like) and had developed the software and technology themselves. Lots of big ticks there.

They asked for £50,000 for 10% of the business, and ended up with Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones each taking 20% for that amount (after a good bit of negotiating!).

But there are interesting lessons to be learnt from why the others pulled out. James Caan was concerned the other areas for expansion weren't developed enough.  Theo was concerned the novelty value of the product would expire, leaving them with no market.

So what swung it for Deborah and Peter? Deborah said the product was fun enough that people would attribute value to it, which meant it would continue to sell.

Peter Jones, electronic whizz that he is, saw a new use for it. He thought the value lay in the actual electronic spray-can device, working on the principles of an infrared mouse, that could be scaled down so that kids could play with a mini version of the software on their PCs at home.

And when you can pull in investors who can spot whole new markets like that, it's probably worth giving away that extra chunk of equity.

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