Dragon' Den: episode seven, reviewed

Kicking off with Allan Brown & Simon Jamieson's gift card exchange, episode seven was a rollercoaster ride. Duncan Bannatyne, courting controversy as always, called Gift Card Converter "a fantastic idea" before announcing that it would never make money and declaring himself 'out'. Deborah Meaden all but had her hand in her pocket to hand over the £50,000 investment but Peter Jones' stern pronouncement that the pair would not only fail but be "completely destroyed" made her think twice.

As soon as gift card trading was labelled a "black market" and the founders admitted they'd sought no legal advice on their start-up, Meaden sat on her hands. Theo Paphitis, the last Dragon standing, uttered some wise words to the entrepreneurs: "Not all ideas are money-making ideas," he said as Brown and Jamieson departed the Den.

When Letitia Valentine caught hyperthermia on a rambling holiday with partner Alex Lewis, the pair came up with the idea for Surviva Jak, a foil jacket that's lighter and four times more efficient than a standard foil blanket. Again, a great idea... But the cracks soon began to show. "There are 38 million ramblers in the UK," said Valentine, drawing incredulous looks from the Dragons.

A bun fight ensued with each Dragon taking turns to lay in to the hapless entrepreneurs for failing to back up their superficial research figures. "You're obviously passionate about the product but you're completely dysfunctional," said Peter Jones. Salvation appeared in the form of Deborah Meaden, who offered the couple the full £75,000 investment for 45 per cent of their company, proving that a good idea can counteract incompetence after all. After a cursory attempt to haggle, Valentine "graciously" accepted the deal.

No such luck for Citidogs Crèche founders Sandy Maxwell Forbes and Sarah McLean. Despite a brilliantly-executed pitch, their lack of business acumen - "How can you fail to factor in VAT?" shouted Duncan Bannatyne - saw the Dragons drop out one by one.

Neither Maxwell Forbes nor Mclean were taking a salary for their 12-week old business, prompting this comment from Peter Jones: "Time and time again people make the massive mistake of thinking they've got a great business when they don't pay themselves a salary. Soon as you open your next one, you're dead in the water." After Deborah Meaden pointed out that the business' economies of scale would actually decrease as the pair roll out their dog crèche business, all the Dragons are out. But at least Maxwell Forbes and McLean leave with a whole lot of free advice.

And here comes the finale. The last entrepreneurs to climb the steps to the Den were Chris Barnardo and Richard Blakesley, founders of the Wand Company. As the company name suggests, the pair were peddling magic  - of sorts. The Kymera is a carved wooden wand that can control everyday electrical objects, from televisions to ceiling fans. There are no buttons or switches: the Kymera responds to gestures. The Dragons were suitably impressed. Blakesley and Barnardo were looking for £200,000 in return for a ten per cent stake.

Bannatyne was the first to declare himself, offering the whole amount for triple the equity. But he threw in a kicker, "If you make £600,000 profit this year, I'll give you ten per cent back," he said. Then negotiations began in earnest. Each Dragon wanted a slice of the pie: "You've had your offer from Voldemort over there," said Peter Jones. "Now Hagrid's coming in." Jones undercut Bannatyne's offer by five per cent. Theo offered a new ratchet, settling for a 12 per cent stake if the Wand Company pulled in the £1.2m profit anticipated by the founders. Deborah Meaden made a canny bid: half the cash for ten per cent. "But that's not a good offer," complained Bannatyne. "That's more equity than Theo's offered." "They want two Dragons," came her reply.

In the end, the Scot entrepreneur won the day. His offer of £200,000 for 30 per cent, reducing on a sliding scale all the way down to 10 per cent dependent on £1.2 million profit sealed the deal. As Bannatyne shook hands with his new business partners, Jones conceded, "I think you'll do very well with them".

It was a brilliant piece of television, nail-biting to the end. It was great to see a company with real potential not only receive investment, but incite a genuine bidding war. With two more Harry Potter films on the way, the market for the Kymera wand can only increase. And the pair had done their homework, citing World of Warcraft fans as another target demographic. You could practically see all the Dragons hop out of their seats when a follow-up product was mentioned. But it's all very hush hush - the patent is still pending.

That concluded a fantastic spell in the Den for the Wand Company. They left with all their cash, retaining 90 per cent of their business. It makes you wonder if maybe the founders had a few magical powers themselves. Their performance in the Den sure went like a charm...

 

Written by Rebecca Burn-Callander

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