“We’ve all watched Dragons’ Den at some point and thought ‘better them than me!’. Little did I think I’d end up being on the show…and have three Dragons fighting (verbally) to invest in our app! Last week’s episode saw minicabit become the first mobile app to win offers in the Den from Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Piers Linney (hearing Duncan Bannatyne’s “I’m oot” first hand was a badge of honour).
I shook hands with Deborah (a Smarta supporter!) and Peter as I thought they’d bring the right breadth of expertise I wanted for the business.
In case you didn’t watch, minicabit’s app and website enables you to compare and book great deals from licensed cab operators across the UK, for long distance and local trips.
Funnily enough, I didn’t actually apply for Dragons’ Den. Instead, a BBC scout approached me, having heard my pitch at a Wayra open day. It took me an audition and various chats with them for me to get some comfort that they weren’t necessarily lining me up for the ‘barmy idea’ slot you often see on the show.
Here are my 4 tips on how to survive the Dragons’ Den, or any interview with investors:
Your fate can be sealed before you step out the lift into the Den, if you’re demanding a crazy amount of money for investment, or a sky high valuation. Generally speaking, if you’re asking for anything over £100,000 or valuing your company at £1m+, you’d better be profitable already, and on a decent scale. Conversely, asking the Dragons for anything below £50,000 might seem too small to make a difference to your business. Best to focus on a credible amount for investment. As for the valuation, it’s often seems the case the Dragons work to their own scale regardless of what you propose.
You can show all the vision and creative sparks you want about your product or service, but at the end of the day, the Dragons (like any sensible investor) want even some confidence you understand the basic numbers of your business. They can perhaps fill the gaps on the heavier stuff (like balance sheets) but you need to show you’ve made the effort to grasp how to actually make money. And no point trying to make numbers up, they’ll catch you out. I often found it stressful preparing for this part yet ultimately rewarding, as it got me familiar with every inch of my business.
You’re living and breathing your business, day in and day out, so you (hopefully) know your customers, market, competition etc. better than anyone else. Whilst asserting your knowledge to the Dragons can inspire their confidence in you, it’s vital you know when to listen and hear their views. Taking on board their feedback shows you can do the same with your customers, which is a key path to progressing your business. It also hints that your relationship with them would be a two way flow of ideas…which leads me to my last - and most important - point.
Raising any kind of cash investment is never easy, but there are far smoother ways to get it than to pitch on a nationwide TV show. Treat the cash as secondary, what you want is the expertise and insights a Dragon can bring, learnt from their failures as much as their successes. That’s gold dust that no amount of money can buy! So research who you deem to be the most relevant Dragon(s) on what they’ve done and how, and if you can picture them adding value to your business beyond the cash.
Hope that helps. And if you do get on the show and are fretting about your opening pitch, making sure the lift button works or how you’ll look with TV makeup slapped on, just remember the Dragons are on the show to make the right deals…so make it easy for them to go for yours Best of luck!”