Dragons' Den review: No deals as Dragons tighten their belts

posted on 09/09/2013 11:29:40 by Dan O'Sullivan

None of the entrepreneurs were able to convince the Dragons to invest

Kelly Hoppen criticised Nikki Cooper for the branding of her Inner Me products

The latest episode of the series was one of mixed emotions for entrepreneurs in the Den - while none were able to secure investment, almost all won praise from the Dragons for their innovation and determination to succeed.

Unlike other instalments of the show where we've witnessed awkward pitches and uncomfortable grillings, the theme on Sunday evening was very much a frustrating one - impressive business plans and ambitious visions, but ultimately no deals.

While it would be easy to assume that this was because the Dragons saw no genuine value in the ventures in front of them, their comments and admiration for the various projects suggest that it was more a case of a collective reluctance to take a gamble.

Pitch perfect

First up was Alastair with his innovative piece of musical equipment - a new version of the reed, which is used to enhance the sound of wind instruments.

The selling point of the product was that its easy-fit qualities should make it appeal to the mass market, and the pitch ticked all the boxes as Alastair delivered a calm and confident account of his business plan.

While the majority of the Dragons were impressed, Duncan Bannatyne picked holes in the patent application for the reed while Deborah Meaden suggested that the venture didn't have as strong a potential as Alastair believed.

Despite the possible issues with the project, Peter Jones certainly took his time before deciding against making an offer, and his indecision reflected a reluctance to take a risk that the other Dragons appeared to share as the episode wore on. Unfortunately, Alastair left with nothing.

A mountain to climb

After a brief glimpse of a ladder-cum-toolkit combination that didn't capture the panel's imagination, Tim Morgan stepped into the den with the Mountain Trike wheelchair.

The product was designed to make it easier for wheelchair users to navigate tricky pathways, rocky roads and hilly terrain. Tim's figures were impressive, the plan sound and a user of the chair even arrived in the Den to tell the Dragons it had changed his life.

Perhaps the most baffling of all was the Dragons' decision to turn away Nikki Cooper and her vitamin supplements. The feeling was that the risk-averse nature of the Dragons was standing in the way of what looked to be an extremely attractive venture.

With the panel enthralled and eager to get on board, the only issue was Tim's valuation of the company - he wanted a non-negotiable £100,000 investment in return for a 5% stake of the business. The reason for this was that existing shareholders meant Tim was in no position to budge, and in some respects he priced himself out of a deal.

However, given the apparent potential of the Mountain Trike, you'd have thought one of the Dragons would still be eager to grab a slice of what appeared to be a lucrative pie. Either way, once again, they all opted against getting in on the venture - even Deborah Meaden, who initially offered the money for a 15% stake but was quickly shot down.

Healthy hope

Following a quick snapshot of Wendy and her She-Icer product, Nikki Cooper was last into the Den with her Inner Me vitamin supplements.

As Evan Davis reminded viewers, this was the last pitch of the episode and subsequently the final hope for investment. Things started well for Nikki as she gave a strong account of her business, and the Dragons were even more impressed when she announced that the brand was already stocked in Boots, Selfridges and Health Foods. Piers Linney even asked Nikki what she would do when she got "a wave of offers". The stage was set.

Yet as had happened throughout the show, the Dragons opted to mix praising the product with an approach that attempted to find flaws where, perhaps, there weren't any.

Kelly Hoppen expressed her concerns that Nikki wasn't a qualified nutritionist, while Deborah questioned the size of the market and Peter Jones warned that the business would face growing challenges in the future.

Eventually it came down to Piers being the only Dragon left in the ring, and he declined to invest as he cited his own lack of knowledge about the health industry.

Cautious Dragons?

If there's anything to take from last night's episode, it's that the Dragons increasingly seem to need ever stronger reassurances that their money is sure to be safe.

None of the panel would gamble on Alastair's reed despite Peter even revealing that he thought the product "had something", while all turned down the Mountain Trike even though it was clearly blossoming as a business.

Perhaps the most baffling of all was their decision to turn away Nikki Cooper and her vitamin supplements. While Piers and Duncan both explained that they didn't know enough about the industry, the feeling was that the risk-averse nature of the Dragons was standing in the way of what looked to be an extremely attractive venture.

Maybe, on another day, the panel would have taken the plunge and rolled the dice. Last night, it seemed the issue was more with the Dragons than it was the entrepreneurs.

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Dan O'Sullivan

Dan O’Sullivan is Make It Cheaper's Web Content Manager, which means much of his time is dedicated to ensuring we have plenty of online material to help business owners understand the energy, insurance and telecoms industries. With years of experience working alongside SMEs, Dan is committed to making life as easy as possible for smaller firms. You can email Dan at dan.osullivan@makeitcheaper.com

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