Even Kevin Would Agree
I have been asked to blog for CBC's Dragons' Den, the Venture Capital reality TV show. It is a change from my usual writing style as the audience is different, so please take it with a big pinch of salt!
Every now and then, investors will take a punt. In other words, they put cash on a deal with the off-chance it may do well and spin off rich returns. This week, the Dragons played the lottery but also shared their appreciation for the finer elements of life – the Arts – by supporting two sensitive souls asking for $10,000 to complete their film project. Did these producers get lost on their way to the Canada Council for the Arts who gave a grant to the movie Young People F***ing. Then why not give a grant to a movie about a Canadian’s journey to the Playboy Mansion?
Of course, Dragon Arlene Dickinson grasped the marketing genius of these two artists who knew that by appearing on TV, they would build advance hype for their movie titled My Date with Hugh and expose it to a wider audience of highly intellectual and attractive Dragons’ Den viewers.
Dave, the producer, handed a card to the Dragons which had the list of movie stars appearing in the movie (I’m assuming in cameo roles). Suddenly, Dragons Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjovec went into a feeding frenzy. But who’s names were on that list? Madonna’s soon to be released husband, Guy Ritchie? Perhaps Brad Pitt taking a break from Angelina and the kids? “Hi honey, I’m just stopping in to see some friends. Don’t wait up, love ya.”
That list also got W. Brett “Clint Eastwood” Wilson to briefly clench his jaw.
Brett approaches his deals like entering a bar room. He swaggers in, expressionless, and just when you think things are going swell, he whips out his six-shooter and blows holes in the deals. There went Herjovac’s offer of $25,000 for 25% of the business.
This left O’Leary spluttering, confused and annoyed,
“Why Brett, why? Why be a Bozo?”
Oh dear, using clown names on a big boy from Saskatchewan* – not good for building long lasting relationships. It just begs the question, did Kevin’s mother ever teach him about manners?
If you are pitching for capital and you find yourself in Dave’s delicious position of having investors start a bidding war, follow Arlene’s advise and ask what each investor group can do for you besides the money. Kevin claimed he had invested in a movie distribution company which made Dave rub his hands together and begin to drool, but Arlene warned that there was a strong whiff of bull manure in the air. Perhaps Kevin was invested in Disney - who knows - but Dave sure did not care and went with Kevin and Robert, leaving Arlene and Brett to twist in the wind. I suppose Kevin is more the target audience and Dave probably imagined himself having A Date with Kevin, drinking beers in his kitchen with the Explosion Bottlecaps and doing other manly pursuits. Yet, Arlene’s marketing ability may have created a more nuanced marketing campaign. Also, Kevin did confess to having an abysmal track record with movies.
There were two more artistic deals – fashion for plus-sized women and jewellery which Hollywood Stars are buying. What’s it with Hollywood? Why can’t we hear that Melinda Gates loved the necklaces?
When Cindy and Rina of Maximum Women described how they stay up into the middle of the night to make calls and do research, Jim Treliving appreciated that entrepreneurial craziness saying he did the same thing as he built his own business. Yet, Jim got the sense that Cindy and Rina knew what they were doing and cash would be used wisely. Arlene asked for 50% ownership, along with Brett and Big Jim. Despite the promise of long, dark, snowy Saskatchewan nights heating up with Brett stopping by for a hot chocolate beside the roaring fire, Cindy and Rina turned down the Dragons’ deal. Robert teased Arlene; finally, someone had stopped her from stealing their business.
The jewellery game is fickle and Kevin did a great job of questioning Rachel of Hillberg and Berk Jewellery but she convinced Brett to invest. The lesson here as that Rachel really knew her numbers which gave confidence that she was CEO material and not a one-product-person.
The best pitch came from Tom with dataSentinel who broke a laptop and then held out the USB key to access the up-to-date files stored safely on the Internet. Masterpiece Theatre could not have done it better and even someone with the abilities of a gherkin could understand Tom’s product. Too bad Robert broke the drama by saying the technology was already in the marketplace.
Robert asked if Tom had received government grant funding and when he confirmed this, Kevin asked for his tax money back.
The CBC and Dragons’ Den is also funded by tax dollars. As Brett pointed out, “This country is built by entrepreneurs” and with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) generating 60% of Canada's economic output and providing 80% of Canadian jobs. There is no doubt that the Dragons and the entrepreneurs who enter their Den teach a great deal about how investors reward innovation. If we want to strengthen our Canadian economy, the Dragons’ Den is a truly fantastic investment of tax dollars. I think even Kevin would agree.
*Mea Culpae: Brett is actually from Saskatchewan, not Alberta, as I have stated in past blogs.
J. B. Loewen raises capital for companies wanting to grow and is the author of Money Magnet: Attract Investors to Your Business.