Friday, August 11, 2006

Dragon's Lair

What has lots of money, high expectation, sheer contempt for evasion and prevarication, and knows 100 ways to say “No”?

That would be the panel of 5 “dragons” (self-made entrepreneurs) assembled for this week’s taping of Dragon’s Den, the new CBC reality show that depicts ordinary entrepreneurs trying to convince high-rolling angel investors to put money into their businesses.

I attended the final taping Thursday morning and it was a real hoot. The “Dragons” are funny, they're wise, and they’ve mastered the art of the one-liner. There were some good presentations today, but most of the pitchers, as usual, were sent away empty handed. (One went home in a really foul mood after being told the dragons weren’t likely to do business with him because all he did was argue with them!)

I think it will make good television.

It might even teach Canadians something useful about business. There were several apt comments from the Dragons to the effect that, “You have a perfectly good small business. But it’s not an investment.”

I think that’s a wonderful way to remind entrepreneurs that equity investors don't want to invest in small businesses; they want to invest in big businesses, only before they get big. (They’re also looking for 10x returns, which comes as a surprise to many entrepreneurs who just hope their business will make enough money to carry them through to retirement).

If this show, which airs in October, gets this one message across – that most small businesses deserve to be financed only with debt (loans), not equity – I think the CBC will be doing business (and a lot of starry-eyed entrepreneurs) a huge favour.

For more information on Dragon’s Den, see the official CBC site.
Or better still, visit Sean Wise’s daily blog from the set.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What entrepreneurs also need to hear is that there's a massive and interesting space between bank debt and VC/angel equity.

So many successful entrepreneurs use creative forms of bootstrapping, from supplier financing in the form of discounting or favourable payment terms... customer financing in terms of pre-payment or annual commitments... alliances to share equipment and other resources... so many interesting ways of getting resources without cash during early startup...