Ever considered pitching your business idea on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den? Read Anthony Coates-Smith’s account for an idea of what’s actually involved.
“Are you mad? They make everyone look stupid”. That was the reaction from my brother on hearing that Alistair’s and my transport company Igloo Thermo-Logistics was to appear before the infamous business gurus.
Within a week of submitting our entry we were stood in front of a BBC producer and a camcorder at Television Centre shakily rattling off our first attempt at a coordinated pitch.
A few days later the BBC called and said we had a week to prepare for the real thing. Running a growing business doesn’t leave much time, but we made sure we met our accountants and had some simple presentation boards made up.
On the day of the pitch you arrive greeted by an army of BBC crew and co-ordinators doing their best to ensure things run smoothly whilst simultaneously keeping all the pitchers calm.
It’s a strange atmosphere – people gradually picked off and disappearing into the pre-den area not to be seen again (you leave via a different route so you never know how anyone else has fared in the den). Most entrepreneurs were mingling excitedly but by now the nerves had started to kick in, and our only concern was to repeatedly run through the pitch.
Our call came after a couple of hours and we were led to the bottom of those wooden stairs – the first part of the set that we recognized which only added to the feeling of dread. There’s no turning back from here, and as brave as we had felt up to this point, an irrational fear takes over.
As we set up our presentation in front of the dragons we felt the heat of their glares upon us. The panel knows nothing about you so there are no smiles, just a general feeling of distain before you’ve even said a word.
Alistair and I had split our pitch between us – a wise move as we were thankful for the breather between our sections of the pitch. I don’t remember the pitch in detail, only how hard it was to breathe and the sound of my heart pounding as I struggled to keep outwardly composed.
Pitch over and it was time for the grilling from the Dragons. On screen you only see 15 minutes of what is actually a lengthy and detailed business interrogation. Ours lasted 90 minutes – but you only see the bits that make good TV, like Peter Jones having a dig. Eventually though, we managed to squeeze a compliment out of him.
Our decision was always going to be based on the lowest cost of getting the investment and it was a bonus that the best equity offer came from Duncan and Richard as we felt most positive about their involvement.
Our quick decision to accept their deal was based on knowing that if needs be you can walk away from the verbal deal before it progresses. In our case that hasn’t been the case and both Richard and Duncan are now fully paid up shareholders in Igloo.
So would we do it again? Definitely, the positive results from the Den go beyond the investment and growth. We now have two great shareholders to call on for advice.
You don’t need to be mad to go in front of the dragons but you do need courage – a trait most entrepreneurs will need time and time again. Whether facing Dragons or deciding to go it alone, remember – fortune favours the brave.