Is the Dragons Den TV show good for entrepreneurship?

Some say that even bad PR is good PR, not me.

I think the fact that the UK is now being made more aware of Entrepreneurs in the mainstream media is a good thing but frankly with over 3M small businesses for many of us this concept will not be new.

OK, so now my Mum now likes to watch people pitch for money and see the ‘drama’ unfold and this might be seen as a good thing – once again I am not so sure. I think that people may actually believe that what they see on TV has any bearing on real life angel funding.Well for the most part raising money from Angels is nothing like what we see on TV – there is no TV crew and script. There is no need to ‘perform’ like a show dog in a ridiculous 2 minute pitch and also there is no requirement to ‘fight’ with their potential backers for funds.

It occurs to me having met many of the Dragons that the main benefit of the show is for their ego’s and public image – now they can get speaking and other engagements and do that for a living instead of being in the real world with the rest of us.

On the plus side, it’s good that the public can see some of the thinking that goes behind a good business idea and that any idea will be challenged and needs to stand up to scrutiny – however, in the real world 15-20 mins is usually given over to a sensible presentation of any idea and it’s potential. Then the audience has 10 mins to understand the basis of the investment with much more friendly questioning.

Why is ‘friendly’ questioning good you may ask, surely a stiff grilling and I am ‘out’ because I don’t like you is better? NO! It’s not – it’s stupid frankly – it’s also disrespectful of others and in my view degrades the people that come on the show.

Friendly is better and is what usually happens. Why? Because real angel investors are often people who wish to give back to society and are looking to help people get their ideas off the ground. No, they are not a bunch of softies throwing away their money, they do need a return but in most cases they are supportive, helpful and friendly people.

Being ‘friendly’ is also better because all of those people who have an idea and would like to chance their arm at starting a business will not be put off by the silly antics of the show. Think I am biased, then why are the BBC having such a hard time recruiting people to go on the show? The reason is simple, they are scaring people off. I don’t believe that is good for Britain but TV producers don’t care about that….it’s all about ratings and not about making a better entrepreneurial UK and it’s because for the first time in 10 years BBC2 has a hit show.

Another important thing that is really different is that in the real world is that  entrepreneurs have a lot more support – if they apply to an angel group for funding they usually get coaching on their idea and how to best present it. They often get the chance to practise pitching and get support in doing that well and most importantly they won’t get past the gate if they don’t have a reasonable idea that is worthy of funding in the first place.

Why are their so many ‘lame ducks’ on Dragon’s Den? Once again (like Big Brother and many other reality TV shows) it gives the producer a chance to create some drama. The people with the dumb idea get to look dumb in front of lots of people, they get to have their idea torn to pieces and then they get thrown out…brilliant for the BBC and the viewers but not so good for the image of entrepreneurship.

My final rant is the silly valuations on the show – from both parties – some of the entrepreneurs just don’t give any thought to their valuations and they are far too high but where I really take issue is the very low bartering and under valuations offered to entrepreneurs for their business ideas. This is more about the dragon’s egos and one upmanship than reality and if there is little upside for the huge risk in being an entrepreneur then few people will jump in and have a go – that’s not good news for entrepreneurship.

I respect those with a good idea and business plan that reject the silly valuations some of the dragons have offered – unless their expertise and reputation can add massive value then why give away a huge chunk of your company? Remember it’s likely you will continue to dilute your equity as you grow and can end up with very little of your company left if you are not careful.

So I say to all you budding entrepreneurs, please don’t be put off by the show – maybe learn from it and be ready to defend your idea – but don’t give up, go for it.

Learn more about the Dragons Den TV show

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