Dec 9th, 2010 Update: From JobLoft (Dragons’ Den) to Teamsave – Chris Nguyen
I will only talk about the JobLoft deal that jogged got away in this post and leave my other comments of the final season one episode in another post.
It deeply saddens me to see the way the JobLoft deal felt apart on national TV. (Here is my previously review of the JobLoft team’s pitch and deal.) To be sure I didn’t miss anything, I watched it three times (twice on tape). I will now share with you my view of what happened without writing a point by point transcript-style review.
I will try to be as objective as I can and look at what happened on TV (assuming CBC has been as objective as they can) from three focuses — the Dragons, the Professor, and the entrepreneurs. And I am commenting on the entrepreneurs last for an important reason.
As an investor, Robert sensed the right sign of danger and torn apart the $200,000 certified check after repeated and uncalled for personal insults by Professor James. As Kevin pointed out, the entrepreneurs didn’t even occur to them that the deal was in jeopardy and something needed to be done if the deal was to be rescued. And that did say a lot about the entrepreneurs themselves. With the entrepreneurs insisting the Professor to remain on the board of directors, there is no turning back and the deal was dead.
I don’t know if Professor James Norrie at Ryerson University regretted the way he caused the deal to fall apart but he should. His 12 minutes of lecturing the Dragons without providing a solution was not the best way to teach a class nor the best way to present to some new investors.
Dr. Norrie’s personal insults to the Dragons and Jim (asking the Dragons if they have business degrees, and then insulting Jim on the use of his personal jet, acutally paid with Jim’s own money) are despicable and totally unacceptable. I can work with many type of people but not people who are arrogant and disrespectful of others in the way the Professor has shown. How Dr. Norrie acted should be a perfect counter example of what NOT to do in treating people.
I have the honor and pleasure to be taught by a few world class and field-defining professors but they are all humble and respectful people. It saddens me to see the minds’ eyes of the five young entrepreneurs being blinded by their Professor at Ryerson.
Here is a Metro article (PDF file) about JobLoft and its mentor in happier times.
As an aside, one of my most admired mentoring relationship is the one between the mathematicians G. H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan. Hardy was smart enough to recognize and mentor Ramanujan but never in an overpowering way.
The five entrepreneurs are young and they trust and rely on their professor. But at the same time, they have graduated from University and they should have started to think for themselves and not just totally and blindly trust their professors. The fact that the entrepreneurs came into the room and was excited and happy to received the certified cheque meant the deal was acceptable to them thus the subsequent result of tearing apart the cheque must have been not what they had planned for. In life, we learn from our mistakes. And “tonight” the entrepreneurs learned the biggest lesson of their life.
By the way, until these entrepreneurs grow up and are capable to critically think for themselves, act according to their own thoughts, and to have the integrity to respect a deal, I will not invest in them. I was totally disappointed in the young entrepreneurs for not saying a word in the critical moments when Professor James was dominating the room and when Robert was about to tear apart the $200,000 certified cheque.
Finally, allow me to share a personal story to illustrate a point. I remember taking a Business Negotiation class in my MBA program at University of Calgary. In one in-class exercise, students formed teams and we practiced negotiating something. The details don’t matter now but I managed to negotiate a great deal that was just too good and the professor used it as an example to illustrate why my classmate had negotiated a bad deal for himself.
I begged to disagree with my professor then and I still disagree with that analysis now. I still think we negotiated an out-of-the-box great deal that redefined the scope of the deal (making it a much longer term and a more beneficial partnership) win-win deal for both. I would have been comfortable to flip the deal around and let my classmate take my side.
My point of telling this story is the I feel the JobLoft entrepreneurs (and Professor James) were too all too short-sighted to see the forest and just focused on that one single deal in front of them. They should have view JobLoft as the beginning of a long term relationship that can potentially have many chances for future cooperations.
Unfortunately, these young entrepreneurs will never find out what they missed. Sad to see how the deal broke apart the way it did. Finally, if these entrepreneurs have learned one thing, it is that they need to think for themselves and speak up! The fact that they didn’t stop their respected Professor and Director James Norrie from launching those cheap insults to the Dragons should be a lesson for all of us to learn.
(By the way, I have another blog entry commenting on the JobLoft’s official blog account of the event that morning.)
Paraphrasing James Dyson, we learn nothing from successes and we learn everything from our failures. Tonight, the young JobLoft entrepreneurs and audiences across Canada have learned a very important lesson in how not to act in front of a group of investors and how a wonderful deal can go so bad so quickly.
Ironically, the falling apart of JobLoft’s deal happened on the same day that Canada stepped on a slippery slope after our Prime Minister, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, played this dangerous game,
“Our position is clear. Do the Québécois form a nation within Canada? The answer is yes. Do the Québécois form an independent nation? The answer is no and the answer will always be no.”
It is too late to help JobLoft and they have to live with their decisions and indecisions now. As for Canada, I wasn’t born a Canadian and I had to earn my right to be a Canadian. So I will not let the Prime Minister or any other politicians flush Canada down the toilet too easily without a fight. I will post more on this later.
It is my right, my privilege, and my duty to fight for Canada in its darkest hour. Unfortunately, in my humble opinion, The Right Honourable Stephen Harper has just open the door and locked us into a pitch-black room that has a risk of tearing this country apart. I am going to read and analysize some more before my next post on this development.
P.S. By the way, how I managed to morph this post from a “simple” discussion of Dragons’ Den to a Canadian internal political crisis is beyond my wildest imagination. (smiling sadly)