Dragons’ Den Season 1 Episode 7 Review – The deal that got away


Dec 9th, 2010 UpdateFrom 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.

the Dragons

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.

the Professor

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 entrepreneurs

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.

The UK BBC Dragons’ Den had a deal fell apart (Danny Bamping – Bedlam Puzzles) but nothing like JobLoft’s “national tv witnessing the deal breaking up in front of our eyes”.

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)

15 Responses to Dragons’ Den Season 1 Episode 7 Review – The deal that got away

  1. […] I’ve already commented on JobLoft’s deal getting away so I will now focus on only a few key and important points in the JobLoft’s blog entry. And I quote from JobLoft’s blog directly here, […]

  2. […] A lot of people in the comments at JobLoft’s blog take them to task for blowing the deal, and argue that their advisor was wrong to confront the dragons, etc. Waiting until the last minute to raise concerns is certainly not a great approach — and I would agree with Kempton that the insults that their teacher lobbed at the dragons were also totally offside in my opnion — but at the same time the JobLoft guys note that they got very little face-time or input from the dragons, contrary to what was promised. […]


    Hi Mathew,

    Thanks for your feedback and also your post. I disagree with some of your points in your post and I will drop you a comment in your blog later today.


    P.S. Nice to see Globe and Mail writers blogging and communicating with readers directly and by-passing the good-old “letter to the editor” thing. (smile)

  3. Khalid says:

    I went to Ryerson with these guys in the ITM program and have had James Norrie as a professor. Let me say this about James Norrie, he does have business acumen and entrepeneurial. He was one of the original founders of LavaLife.com and sold that company for a sizeable amount. He is also a very pompous and arrogrant person. He cost JobLoft their deal with his insults. I hope this opens the eyes of a lot of Ryerson Grads who come to Dr. Norrie for advice. He only cares about soothing his own ego.


    Hi Khalid,

    Thanks for your Ryerson insight and personal experience with Dr. Norrie. If what you said is right, it is important information for other Ryerson Grads if they haven’t learned the lessons from Dragons’ Den last night.


  4. Ken says:

    I keep on coming across a claim that Dr. Norrie was a founder of lavalife, this seemed off to me. I haven’t been able to come across any evidence that this is true. Does anyone have any evidence?
    The best thing I came up with is this article from the Toronto Star…nothing about Dr. Norrie
    Hi Ken,
    Thanks for your feedback and the Tor Star article. Here is what I found from Google and it is a Edgar search result of James Norrie. I found that “James Norrie” (same person??) is “Chief People Officer” of “Interactive Voice Media Colorado LLC” in this SEC filing.
    At this point, I should say I don’t really know enough to tell. Any insight from anyone?

  5. Ken says:

    Based on Kempton’s findings it looks like Dr. Norrie was indeed an early founder of the precursor to lavalife, apparently not significant enough to warrant mention in the article by the Star. From the Dragons Den episode I can see why he was named “Chief People Officer : )
    It all seems beyond belief that this professional would blow a deal for the guys with his tirade. It really is a shame.

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for your confidence in me. But with the data I was able to find and time I was able to look into it, I don’t know if how that company was related to lavalife.

    But the “Chief People Officer” title was a bit ironic to say the least given what we saw on TV.

    By the way, it was sad that Dr. Norrie seemed to have caused the deal to fall apart. I am sure he is nice and insightful in other moments but the one we now all known him by is the one that we saw last night. Just sad.


  6. Ed says:

    Re Mr. Norrie at Lavalife….as I am one of the original founders of Lavalife (and still employed with the company after 20 plus years), I would like underscore the fact that James Norrie was NOT one of the original co-founders of Lavalife….nor at any time did he have a partnership role or any type of equity position with Lavalife. He was briefly employed with the company in the late 90’s. It is humorous to note that I attended Ryerson in the early 80’s, and never graduated.

  7. kempton says:

    Hi Ed,

    Thanks a lot for your comments and clarifications on Dr. Norrie’s involvement in Lavalife.

    Please forgive me in advance on the following. Since I weren’t able to confirm you are one of the founders (sadly, even Lavalife’s website doesn’t say much about the founders) and my googling didn’t get me much info. I will try to email you to get you to email me back using a lavalife.com email address. That way, we will have at least slightly more authority and support in the info you provided.

    As I am a curious man and would love to confirm your story. After all, I must have spent hours (why???) on trying to find more info last time around! Ah, I chalk it up to my curiosity (and a desire to sharpen my investigative skills/tools).


  8. kempton says:

    Hello Ed,

    Thanks a lot for emailing back from your lavalife account. And thanks again for your clarification of the extend of Dr. Norrie’s involvement at lavalife. I am now satisfied with my personal curiosity.


    P.S. For those that are curious, here is a link to an “unofficial” SEC 8-K filing where Ed was Vice President of Product Design at the time. (see also this more “official” one from edgar)

    P.P.S. Ed, for the talented few, university degree is not a must. I’ve know some great entrepreneurs who never graduated from university that are miles smarter and more insightful than those that have the pieces of papers. I don’t think it is part of any university program to teach one how to treat others with respect or be humble (which, in my humble opinion, Dr. Norrie seemed to not be showing on that faithful day where the CBC Dragons’ Den camera was on him.)

  9. bb says:

    (Kempton’s note: See my important comment in the next comment entry)
    Hi everyone,
    I had Norrie as a Prof. To explain the Lavalife affiliation with James Norrie….
    He was one of the founders of the first (or one of the first) online dating websites known to the world wide web. (cannot recall the name). This online website was purchased by a large phone dating service (also cannot recall the name).
    Norrie eventually left the company, sold off his shares and made a large amount of money.

    This company has now been remolded to the company known as Lavalife.
    Technically he was not a founder of what we know it today as “Lavalife.” However, he was one of the founders of Lavalife’s original “birth parents” I guess.

    He has alot of experience that should not be underminded…
    His insults however were uneccessary.

    Supposively the students have their side of the story to tell.
    For the full story, check out Jobloft’s blog.

    If someone remembers the exact names of the companies.. please add a comment below.

  10. kempton says:

    Hi bb,

    Although it was nice to have your feedback, in my humble opinion, I would still consider your info second-hand and unverified. What I love is to hear from Prof. Norrie himself (from his own email address, etc.) and see what he has to say.

    We already have clarifications from Ed (one of the original founders of Lavalife) and I have quickly checked that his name does appear on an “unofficial” SEC 8-K filing where Ed was Vice President of Product Design at the time of the filing.

    Finally, it is not my purpose nor plan to debate Prof. Norrie’s involvement or non-involvement in Lavalife in this comment section. So if there are further clarifications, I hope it is from Prof. Norrie himself. Otherwise, all other comments from unverifiable email addresses will just be some more second-hand information that will add very limited value to the clarification of the issue of Prof. Norrie’s involvement in Lavalife.

    Hope this makes sense.

    Best Regards,

  11. Paulie says:

    Just a very tardy but serious note to all about Dr. James Norrie. The way the Professor acted towards Jim and the Dragons back in ’06 is his usual method of talking to students in “his” ITM department at Ryerson, which is not new news. I have evidence that leads to prove how extremely pompous and arrogant he is. On top of that, he intentionally mistreats students which is a very bad thing to do for someone in his position. As a director of his department I believe a certain code of ethics should be present. He has no consideration of students in actual need of help in “his” department. What I am trying to say is better described in a actual/true case. A student who missed her/his final exam in a course without any legitimate reason was granted by Dr. Norrie, a final mark consisted of the class final exam average without any form of a retake exam or makeup work. The student commented afterward that Dr. Norrie was a very pleasant person to talk to and a “saint” for helping that student without any effort. Where as a student who had a difficult semester(i.e. Loss in the family/illness) and had legally documented hers/his difficulties through out the term of the course as directed by Ryerson procedure was verbally abused and put down by Dr. Norrie during a meeting they had about the student’s future. At the end of it the student was given a second chance on grounds of compassion by the school board who monitors appeals and so, but was the mental anguish and verbal abuse necessary by Dr. Norrie? Various complaints have been made but nothing has been done. Nor any justice given to Dr. Norrie’s ill treated students. His behavior has been documented on television and still Ryerson’s hierarchy decides to do nothing about it. Very uncanny.

  12. kempton says:

    Hi Paulie,

    Thanks for your comments but without ability to confirm any background facts I can’t comment further in any fair manner.


  13. Joe says:

    Well the good news is that now a few million people know what he’s (Norrie) all about and it’s memorialized on film forever! Hopefully Ryerson will get rid of this boat anchor before he does anymore damage. I for one won’t support the school any longer as long as he’s a part of it! Classic small man syndrome…

  14. kempton says:

    Hi Joe,

    I don’t know Prof. James Norrie personally so I don’t know what he is like in person. Unfortunately and sadly, many people have seen him on TV on CBC Dragons’ Den, and that appearance didn’t seem to leave people with much of a positive impression.

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