Few days ago I had the great pleasure of chatting with Brett Wilson, Calgary entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. Here is the video Brett Wilson interview – 02/05 – New TV show “Risky Business” (see below for interview transcript). [Click her for links to watch all five parts of the interview series.]
Kempton: Can you talk about the new show “Risky Business”? Did you watch the UK Duncan Bannatyne version of the show (known as “Beat the Bank”)?
Brett: I watched a bit of one episode to get a sense of what he was trying to do. And I liked it. I thought it has potential. I want to do television that would be fun. I am working with a group of people … 11 entertainment is such a treat to deal with, in terms of, everything from contracting, to casting, web development, social media …
Kempton: Do you know them from before?
Brett: No. It was a complete cold call on their part. We knew people in overlapping circles. But I did not know anybody in 11.
Kempton: They have offices in Toronto, the US, …
Brett: Toronto, LA, and Sydney. We will see where this goes. Right now its a Canadian television show for Slice, one of the Shaw/Global family of channels. And I am looking forward to getting it on air this fall.
Kempton: Have you guys finished casting? Before I get to the casting question, were you involved in selecting the business opportunities appearing on the show? My understanding is in each episodes, two investment opportunities are presented and the investors pick one, and you are left with the other. So you don’t want it to be both duds. Or one good and one dud.
Brett: You are absolutely right. Premise of the show is that a couple who are willing to invest a good portion of their savings. So that makes it high risk & high stakes for them. Which comes down to the concept of Risky Business. But the two businesses that are coming on, we are screening right now, have to be investment opportunity, not necessary a business, investment opportunity that matures in 30 days.
These are real world experiences. People run across this sort of stuff everyday. Whether it is helping someone buy a wine collection or sporting cards or buy a car that needs to be tweaked and then be flipped in an antique auction. Or someone who is a pool shark and who could out hustle someone else that needs to be staked. Or may be instead of staking the pool shark, we put on a tournament, we see what we can win as the pool tournament sponsor where we’ve got the inside track in terms of partner that is one of the player.
So lots of different ways of looking at these things. But these are real world experiences and opportunities. Typical investments: $15,000 – $20,000. Some will have higher risks and therefore higher rewards. And you are absolutely right, whatever the investing couple doesn’t take, becomes my investment.
Kempton: Did you get a say, or did someone in your company get a say on what opportunities get to be on the show? After all, we are talking about real money here. Your money, plus, I guess more importantly, the investors’ money.
Brett: By the end of the show, I will have a quarter of a million dollars, give or take, invested in 12 different investments. And the entrepreneurs who have come on the show, similarly, in aggregate, will have that kind of money invested: ten to twenty thousand dollars per show.
So there is a risk that I will guide them to something they may not have ultimately wanted. But I expect I can be pretty balanced and pragmatic in how I approach coaching people on the risks, pros and cons of each investment. And they get to make their own decisions.
Going back to your question which is, “Are we involved in selecting the businesses?” First of all, I am involved with the casting calls, so they took my press profile into the market place saying, “Hey, we are looking for people who want to play along, either as investors or as entrepreneurs. Now, the investments that are coming in with entrepreneurs are coming in right now and I’ve got about a dozen of them that I need to review. And if any of them don’t pass the muster in terms of having a possibility of return with people who I find creditable, then we will pass on them. Thats the work.
I have a colleague David Waslen who has been looking after the entire portfolio of 30 Dragons’ Den investments that are actually closed. Well, he is now stepping up his game and getting involved with looking at the investments that we are looking at in terms of Risky Business.
Kempton: Thats very important. In a sense you can afford to lose but the investors, obviously there are risks involved and they should know, but at the same time, it will be more painful for you to see them lose money?
Brett: As their coach, as their mentor, it will be the same as telling a child to go on a holiday that is a disaster, you don’t want anybody to make a mistake or to lose.
I suspect if we have enough investment opportunities, we will be able to present a lower risk, may be lower return opportunity, as well as a higher risk, higher return opportunity. So that people will have that opportunity like in “Deal or No Deal” to be going, what do we do? Which one do we take? Cause this one looks like its going to work, this one looks exciting and we really need the big money. So this will be a debate for them to have fun with.
Kempton: So the “kick” for you in this show, would it be you taking the opportunity to explain all the risks and rewards and intricacy of a deal itself and then kind of imparting on the viewing audiences on how to look at risks and rewards?
Brett: You know you’ve capture what for me is the essence of the show. It is presenting investment opportunities that are not conventional. The unusual opportunities that exist in everyday life. So my opportunity to present them, to explain to people, the viewing audiences as well as the investors that are on the show. To understand the intricacy of the risks and rewards that are going to be made available to them. So thats kind of first for me.
Secondary is the fact that I will actually make an investment. I have lots of investments. I have lots of deals. I don’t need more of that. So the opportunity to help and to coach people. Certainly its in my interest personally, just the way I look at life. Its to help people to be better and if I can help someone make a few bucks, I certainly will.
Note: This interview has been condensed and edited.