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

Thursday, 23 November, 2006

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Dec 9th, 2010 UpdateFrom JobLoft (Dragons’ Den) to Teamsave – Chris Nguyen

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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)


Dragons’ Den Season 1 Episode 6 Review

Wednesday, 8 November, 2006

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The following is my review of season 1 episode 6. (Note: Descriptions of entrepreneurs are directly quoted from CBC’s site.)

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Mirage Motion Media by Mark Beukers (Note: at press time, the CBC site is missing this pitch. Note to self: Never trust the Closed Caption for spelling of names. Using that wrong spelling wasted 30+ minutest of my time to search for the patents.)

This is a very interesting piece of technology and very very useful to get attention from people therefore it is a great advertising tool. I actually have seen the Subway Tunnel Advertising. But I am not sure if I have seen Mark’s display yet.

The Canadian patent 2504835 and Canadian patent 2298483 are going to be a ton of fun to read and learn from. For the super-patent-geek, here is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) database entry of this patent.

I am not a lawyer and I have not read the associated patent documents (Canadian, US, and WIPO) in any sufficient details, so readers be warned. But after three hours of research — I now have one fundamental and potentially serious concern. My concern rests with the pair of Provisional applications for patent (60/330,962 & 60/371,424).

In an imaginary world, if

  1. the Provisional Application for Patent, and
  2. the sale of the products before the patent is issued, and
  3. the follow-up of proper patent application

had not all been written and handled in the most careful and appropriate manner, it is possible that some potential missteps could basically render the patent invalid. Again, I am not a lawyer, and my concern and observations should not be taken as any advices as they are just my uninformed guess.

At this point, I would like to thank US patent attorney Ms. Katherine White for her most insightful US patent lecture at UCSD which I’ve learned so much from (and on the potential danger of Provisional Application). And for her reference of the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit case “New Railhead Mfg. Co. v. Vermeer Mfg. Co. & Earth Tool Co.” Which, in some sense, illustrate the above little imaginary example. Let me repeat, I am not a lawyer. (smile)

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Silastial Glass Inc. by Rick Silas

“This artist from Sidney, B.C. has devised a patented method of bending glass without heat. His technique can be used for commercial applications including art installations and building construction. He wants The Dragons to help him commercialize his technique on a large scale. ”

Basic research before I watch the pitch:

I love arts and Rick’s glass work seems beautiful and the technology seems very cool. Looks like Rick got a cool website for Silastial Glass Inc.. I love Rick’s registered trademark of Silastial (I am guessing — a blend of his last name and the word “celestial”). I will need some time to take a look of Rick’s Glass bending process patent (US patent 6,385,999 & Canada patent 2303778). There should be some interesting things to learn from them. And Rick’s long list of achievement from his resume is truly amazing.

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Actual review:

Well, the deal of $300,000 and a 7.5% royalty in exchange for the US patent and Canadian patent (pending) seem like a good one for both the Dragons and also the artist/inventor. Rick should be happy as he got a pretty good chuck of cash up front and also a good royalty stream.

By the way, Sean said that “… patented process to make use of recycled glass …” I would like to be more specific that the “glass” in question is “tempered glass” as it is stated in the US patent. Incidentally, “tempered glass” are those used in car windshield and phone booths, etc.

I think Rick did a great job pitching and I think he showed a great combination of insight and didn’t let a potential profitable deal get away. Great to see an artist that is an inventor who is also a pretty good business person.

I love this business enough that I am going to look further into this for my own interest.

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Great Canadian Salsa by Dave Promfret

“This Ontario entrepreneur has a passion for making an all-Canadian Salsa that even includes maple syrup in the recipe. He thinks it can be the dominant brand in Canada. An investment from The Dragons will help him ramp up operations.”

The Dragons are pretty right that there is nothing much to stop people from competing in the Salsa business. In terms of the pitch, bringing up the his personal life wasn’t the best idea. By the way, Salsa Dave’s website is under construction at the moment.

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MicroAlpha by Zibby Malecki

“This inventor from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario has a line of products that supposedly protect you from electromagnetic frequencies. He thinks his products could be used to kill cancer cells and treat other diseases.”

The Dragons dismissed Zibby’s pitch very rightly and I don’t want to add anything more.

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Restful Woods Pet Caskets by Gloria Fester

When your beloved pet dies… why not give it one final treat? This entrepreneur from Milden, Saskatchewan makes handcrafted caskets and urns for your best friend’s remains. She’s asking The Dragons to invest so she can expand her business.”

This is pretty much a small handy craft business. It is not a business that the Dragons would want to invest.

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Vangro Farm by Mark Van Goethem

“Forget the same old petting zoo! This entrepreneur from Waterford, Ontario wants to build farm-themed amusement park where visitors can learn about rural life. He thinks he can attract people looking for fun, inexpensive family entertainment.”

I think Mark was polite and meant well. But Jennifer was right to say farming is very much different than running a themed-park business.

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The Bug Lab by Jennifer Heron

“Most people squash bugs. But this entrepreneur from Errington, B.C. wants to create an entire museum dedicated to those creepy critters so tourists and visitors can learn about insects and the habitats in which they live.”

Jennifer’s website looks interesting and some of the creepy little critters look cute and neat and potentially educational. But based on where Jennifer is at, it is definitely not at a stage that can be invested in.

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Scaretacular by Scott Perrett

“This Kingston, Ontario entrepreneur has a passion for making people scream. He operates mobile, Halloween-themed trailers to scare the living daylights out of paying customers. He needs an investment to get started on his expansion plans.”

The Dragons have a point, this is pretty much a cash business and not in the scale that the Dragons are interested in.


Dragons’ Den Season 1 Episode 5 Review

Wednesday, 1 November, 2006

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Wow, I can’t believe 5 episodes of Dragons’ Den have already been aired. I am going to miss it soon when it is finished (one more episode and 2 more “where-are-they-now” shows). Here is my review of season 1 episode 5.

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Ginch Gonch by Jason Sutherland & Michael Flint

I first saw Ginch Gonch in an episode of CBC Fashion File a while ago (months?, years?). Jason, the designer & creative brain, was doing a photo shoot in an exotic location with some cute models of both sexes. Seemed like a cutting edge campaign/ads stuff. At that time, Jason seemed very much of a risk taking, dream big and win big or die hard kind of guy. In that Fashion File episode, I think Jason tried to get some financial support or something arranged to help pay for part of the cost of the photo shoot at the same time as he was shooting. I think he didn’t get what he most wanted (I forgot what). Anyway, as a designer, he seems to know his market well and his designs look cool. And the Dragons seem to think so too.

I won’t repeat Sean’s points on valuation here. Jason and partner just seemed to over valuate their company by a ton.

Ultimately, I think I am a bit conservative. Another issue of investing in a designer is that a great working relationship has to be there. It worries me that Jason’s dream is so extreme that the business will either be very big or the business will crash and burn. Without proper oversight and “a suit”/”bean counter”/”boring business-type” in the mix with some real control and real authority, I am very much afraid it may be the second alternative for Ginch Gonch.

Now, back to the positive side. I love the publicity that Ginch Gonch has already generated (check out the nicely laid out PRESS area in its website). And the extra publicity that Ginch Gonch has now obtained from appearing on Dragons’ Den. I am betting $10 (my usual bet is only a loonie) that Jason has thought of all the publicity that will be generated from appearing on national TV. He is too smart and too slick to not know that. (smile) (this is a complement for Jason)

As a final aside, I’ve watched my share of Fashion File episodes and I think Jason really has some sparks in him. Edgy and cool looking design, seems to have the sales to back it, Jason’s build-in sense and ability to generate publicity, … all these are really cool stuff. And Jason dreams big! Which is also what worries me the most. I think Richard Branson (Virgin group) dreamed big too but I think Richard did it in a much more controlled manner (if that was possible).

Best of luck to the Jason and the Ginch Gonch guys. Jason, I am standing by for your call to invite me to your next photo shoot with those cute models. (big smile)

Aug 10, 2010 Update: Check out this article to see how Ginch Gonch gets to be featured in Jason Priestley’s new show “Call Me Fitz”.

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Body Brush by Tad Powaska

Tad is a nice gentleman. But this invention is so not useful that it is comparable to many of those completely useless Japanese inventions.

No disrespect to the Dragons’ Den production team but I honestly hope and wish that we do have “better” and more plausible business idea than this in the Canadian try-outs for Dragons’ Den. If not for season one, lets hope they show up for season two! After all, this is episode #5 and I think viewers get that some business are non-starters. Mind you, these non-starters are great in tiny 5-10 seconds segments like what the BBC did. Anyways, enough of me complaining.

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Goody 2 Chews by Shan Jamal

Shan is a nice gentleman. But at the same time, I have to question the wisdom in spending so much money into building factories. The first round financing of $1.5 million is a lot of money and without much sales to show for. Plus the fickle taste of consumers make this business extremely risky and uninvestable to me.

Mind you, the healthy snack food idea is good but then there are many other healthy choices already and trying to break into the snacks market is not an easy nor cheap venture for the faint of heart.

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SmartCD by Arie Ross

First of all, please forgive me for only having a partial review of SmartCD as a proper review will probably take days (if not weeks) to complete and I have only about 2 hours for Arie’s invention and pitch. Given the time limit, the research here is unfortunately limited. But it is still my hope that it will provide a good foundation for further analysis.

On one hand, Arie’s pitch/presentation and too much “self-assurance” left much to be desired. At the same time, I am very intrigued by the technology discussed in Arie’s patent application. And based on unverified information on the company website, Arie seems to have a really strong team of people working with him.

First of all, some dry stuff. Sorry for my directness, SmartCD (Trademarked in US and Canada) is a bad name that mislead people to think it is a CD-only technology when the invention seems to work for DVD, HDVD, etc. For the patent geek out there, the invention is an United States Patent Application 20060062137. This patent is very dense in various technologies. And thanks to “2165 The Best Mode Requirement” of the MPEP, the patent is required to disclose the “best mode” to make this device thus making the patent an interesting read. (smile)

Here are some of my questions about this invention/business:

  1. Is there a working prototype that the Dragons had actually listened to the music on a disc? If no pro-type has been developed, then this is more like R&D and the risk associated with it will probably make the Dragons not wanting to invest. There can be so many technical challenges to make this thing work and it is definitely not a piece of cake.
  2. Re: encryption. I read through the 18 occurrences where “encrypt” was mentioned in the patent. Unfortunately, not enough details were given to access the encryption strength because the kind and type of encryption scheme has not been described in the patent. Or am I missing something? Whatever scheme it uses, I just hope it is not something the 23 years old DVD-Jon can break in an afternoon or in a few days. That will be sooooo sad. And thinking out loud at 1am, and IANAL (I am not a lawyer). But doesn’t the “best mode” requirement (the above #2165) require the best mode to be described? Including a candidate for an encryption scheme?
  3. How much power does the microprocessor or math co-processors on the “SmartCD” use? The stronger the encryption, the more computational intensive it will be (i.e. uses more power and time).
  4. How much power can the the power cell or the static power generator generates? The really neat or challenging part is that all these things sit on top of a really thin CD that spins at really high speed!

Well, I better stop now and move on to the next one as I’ve spent my 2+ hours on this part of the review. It has been a lot of fun reviewing Arie’s invention and pitch.

Arie, I wish you the best of luck and all the best to you and your team. If you do read this review. I would love to see your reply to some of the above questions. Of course, these are just my 2 cents and I do change my mind and make many mistakes very often.

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Monforte Dairy by Ruth Klahsen

Ruth came across as passionate about her cheese making business but unfortunately it will be challenging to expand on a deeply handcraft and somewhat time consuming business. And the 10% profit margin also makes the business one that many investors won’t touch.

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Portable BBQ by Bob Thorndyke

First of all, Bob is very nice and well presented. And the fact that he got invested by the Jim and Laurence must make thousands of home inventors really excited. Of course, it definitely made Bob and his wife happy. It proves that home inventors can have a good chance of success with getting investment too. For the patent geek out there, you can check out Bob’s United States Patent 6,038,965.

Now, having said all the above, I have to say I am still blind-sided by my gut feeling that a BBQ in the form of a suitcase is just — strange. I just can’t seem to see pass the suitcase and the prototype and jump on the potential millions of people needing a portable BBQ. Ah, it is too late in the night to change my biased mind. (smile)

All the best to Bob, Jim and Laurence.


Dragons’ Den – Season 1 Episode 4 – Review

Thursday, 26 October, 2006

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Here is my full review of s01-e04. If you wish, you can check out my reviews of season one episode number one, two, three, and five. (note: if you haven’t watched them yet, skip them for now and watch the reruns first.)
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La Choclatarie Forrat by Marc Forrat

Marc did a very good job presenting his business to the Dragons. His passion clearly shows through. What I like about Marc is that he is also a potentially good entrepreneur too. You see, March is business minded enough to expand his two stores when the business is good. And the bank was willing to loan him money (I hope strictly on his business without mortgaging his house).

It is obvious that Chocolate is a great and high margin business. Warren Buffet bought See’s Candies years ago for a reason. (smile) It is a business that a brand (and even a Lovemark) can be built if all the executions are done right. Witness what See’s Candies (US), Bernard Callebaut (my favourite award winning Canadian chocolate), Pierre Marcolini (UK, love to try it one day) managed to achieve! (all wonderful stuff)
One key thing about Lovemark is that it inspires Loyalty Beyond Reason. And with the right image, great quality, a wonderful story, etc. people are willing to pay more. Sometimes we are willing to pay slightly more and sometimes a lot more!

Good luck to Marc and Jim. May your brand become a Lovemark one day. Marc, it will be fun if we can get to work together to turn your brand into a Lovemark, it will take a lot of hard work and I am sure Jim will make sure you work hard. (smile)

Marc, I just saw your website. Great. As of this moment, people & chocolate lovers can call you long distance to order chocolate. Have you checked the cost for installing an 1-800 number? I would also like to see an email address where people can ask for pricing and shipping cost (until you create a page for that.) By the way, can your chocolate be safely shipped while maintaining the best quality? If you need the stuff to be FedEx to ensure best quality, then tell your potential customers that. It also serves as a signal to your customers that you will not compromise quality for sales. Wishing you the best of luck.

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The Log by Ken Bailey
First of all, Ken is a gentleman of the first order. Ken presented himself so well. Never raised his voice, never acted or sounded cynically, never unestimated the Dragons’ intelligence or understanding of the market place, and the list goes on. I have much to learn from Ken and I think many other entrepreneurs too.

And Ken seems like a smart inventor too judging from The Log (TM) and other inventions. I am no water safety expert but I believe Ken has thought about safety too. And he definitely doesn’t want his 3 great grand kids get hurt for sure! Well, my research has found that The Log (TM) can be found at, according to The Log’s website, Miami University, Longmount YMCA, Camp Jewell YMCA, YMCA Magic Valley Family, Waterworld (California), etc. And Ken has provided a long list of places. So these places, to me, are not going to put up something dangerous unless they are fond of law suites and hurting/killing people. (ok, bad joke)

The problem with a TV show is that it has limited time to show the details (and some people get bored). Plus Ken’s lack of a working website (more on this later) to really showcase and explain how the product works, is also one source for confusion for people.

For those interested in The Log’s work-in-progress website, you can take a look at www.PoolLog.com. Which leads me to a comment here. Why is a functioning (may be a reduced function at that) website NOT ready for the big day (the day after airing)? There are hundreds and may be thousands of people that are interested in checking this neat toy out of curiosity. Aiming for a *perfect* website is a very dangerous game to play. Aiming for a less fancy website (AND keep making the website better and better, one step at a time) will be a much better approach. Just my 2 cents.
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Kango Inc. by Michelle Messina

Michelle’s idea seemed simple at first sight but if Cineplex was willing to purchase her bags in the millions, I am sure Cineplex thought it was a great idea too. And I never argue with sales. Michelle started her presentation well (her patented idea, etc.) but she lost control and lost focus of her presentation when the arguments started. Plus the fact that Michelle didn’t seem to realize that how much damage backing out of the previous Cineplex deal has done. And the fact that Michelle thought that her bags were going to save the theatre business truly showed that there is a serious gap of business understanding here, to say the least.

Finally, walking out the way that Michelle did was totally unacceptable. We all make mistakes, fortunately many of our mistakes are private mistakes and they are not broadcasted and kept on forever. (Although this is changing with the advance of YouTube but thats a different story for another time.) So Michelle walking out on Jennifer who was nice and trying to help was simply uncalled for and should be an example for all entrepreneurs in the “What you should *never ever* do category.

Of course, I haven’t seen the whole event first hand. But the last few seconds of unedited exchange between Jennifer and Michelle truly, in my view, put Michelle in a very bad light. And it is all within Michelle’s control. Be leveled headed at all times, even when a deal went bad. Just my 2 cents.

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Rashana Sound Essences by Jayne Hunter

First of all, Jayne is a nice lady, presentable, soft-spoken but determined. So I have nothing against her personally.

In terms of the business side, I am speechless on this business idea. First of all, I am not a medical doctor but I do have a scientific mind. And I do keep a blog category call Health Sciences & Medicine (10 entries so far and counting) and I also had subscribed to and read The New England Journal of Medicine for a year just for fun.

Sometimes, I would say I never argue with sales. The only exception is cases like this. I have a serious problem with anyone taking the name of science to advance their own gains in particular on unsuspecting buyers. Quoting from the website, ” RASHANA Sound Essences are created through the infusion of sound into pure spring water.” I simply cannot imagine water being “changed” by simply singing to it!

I am going to use some heavy words here but I have no choice. I think it is immoral and unethical to claim medical or healing properties unless there are many randomized, properly structured, and reproducible medical studies (by other independent and non-related researchers) to back up the healing and medical claims. And a quick look of the website this morning, I don’t see any medical researches to back up the claims.

I have never feel sad of seeing a Dragons Den business pitch on TV. I have always enjoyed the pitches, all the UK BBC shows that I have watched (7 in total) and all the 4 CBC shows, until I watched the pitch of “Rashana Sound Essences”.

Sorry Jayne, medicinal or healing claims is the one area that will automatically get me into a very serious discussion. In a world where major pharmaceutical companies may not have the best intention in their mind (e.g. they are more interested in providing and researching in “treatments” instead of “finding cures”. Treatments, you sell for life. Cures, you only sell it once!), I have absolute no time nor patient for companies or products that claim to heal without proper scientifically details researches to back up their claims.

Again, Jayne seems like a nice lady and I mean no disrespect to her personally. I just absolutely disagree with her product as it is presented at the moment.

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Sockey by Scotty Lewis

Scotty’s game, in my humble opinion, is just old and not fun to play. I think Kevin’s comment may be a bit harsh but then Scotty’s fight back with a full swing. After that point, Scotty had definitely and totally lost all credibility in the Dragons’ mind.

Putting my “producers’ hat” on for a moment, I suspect CBC put this in so that Kevin’s harshness can be “balanced” by Scotty’s direct and to-the-point criticism of Kevin’s investment record and the importance of Kevin’s wonderful $3+ billion deal with Mattel. Witness YouTube’s $1.65 billion deal, you don’t need too many deals like that to get established, do you? (smile) On that scale, one deal is good enough.

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Size is a Plus by Cora Rogers

Cora’s business may work quite well as an internet business or a small store. There is definitely a market for the Plus sizes ladies (and men). But the main problem is that it is difficult to scale up the business to a volume that the Dragons would be interested. Of course, Laurence’s view about market potentials and relative sizes are spot on.

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Chi Designs by Agnes Dalisay

Agnes’s business may work quite well as an internet business catering to her niche clients. There can be some good potentials here. But it is difficult to scale up the business to a volume that the Dragons would be interested.


Dragons’ Den – Season 1 Episode 3 – Full Review

Wednesday, 18 October, 2006

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Tonight’s show is great. I just love it. And my better and smarter half also stayed and watched the whole show with me. And I even got a quote from her, “I like it.” So my boss has approved. (smile)

Here is my full review of s01-e03. By the way, you can also read my reviews of the first episode (s01-e01) and second episode (s01-e02), fourth episode (s01-e04), and fifth episode (s01-e05). (note: if you haven’t watched them yet, skip them for now and watch the reruns first.)
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Jobloft by Chris Nguyen & Lee Lieu, et. al.

I love these four guys and their matching outfit the moment I first noticed them in July (see my comments at the bottom) in Sean’s site. They really have a great product here. The list of companies that used their services were truly impressive two months ago. And I am sure with the current red hot job market for those high-turn over positions, Jobloft will have a bright future.

The five dragons should be able to take them into a new level. And I love the fact that all five dragons are finally in this investment together.

And their matching orange ties with white shirts worked perfectly for their business – make them stand out, young, fun loving. Precisely like their target users.

I will comment more later about their business. [K: I ended up not having time to comment on the business but commented a lot on how the deal break up. Sad.] Without any careful analysis, the first thought in mind is that charging a fix rate of $599 is definitely too little. But even charging $3,500 (as Robert suggested?) is problematic mainly for the reason that there is no back-end volume-linked-revenue. May be $3,500 (or some amount) as a fixed rate for unlimited job posting. And then some much lower amount ($10?) per actual job application or message sent to job applicants. Something like this.

Again, I need more time when I have free time to spend or someone paying me to think about this. (smile)

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FullFill by Matt Dober & Jeff Grout

I actually met Matt and Jeff at the Calgary audition. We all graduated from U of Calgary’s MBA program (me a few years earlier than them) and even had some of the same great profs.

So I felt particularly sad that Matt & Jeff were given a really really tough shake by the Dragons. I think I mentioned to Matt and Jeff that their product would not be an easy sell and their would likely be some legal issues (university campuses being locked up in agreement to sell a particular brand of soft drinks, etc.). But they had thought about those issues and seemed determine to make this product a success.

Matt and Jeff didn’t seem to have the chance to explain one of their niche of aiming at the hearts and minds of the University students who are willing to give the small little guys a chance (going against large-multinationals).

Of course, at the end of the day, the potential risk and competition (if this thing take off) are the key factors that make this not an investable idea for the dragons.

In a smaller scale, FullFill may still have a chance to be successful. But the R&D needed to build a machine, the legal work, etc. will make this a tough path to take. I will send my best wishes to Matt & Jeff here. And if they need my help, it will be my pleasure to try. It is a tough business though.

Good luck Matt & Jeff.

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Bikini Weenie by Amber Christianson

First of all, I admire all entrepreneurs who have the guts and the will to pitch on national TV and still be articulate. I personally don’t quite have that kind of guts yet. (smile) And I think Amber take it even one step further by pitching in Bikini. Let me acknowledge that Amber is a very nice lady and comes off full of energy.

Now, having said the above, I think Amber’s business may be a good personal business but it is definitely not an investable business. And it definitely doesn’t worth any where near the $1 million valuation. (Why so many entrepreneurs like this magic $1 million valuation is beyond me.) The fatal problem is that there is no way to stop people from copying this idea and competing at any location. And this idea doesn’t quite work in winter. And after the novelty wears off, the sales may not be there. Witness the popularity or lack of popularity of the Hooters restaurant chain.

Now, no disrespect to Amber. I think Jennifer is absolutely right that a serious business woman would hire a model for a day to model as the really cute and sexy girl that stands next to the hot-dog cart. You see, if the Bikini Weenie business is to be scaled up to $1 million, the ability to pick and find some cute looking girls for Bikini Weenie becomes a key success factor.

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SnoLimo by Paul & Guy Auger

With Paul & Guy’s business, I see it mainly as a novelty service and don’t see the business being too scalable. But if there are many existing paying customers using the services, I won’t argue with cash.

The issue of a patent was bought up. A figure of $20,000 was used by the dragons for the patent app. Here is my brand of bull shiitake on patent. Patent is a basic defense posture and first step by the entrepreneur to protect a worthy idea. It is more like an entrance fee to any big game. But patent is not an be-all-and-end-all thing. You have to have the money to hire lawyer to protect your patent or license it to some big company which has their own legal department to do stuff like this.

Anyway, back to SnoLimo, without a patent, it just makes the investment more risky for the Dragons. I am going to hide behind the IANAL (“I am not a lawyer”) thing now. The fact that the product has now been shown on TV may affect the ability to obtain a patent. If the key and new idea (the turning of the ski?) has been shown on TV, then all bets are off.

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PDN Medical by Diane Padoin

Hind sight is always 20/20. In a high pressure pitch, sometimes we will do or say things that we will regard later. And Diane seemed to regard the sales figures she quoted earlier. After all, around $500,000 is quite bit of distance from less than $1 million. And Jim (?) said it right, once you can’t trust an important number like the sales figures, all bets are off. Why? Because the investors will *always* wonder this — What else is he/she not telling me? And investors have enough of real challenges to deal with and don’t really want to second guess the entrepreneurs integrity.

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Umpire’s TV by David Yorke

David came off self-assured and professional. The problem is once David got into arguments with the Dragons, the pitch just got side-tracked so quickly and all focus was lost. David walking out on his pitch was just not necessary. And the harsh language used by David in the post-pitch interview is truly unprofessional. Having seen the discussions that happened at David’s pitch, what David said was definitely uncalled for.


Dragons’ Den – Season 1 Episode 2 – Full Review

Thursday, 12 October, 2006

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Here is my full review of Dragons’ Den second episode (s01-e02). By the way, you can also read my reviews of the first episode (s01-e01) and third episode (s01-e03), fourth episode (s01-e04), and fifth episode (s01-e05).
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Note: This is a very long and detailed posting. If you wish to jump to any of my other postings, please use the links on the right side of the screen to get there.

Well, I couldn’t say much in my s01-e02 preview but now I am free to give my full review. First of all, I love Dragons’ Den which is also why I see it as almost my duty to tell someone what were bad about the show. And here they are. (Note: I have a lot of good comments about the entrepreneurs’ pitches and what happened on the show. So if you don’t care about the technical stuff about Dragons’ Den, you can scroll directly to the entrepreneurs’ comments sections which are clearly marked.)

  1. The background repeating music loop (the durm, etc.) was very bad. These repeating drum loop was totally unnecessary at many places (e.g. when the entrepreneurs were talking to the dragons.)
  2. Now, the worst offending music loop happened during Robert’s chat with Maya! Oh, that really kills me. I love that segment so much and think that shows Robert (and other Draongs) really care about Maya and want to help. BUT, that darn music loop was so in-your-face (and inappropriate) that it made me ill. At that moment, the emotion should be allowed to carry through with no music. And definitely not that kind of repeating drum music! (I recently asked the composer John Abram (he has worked with Gary Burns (Radiant City (2006), Waydowntown (2000) ) for some music advice. He suggested sometimes no music is the best because it makes the use of music so much more powerful when you do have it.) Anyway, I have no interest to hear that darn repeating music loop. Not at that tender moment. I think I had enough of that music loop for this year, I’ve used up my quota in listening to bad drum music loop.
  3. The ratings for the s01-e1 was not too good — only 219,000. Thanks to John Doyle at The Globe and Mail (Oct 11th article) for this data point. (Of course, I hope that John’s spell checker will auto-delete his paragraph every time he uses the word “disaster” in describing Dragons’ Den. [Quoting John (bold are mine), “By the way — in the cruel, viewing-numbers-for-new shows department, CBC had one disaster last week. The heavily promoted debut of the business-reality series Dragons’ Den drew only 219,000 viewers. To put this in context, last week’s return of The Rick Mercer Report drew a very healthy 715,000 viewers and was followed by the return of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, with 727,000 viewers. The person who pushed for CBC’s version of Dragons’ Den (a hit show in Britain) really should be squirming.”] Note to self and CBC executives: Lets hope we are doing something about it and lets hope the rating gets better. I will be so interested in knowing what exactly the CBC executives are doing to try to bring the audience numbers up for the remaining four episodes?? I hope we are not just sitting around and waiting?? I personally suck at sitting and doing nothing. If I were in the CBC executive team, I will have the following people on speed dail and talking to them to learn, a) The execs at the UK Dragons’ Den team, b) the execs at the Australia team, c) I will even try to speak some Japanese to the Sony team if this can help CBC’s Dragons’ Den ratings. (Note: I don’t speak Japanese. The team at Sony probably speaks better English than me. (smile)] This is no time to be reflective nor just sit and think. I love Dragons’ Den enough. And I don’t want to see it just die after season one. (Note: I am fully aware that in s01-e01 we fought against the season opener NHL hockey game (Leafs vs Senators). And last night, for Calgary, we fought against “Hockey: A People’s History”. And I am sure, if we want to find excuses, there will be four more set of excuses for the next four episodes. But lets not go there. And lets not go down without a really really good fight.)

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Again, even with the above first two serious weakness (which are both music and both fixable), I still love the show.

Now, the following is my blow-by-blow account and comment of the show (with all the typos and errors) as I watched the show during preview and then typed the comments (I really paused a lot). This process was so time consuming and I don’t know if I will do it agian or if it worths it. Please let me know by leaving your comment. But it does give you some idea of my immediate feedback and what I was thinking as I watch the show. Be warned, it my sample view of one.

Oct 12th, 8:12MST update: I have finally kinda finished adding some brief analysis and please feel free to leave me comments in order to share your view with me and other readers. Thanks in advance.

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Jason Carruthers – Face Form (eye-glass store for women only)
– quoting him, Face Form is “a store that make women look good in eye-glasses”
so he wants to focus on women only.
– he is an optician with 12 years experience
– but the part about “glasses can make you look better or worst” is kinda obvious, isn’t it?
– he is excited.
– started with only feminine frame, shape, colours
– retail unit just for women
– don’t let the customers just randomly pick frames on their own (hmm, strange)
– Group frames into types and ask customers questions like, “Do you want to look like an executive? Do you want a look that is artistic, casual, …
– 200K for 25% of the company
– Lauarence asked if Jason has any previous experience
– Oh, man, tried and failed twice but will explain why it will work this time around
– Oh man, when Jason said his women’s optical stores concept came as a result of four years of reading business books, Robert fired back with this, “Jason, you are not reading business books, you are reading comics.”
– Oh man, this is really tough-love but I have to say Robert is correct in his correct idea that Jason may have been misguided by what Jason thinks he read from the business books. I feel sorry for Jason.
– Jason is telling the Dragons that, “None of you are seeing this.” Oh, …
– Jim suggests Jason to read Howard Schultz’s book “Pour Your Heart into It”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Schultz

– Jim suggests Jason to read Faith Popcorn’s book on women “EVEolution : the eight truths of marketing to women”
– now it became a shouting match. Jason thinks that the Dragons don’t get it, and the Dragons think that Jason just doesn’t listen. That’s it for Jason. I think he is out soon. So sad.
– Kevin is out.
– Jim just couldn’t take it any more.
– Robert said, “Jason, I don’t think you learned anything from your failures which is unfortunate. If you fail and you learn something, then there is some value in that.”
– Jim, “The man is not getting it, I just don’t want to waste any more time.”
– Jennifer is out. (Note: I have an inappropriate comment to make about how cute Jennifer is. But I am not going say that Jennifer is cute. Oh, where is that Delete key again. (smile))
– Laurence is out too. Thats it, all out.
– That completely exhausted look on Jim’s face is priceless. Jim must have been so angry that Jason just didn’t get anything sink in.
– The post interview with Jason,
– Jason, “the money will mean I can pay back some money that I owe some money to.”

[Kempton: Finally, if the Dragons had known that Jason wanted the new money to pay for loans, then I am sure Jason would have gotten much more fire. Asking for money to pay back loan is not usually what investors want to do with their money. ]

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Lisa Rozano – “The hidden you become your potential”
– created the business 10 years ago
– Lisa said the cards system is based on the inkblot test (aka, the Rorschach Inkblot Test)
– Lisa explains the cards and the system.
– Kevin asked how to make money on this
– 13.52.01 Robert asked, “how many stores are you in now?” The answer is “None”. Oh my, thats not good.
– Jim asked, “So you have this business for ten years and you haven’t got this product to any store?” Oh man, the look on Jim’s face.
– Oh man, no way the Dragons will be in now.
– Robert, “Alice, do you not see how ridiculous this is?”
– Alice, “No”
– Laurence, “Obviously not”
– Oh, the finally nasty comments from some of the Dragons were dead funny. Oh, but a ten-year old business with nothing to show for is not good.

[Kempton: The item may or may not be a good novelty thing. But the worst part is this “business” has been around for 10 years with no sales to show for. ]
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Johnathon Jonathan Levine Founder and CTO of company, developed the “Green Server”

– asking 250K for 8% of company

– Kevin: “Do you have any sales?”
– Johnathon: “No”
– Kevin: “Then you are dreaming in Technicolor.” … “No one is going to give you that kind of valuation”
– The Dragons ask to see the product.
– Johnathon claims, “It makes your PC runs faster, runs more reliably …” and use less energy.
– Kevin: “Jonathan, you got to be kidding me. How can you measure all that?”
– pulling tasks off the PC, makes the PC run with less power.
– 20W box.

– Jonathan, “100W PC cost $100 per year to run”
– “How much money can you save people?”
– Kevin, “This is your moment …”
– Robert making that drum roll sound. And Kevin is “excited” in a kind of “well-I-am-probably-not-going-to-invest-way”

– Robert, “I think you are a mad scientist who loves technology and I admire that.” … Robert is out.
– Right now, target price $300- $500, and they will try to bring the price down.
– Kevin, “A PC can be purchased for less than $500.”
– Funny Kevin said this, “I forbid you to pursue this idea and I am out.” Oh, Kevin, I think he means well and does want to try to help Jonathan here.
– 19.17:02 Jennifer, “So far you sold me a $5 saving per month”

– Kevin, “I’ve changed my mind. It is evil. It is taking multiple people’s time and wasting it. Including yours. Stop this madness. I forbid you to go forward.” Again, I won’t put it like Kevin, but I think he has the basic idea right — this product is not viable.
– Jim, “This is nuts.”
– Oh, that painful look as Jim holds his head. I honestly think Jim really feel sorry for Jonathan’s misguided idea and project. Jim is a great man.
– Kevin, “… get the government involved to stop this.” Oh Kevin.

– Post pitch
– Johnathon: “That was a blood bath.”

[Kempton: The strive for green energy is good. But the implementation may be a bit off here. The price of the machine and the “value” is such a long term thing that the sales may turn out to be very limited.]

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Sean Randall – developed a pair of binocolus that can ” see through fog, haze, sandstorm, and any other environment out there”

200K for 30%

– US marine looked at it, coast guard, RCMP, ….

– invested his house money into it.

– spent 150K to get to this point.

– Kevin points out “… the sell cycle to the government is a life time.”

– Robert, “Do you have the prototype here?”

– Without the one working model to show, the dragons all backed out.

– The entrepreneur realized that by leaving the working prototype (he claimed “working”) out in Vancouver was a bad strategy.

[Kempton: Sean should have bought that “working” model if he has one. Without actually seeing it working, no investors would invest. By the way, I previously blogged about a state of the art, cutting-edge research proto-type “Live motion 3D camera” which can see thru walls and do super cool things (for example, in a gun fight situtation, the camera can turn things around and look at things from the bad guys’ prospective and see what they can or cannot see). Quoting myself in the above posting,

” … I saw a Time Domain demo a few years ago that showcased its Ultra Wideband prototype that lets one see through wall. Looking at their website today, looks like their second generation RadarVision 2 is being sold to US Law Enforcement and Federal Government Agencies.”]

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Maya Sinclair – Aqua blanket incorporated

– asking for 20K in exchange for 5%

– told her passionate life-story. well presented.
– put herself through university, etc.

– hot water was getting cold in a warm bath
– idea is to keep water warm for 90 minutes (usually 10-15 minutes without the blanket)

– Laurence thinks the concept a bit bizzare
– Mayer explained in European countries, heating cost is more expensive and sometimes a family share the same bath tub of water. And the water can get cold after the kids take their bath.

– Kevin ask, “how much is it?”

– $20 – $50
– Laurence wants to feel the fabric.
– Robert, “I don’t want to like it but I like the European aspect.” … “In Europe people do that.”

– Kevin, for once, was being nice and put in gently, “The problem is people who can’t afford hot water, they can’t afford this blanket”

– Laurence checked out the material. And the material seems like sponge and felt that consumers wouldn’t want to spend money on the product.

– Jennifer put it nicely but she is out too.

– Jim, the nice gentleman that he is. He encouraged Mayer and sympathized with her struggle to come to Canada but he is out too.

– Kevin, unusual for him, but expected after what he said previously, simply encouraged Mayer to spend her time and energy on other ideas and he is out too.

– Robert told his story about his mom and dad. And this is so emotional, you have to watch it for yourself. I can’t type it or describe it well enough.

[Kempton: I think I saw something in Maya. I don’t know what. But that spark and that drive is something that can make someone successful. Provided she receive some guidance. I am willing to work with Maya and be her Armchair Dragon. I don’t have money to invest in her but I am willing to put what I value more — my time and energy to guide her a little bit if I can. I will be just as tough as some of the dragons. If I see a bad idea, I will call it a bad idea. Which may be what see needs now. I welcome Maya to email and contact me.]

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Gilad Shoham – GelFast

200K for 6% of company.

– hospital acquired infections in North America killed many many people per year, more than a whole bunch of things combined (car crashes, plane crashes, war and terrorism combined) half of these are attributed to poor hand hygiene amongst care giver.

. “… half of hospital death has been attributed to poor hand hygiene”

– Gilad’s brother is a doctor’s of infectious disease in Washington

– Dr. Dan Shoham, also a Columbia MBA (?)

– Washington hospital disease centre.- Alchol gel-based delivered device.

– Jennifer, “what is the cost of it?”

– one cariage use in one shift. cost around $2-$3

– buy the whole set? ($10) [what is a whole set?]
– can work a deal in on-going supply.

– Kevin, “I am getting warmed up. I am getting interested. My juice are flowing. Tell me how are you going to sell this?”

– Gilad: We already are. We’ve made the best relationship with distributors across Canada. So we have coast to coast coverage.

– Kevin, “Forget about Canada, lets talk about the US. What’s the plan?”

– Gilad. Right now our sales are split 50%/50% across US and Canada.

– $140,000 in the last 12 months (confirmed in dollars)

– just landed a 5 years contract with a network of hospital

– “What did you value your business at the last round where somebody put money in?”

– Hmmm, it is getting very interesting. G just asked for his business advisor. Gilad call on his brother Dan, the MBA, to explain the company’s financial.

– The family decided the business worth $5 million dollars.

– Kevin, “The family sat around and decided the business is worth $5 million. Now, you are in the real world.”

– Kevin bought the usefulness of the product but couldn’t stand the valuation of the business.

– Robert thinks the product is great.

– The Dragons — The only problem the Dragons have is the money and the equity.

– Kevin, “Show us the love guys. When I invest, I am going to bring you into the real world.”

– Kevin, “… I need my position first. Then I am going to help you. can take you to the moon.” … “Because I am greedy but greed is good.”

– Dan, “I want you to be on our board when you speak to our customers.”

– Kevin, “Lets start the bidding here.”

– Kevin: 50,000 for 5% of the business. Board seat. In your face every day. Thats what you get with me.”

– Laurence: I would also take 5% for 50,000

– Kevin: I want your cell phone number. … I will get you much high private equity at much higher valuation.

– Laurence asked Kevin, “Are you accepting me as another partner?”

– Kevin: “absolutely”

[Note by Kempton: At this point, I don’t know if many questions were cut but I would have asked a few questions on patent protections. Competitors. etc.]

– At this point, out of the blue, Robert is offering 250K for 20% of the business. Offering even more money than the brothers have asked for.

– Kevin and Laurence just got trumped.

Offering a higher valuation than the 10% for 100K (which is 20% for 200K)

– Robert, “And you don’t need other people here. You need people who are focus. And are ready to move fast. I am not in the retail type of business. I build company from zero to big, quickly. And that’s what we need to do with this product. So I will give you $250,000 for 20% of the business.”

– So they are getting more money (250K compare to 200K) but giving up 20% instead of 6%.

– Kevin and Laurence look a bit shocked as expected.

– Robert, “Do we have a deal?”

– Dan, “Unless someone wants to compete.”

– Kevin, “I am not going to bid against myself. There is a reason that they call me Mr. Wonderful. You may not find out.”

– Robert got his deal here.

– As they shook hands. Robert said, “Wow, thats a clean hand.” (big smiles from all)

– Robert said, “Kevin, do you smell that?”
– Kevin, “Smell what? Money?”
– Robert, “Money that I am making and you are not making in this deal.”
– Kevin, “It ain’t over yet. It is just the beginning of a long painful process.”

– Post pitch interview
– Diane, “How do you feel about what just happened?”
– G: “Having them dueted it out and take the whole value of the company and put it there on the table and start shooting at it, thats like shooting at my baby. But we were ultimately be able to come to a deal.”
– D: “How happy are you that Kevin is not part of the deal?”
– G: “Actually I would have liked him on, as part of the deal. He would have bought excellent energy to the company. And he was a bulldog to us but we like having those kind of people on our team. Cause we just turn them around and they are bull dog for us.”
– D: “Are you surprised that this deal happen at all?”
– G: “I am not surprise that this deal happen. I am happy that it happened so quickly. Because sometimes it takes us a bit longer to raise the money but I’m thrilled.”
I agree that Kevin will bring excellent energy to the company. Kevin is such a tenacious guy that I am sure he can bring some magic to the business.

[Kempton: I think Robert probably got himself a great deal here. But I would love to hear the bit about patent protection, competitors, etc. in the pitch if these were indeed there ??? I don’ know. I would love to work with Gilad and his team as they have some solid knowledge, business sense and contact that are great to have.]


Dragons’ Den – Season 1 Episode 2 – Preview

Wednesday, 11 October, 2006

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Oct 12th morning update: I have put in a ton of time in writing this updated and detailed review of season 1 episode 2 and I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I in crafting this new review.

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First of all, there will be one “minor spoiler” in this preview at the end that I think is very worthy to mention. And I will warn you before you read on. So you can skip it if you want a spoiler free Dragons’ Den tonight. You see, I had enough of fights recently here and here with John at The G&M that I won’t make the same mistakes of spoiling your fun, I hope.

<>I am happy to report that I have the pleasure to preview Season 1 Episode 2 (i.e. s01-e02) a few days ago and I really really love it. I watched the show twice and I was so engaged by the show (and taking notes) that I didn’t notice any technical problems or issues. So even I now have the precise time code (like the “24” ticking clock on *every* frame of the video), I don’t have stuff to complain. OK, I promise to try harder when I watch DD on CBC at 8pm tonight, for the third time, to find flaws with it. (big smile)

Now lets move on to the content. I personally think, judging from some viewers’ comments about s01-e01, many poeple may be in for a very pleasant surprise. Many people expect one way from the Dragons, and they are now going to see something they thought will never happen. I won’t spoil your fun of saying what these surprises are!

Remember, none of the Dragons have “changed”! After all, the 6 episodes were taped in August so the Dragons are not changing because of our comments unless they can time travel. IMHO, I think each show will always be different because the entrepreneurs are different, the stories (i.e. the pitches) and the products are different. And the way the Dragons interact with each entrepreneur will be different.

********** Spoiler warning **********

********** Stop reading now if you want no spoiler! **********

********** Are you sure you want to know?? **********

Are you very very sure?

OK, here it is. And you may be disappointed on how little spoiler info I am actually giving you! (smile)

During a heart-to-heart talk between a Dragon and an entrepreneur, I was absolutely amazed by the caring that was shown by this Dragon! What the Dragon did was beyond the call of duty or expectation. IMHO, this Dragon really cared deeply and whole-heartedly for the success of this entrepreneur.

Ultimately, I think it shows each and every Dragons not only bring their own money to the table, they also bring their years of business wisdom with them to share openly. These Dragons’ wisdom are free for the entrepreneurs (and the viewers at home) to take when the entrepreneurs were discussing their businesses with the Dragons. Sadly, sometimes you see entrepreneurs who just refuse to learn or listen (remember those in s01-e01?) to what the Dragons were saying.

I can’t wait to give you my full review of s01-e02. I hope you will enjoy the show as much as I did. And I like to thank CBC for letting me blog about the show hours before it airs tonight.


First Tax Fraudster on Dragons’ Den?

Tuesday, 9 September, 2008

Well, this is a case that shows why due diligence is extremely important. I just noticed that Vancouver Sun has reported in June 2007 “Promoter of SmartCD nailed for tax fraud, fined $75,000“. (or visit this June 20th, 2007 CanWest MediaWorks full Canada.com link to read full article)

I remember when I spent 2+ hours to do my due diligence/research on SmartCD (see my season 1 episode 5 review), I wrote as bluntly as I could without getting myself in any potential legal trouble of saying the SmartCD technology is likely unworkable. Here is an excerpt from Vancouver Sun’s June 2007 report (or visit this June 20th, 2007 CanWest MediaWorks full Canada.com link to read full article),

The [Canada Revenue] agency said that to generate refunds under the federal Scientific Research and Experimental Development program, Ross submitted $385,359 in expenses he claimed had been incurred by his company, Systemhac Corp., which is developing the SmartCD.

These expenses included payments to employees who never received the money, and photocopies of cheques and invoices that proved to be forgeries.

During a search of Ross’s home and the offices of his accountant, CRA investigators found a cheque that had been altered with correction tape. Photocopies of that cheque had been provided to CRA to support Ross’s tax credit claim. Had the claim been accepted, the company would have received a $134,876 tax credit to which it was not entitled.

On June 4, Ross pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud in Robson Square Provincial Court. On Tuesday, he was fined $75,000 and given a 12-month conditional sentence.

Here is a YouTube clip of Arie Ross’ Dragons’ Den contest entry.

Here is Arie talking to Sean.


Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 7 review

Monday, 12 November, 2007

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(Cross posted at Dragonfly with possible additional readers’ comments)

The following are my brief reviews and comments of the Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 7 business ideas and pitches.

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House keeping comment:

I am a big Dragons’ Den fan but I am very disappointed with the businesses and pitches in this episode. I haven’t reviewed any of the previous episodes so quickly and use so many, “Unfortunately, not really a business.” to review a business pitch.

I have to say this episode is probably my least favourite episode in season 2 and probably season 1 (allowing for time to learn). I really hope the remaining episodes will feature better businesses or pitches.

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Print-a-kid

On some level, I admire the entrepreneurial creativeness of Noemi Berius in creating her business as a result of “looking for an educational gift to give my goddaughter. I wanted to find a book with a hero that looked like her, with her darker skin, beautiful long brown hair and big brown eyes …

At the same time there are three challenges that make this investment by Arlene (100K for 51% of the company) a risky one in some sense.

1) The stories can be copyrighted but the concept cannot. If others see the product profitable, there is nothing stopping them from entering this market and creating their own version of these customized stories, etc.

2) Even though Noemi suggested in the Dragons’ Den Forum that her primary motivation for this product was not for data mining. But the potential for comprehensive data mining of young kids (and targeted marketing to them and their parents) are clear and present dangers. I blogged about the potential abuse by current corp of multi-nationals (including brands like Barbie Girls) in an October blog entry, “Children’s Privacy Online” (with video) based on materials from Office of the Privacy Commissioner, so I won’t repeat my discussion here.

3) As a result of the privacy concerns expressed in #2, I don’t know how knowledgeable parents will react about giving up their children’s privacy in such a young age. The problem with an extremely customizable product full of personal details is that it will be quite a challenge to establish an acceptable privacy policy.

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Fryed Rockit

Not really a viable business. Kevin is known for his “personal style”. But it is a bit sad for me to see Kevin toy with the entrepreneur for paying him $50 to buy his prototype. I suppose it is his right to offer what he likes, and it is up to the entrepreneur to reject or accept. Still, based on the edited footage, the $50 offer seemed a bit insulting to the entrepreneur and appeared meaner than needed to be.

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Mrakic Gold Holdings

Unfortunately, not really a business.

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K9 Kamper

The entrepreneur should really try to sell her product first as oppose to raise money to buy inventory which she had yet to sell one (at taped time).

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Bluewater Technologies

Dragons’ Den is probably the wrong forum for seriously raising $10 million. On the other hand, the free national TV exposure can be a good thing for many companies that need to raise funds.

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Saxx

I know nothing about men’s underwear as a business.

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Aerotag

Unfortunately, not really a business.

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Stemcell Consumer Guide

Unfortunately, not really a business.

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Bend-No-More

Unfortunately, not really a business.

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Tampac

Unfortunately, not really a business.

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Stainless Steel Monuments

Unfortunately, not really a business.

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Garage Door Sports Screen

Unfortunately, not really a business.


Dragons’ Den – Season 1 Episode 1

Wednesday, 4 October, 2006

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What a great show. I still love it even I have seen the preview version of the show probably three times already. I just can’t believe how excited I was when I watched the show again tonight. I think watching DD on a big TV (as oppose to a tiny real video window on my computer) makes a difference.

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First of all, I would like to thank the seven entrepreneurs (Eric, Marilyn, Stephen, the Warwaruk brothers, JP, and Jennifer) who pitched their six ideas on Season 01 Episode 01 (s01e01) of CBC’s Dragons’ Den tonight. In fact, allow me to extend my gratitude to the over 1,700 entrepreneurs across Canada who auditioned to be on the Dragons’ Den. Without all the enthusiastic support from these entrepreneurs, there will be no Dragons’ Den in Canada.

Of course, thanks also go to the 40+ Dragons that auditioned for the roles and the final 5 (alphabetically — Jennifer, Jim, Kevin, Laurence, and Robert), that agreed to become our Dragons. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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Entrepreneur #1, exercise machine – The Fast Recliner by Eric
I agree with the Dragons the market is simply too crowded for another exercise machine. The $1.3 million for “we learn something” is a dead-on comment by Robert. A little bit of tough-love but fair comment.
As an aside, it is good to have patent protection on a product but a patent doesn’t mean much if it is not for a good product.
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Entrepreneur #2, Time Out Naps by Marilyn
I agree with the Dragons’ general assessment of the business prospect and it is basically not a workable business. Now, I feel sorry for the abuse Marilyn took from Kevin. So I hope Kevin can take a joke. I think he is simply too harsh when he said he will “set the teddy bear on fire”. OK, it is catchy and made his point. But for that, I am giving Kevin a nick-name, how does, “Kevin-the-teddy-bear-burner” sounds like? May be Kevin can buy this company and rename its product from “Brewster The Teddy Bear Burner” to “Kevin The Teddy Bear Burner”, http://www.dingley-dell.com/products/brewster/ (big smile)
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Entrepreneur #3, Green Tidal Energy by Stephen
First of all, I think Stephen’s biggest problem, if I may be totally direct and honest, is that he is too arrogant and Stephen talks down to the Dragons. The Dragons are smart people and they can understand something if it is well explained.

I think Stephen should take this to heart (Stephen, sorry for writing this as I am a bit annoyed by the way you pitched): The Nobel physicist Richard Feynman, someone I admire deeply, said if he can’t explain something to a reasonably intelligent first year university student, then he doesn’t understand the subject matter well enough. It is the pitcher’s job to explain something well. And when the explanation didn’t work, blaming the audiences is just purely bad form.

In terms of the project alone, the idea is interesting but as a commercial project, it is way too risky and there are so many variables to be a solid enough investment to take risk.
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Entrepreneurs #4, It’s My Card by the Warwaruk brothers
I seriously hope that they will change their mind and won’t bet their farm on the card. And at the same time, their strong desire to make their millions while they are young may luring them into taking irrational risk. Plus the 5-10% skim off each transaction is really worst than highway robbery. It looks good on paper but who in the right mind will agree to paying that extra 10%?
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Entrepreneurs #5, The Magic Banana by JP
I actually have done some research on JP’s business and commented on it earlier. I think the Dragons did the proper and very expected Dragons’ thing by not investing. None of the dragons will want to be associated with The Magic Banana unless they are prepared to have their names associated with the product in their circle of friends and family forever. The monetary return is just not worth the trouble.

Now, for me, this is one product that I can see if I apply my full range of skills and knowledge, I might be able to help push it to the next level. So, for this one, I am interested enough to ask more questions about the financial data, the sales in Chicago (Sex shops? Drug stores?), the strength of the patent, and, most important of all, if JP is an entrepreneur that I can work with??? After all, it is not like I can try the product myself. And here lies another problem, if JP is going to trump that “I am woman and you are not. What do you know?” card at me like she did with some of the dragons, then I am out. I love to work with really smart people but I will not tolerate people who think they know best and have the “What do you know?” attitude.
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Entrepreneurs #6, Cenebal Organics (organic omega 3 salad dressing) by Jennifer MacDonald
Hearing Jennifer pitch the product and what she has achieved (some distribution, a propriety process from her chemical engineering background) is simply music to my ears. Jennifer just exudes confidence and her determination to tackle problems in her own so naturally.
May be it is simply a great product that is right for its time, plus the necessary groundwork being done by Jennifer but I think Jennifer simply exudes confidence and her determination to be a successful makes her an ideal entrepreneur to partner with.

Assuming the Dragons Jim and Jennifer W. have been helping out since the taping of the show, I expect Jennifer’s Cenebal Organics to be on the shelf in some Calgary stores. And I am going to look for a bottle and buy it to give to a friend to try. You see, I will buy the product to try even don’t eat much salad!

My final word tonight to Jennifer M. (the entrepreneur), good luck on your business with Jim and Jennifer. And learn baby learn. With your innovative mind, Cenebal Organics may well be the first in a series of products.

Now, my really final final words here. If I were you and I really wanted control, I might have just tried to ask the Dragons nicely if they are willing, as part of the agreement, to let me have a buy back provision. For example, in three years time, I am allowed buy back their original $100,000 investment for $300,000 each. Which amounts to a 44% return compound annually for three years. This way, I would have control back. But if I were to truly think long term, I will forget about the idea of the buyback provision and look to other innovative product ideas and re-negotiate on those products as they are developed.

Congratulations Jennifer and I look forward to hearing more of you and good news about you and your business.

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Overall, the dragons did a great job as they were honest, very direct and true to themselves. Nothing that I can’t take. Even “Kevin The Teddy Burner” was nice at place. (smile) I think every Dragons have their nice moment and their no-nonsense business moment. And both were great to watch.

No surprise here, I am definitely watching Dragons’ Den again.

There are a few areas that can hopefully be improved and I will talk about them after I get some rest.

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The following is my follow-up post now focusing on the technical stuff.

How can we improve it? The following are just my 2 cents and they are mostly technical stuff.

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Redoing the whole blogging area. It doesn’t look appealing at all.
http://www.cbc.ca/dragonsden/e01/index.html#epnav
I like the format Sean used at
http://www.insidethedragonsden.com
So lets not reinvent the wheel here.
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There were at least two places where the Dragons were speaking and the screen was showing the product (the exercise machine??), it looks very distracting to me.

For future, if there are actual footage of the Dragons speaking, may be try to use those? I don’t mean in every case a Dragons’ voice should be matched with his/her face but in that two instances, they look so strangely out of place.
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Oh the music. I love the theme song. And I think it should have been used more, much more. Now, the other “music” just drove me nuts. When the Dragons were talking to the entrepreneurs, the background music is just torturing at many places. I can tell exactly where are those places that bugs me but there weren’t time code available on the preview copy. And it was too much work to try to recreate the time-code from simply watching it on the VCR and tracking it.
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I don’t know was this by design, but the skin tone of everyone in most scenes look kind of strange. Was it a colour correction issue? Or was it a deliberate design decision for the “look” of the show. To me, it looks quite strange at times. But the show was too engaging for me to really get distracted too much by this potential colour-correction problem.

Thats all from me. And these are just my 2 cents.

Good luck and hope you make the episode even better.

Cheers,
Kempton

P.S. I am still very hurt by that John Doyle Globe and Mail article. It was so unfair and spoiler filled. (sad face)


Early look of CBC Dragons’ Den … they’re real cool, and they’re spectacular.

Thursday, 28 September, 2006

cbc-dd.jpg
Oct 4th update: Now season 1 episode 1 of CBC’s Dragons’ Den has aired, I just want to say again, I love the show. And I can now blog all I want and give episode #1 a full analysis. You can read my full analysis of episode #1 here. And I have also been fighting some Dragons’ Den fires here and a seriously negative and inaccurate review of Dragons’ Den here (see if you agree).

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By now, you probably know that I first saw the UK BBC version of Dragons’ Den three months ago and I felt in love with it right on the spot. You can read about my experience in this July 29th blog entry for more of that history and my love of Dragons’ Den in my posts here.

Now, more than three months after my initial exposure to BBC’s Dragons’ Den, I have some great Canadian news to report. I was honoured to be given an advance bloggers’ look of CBC’s take of Dragons’ Den with Canadian entrepreneurs.

And CBC’s DD looks real cool and it looks spectacular! (paraphrasing a 90s sitcom)

Not to spoil the fun for you, I will not talk about the pitchers’ names or projects, nor tell you the results. You’ve to watch the show on CBC, 8PM Wednesday Oct 4th.

Here are my take of the show without any spoilers,

– The introduction clip looks really cool. And I am starting to like the black Caddy even though I am much more of a Lexus man.

– I love the energy in the introductions of the dragons. Oh, they are all so cool.

– Dianne is a great and trusted business show host in Canada and she is so natural in her role in Dragons’ Den. Dianne is already putting her own style and stamp on the show.

– The Canadian entrepreneurs all have very different businesses to pitch and they each pitch and present quite differently when they face the dragons.

– The interaction and back and forth between the dragons and entrepreneurs were engaging, exciting, fun and quite educational at the same time. Afterall, we are seeing the dragons making “live” decision with their own money and the entrepreneurs making “live” decisions that can affect their own business for real.

– By the way, I love the theme song choosen. It just sounds great.

– My two suggestions to improve the show at the moment is to,

1) use the show’s theme song a lot more between pitches by the entrepreneurs, and

2) reduce the extensive use of drums and other music while the entrepreneurs are pitching (no music is better. This will allow the viewers to focus on the words being said by the dragons and the entrepreneurs).

This is the first CBC’s Dragons’ Den and it looks really great and I really love it.

Do we have a great show on hand? Absolutely!

Can the show be made better? Yes, I think so. After all, this is just the first episode.

Now, with a great show in hand. Let’s hope the Canadian public will love and enjoy CBC’s Dragons’ Den as much as Britons have enjoyed the BBC’s Dragons’ Den.

When a show is entertaining, engaging to watch, has lots of money to be potentially invested and it can help us make more money by helping us becoming more entrepreneurial and being our own bosses, what more can we ask for?

Again, my take on the first episode of the first season of CBC Dragons’ Den is — it is real cool, and it is spectacular!

Much thanks go to the whole Dragons’ Den production team at CBC. Love you guys. What a great job that you did.

See you at CBC Dragons’ Den starting at 8pm, Wednesday Oct 4th on CBC.

Note: come back to this site for full analysis of all the pitches right after the show airs .


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