(Cross posted at Dragonfly with possible additional readers’ comments)
The following are my brief reviews and comments on the Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 3 pitches/ideas.
ATOMIC TEA by Calgary entrepreneurs Jessica & Russell Bohrson (Atomic Tea Facebook group)
(update: I’ve uploaded my video interviews with Jessica & Russell. Enjoy)
I first saw Jessica & Russell pitching in the Calgary audition round. They had a solid pitch, seemed very focus and professional. They knew their business.
So it was not surprising and I was very happy to see them pitching live to the Dragons in June when DD taped in Toronto.
Now, let me defer an important discussion of how the final deal was struck a little and in particular, Kevin’s deal changing proposal as I will write a lot more next.
Focusing on the final outcome alone first
I think Jessica & Russell will get most of the useful expertise from Jim (Food, marketing), Arlene (marketing & advertising), and Laurence (marketing, sales) to advance the Atomic Tea business. And $120,000 is still a nice sum of money.
About how the final deal was struck
And now since we all have seen how Kevin turned the originally favourable deal for the entrepreneurs around, I am free to talk about how I feel at the time and now.
First of all, I am not a lawyer, but I know until an offer has been officially accepted, the offer can be changed at any time and changed it did.
In some sense, it was rather shocking and sad to see Kevin openly disregarded the ideal of fair play and openly colluded or “cooperated” with other dragons (which, again, didn’t appeal to a sense of fair play) to force a lower offer onto entrepreneurs.
Of course, one can always argue Jessica and Russell were free to walk away from the deal. But to these two young entrepreneurs, $120,000 was a lot of money and can help fulfill part of their dream.
So was what Kevin did ethical?
To me, it was as if during a seemingly fair open-outcry auction, one bidder suggested to the other bidders to stop the auction and then collectively agreed to go back to the baseline price and colluded as a team to bid for an equal share. Fair? To many people, it will seem not. Again, the reserved price has been achieved and exceeded already.
Justice Stewart of the US Supreme court once said “I Know It When I See It” in a 1964 USSC ruling about “what is hard-core pornography?”
I don’t want to say if what I saw tonight qualified as collusion or not since I am not particularly interested in getting myself into legal trouble. But at least, I can say I think I saw some hard-core pornography tonight in the tradition of “I Know It When I See It“.
Best of luck to Jessica and Russell.
With a great product (I love your bubble tea, your cool store, etc.), and your hard working mindset, I am sure you will do well.
Notes to CBC
As an aside, I know CBC currently have no contractual or legal control of what the Dragons were allowed to do during pitches. But I think this episode may have provided a good reason to set some new ground rules to avoid any remote resemblance of collusion during Dragons Den pitches. I know it is tough to separate collusion from simple cooperation but I know CBC have lots of smart people and shall be able to set some new rules. Plus, we can always apply the good old “I Know It When I See It” rule.
Final Note: I am not naive enough to think that what we saw openly tonight don’t happen in many regular business dealings behind closed doors. But I do hope ethical businesses will pass what I call the “front page story test” which I learned from Warren Buffett after reading Buffett: The Making of An American Capitalist about ten years ago. I will quote Warren here, [K: emphasis mine]
“I want employees to ask themselves whether they are willing to have any contemplated act appear on the front page of their local paper the next day, be read by their spouses, children, and friends … If they follow this test, they will not fear my other message to them: Lose money for my firm and I will be understanding; lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless.“
ALTITUDETECH by Ka–Yu Law
Three words: Potential medical liabilities.
Since this product actively reduce oxygen to the users, the potential medical liabilities are just so unappetizing to have to face. It will be challenging to find knowledgeable investors who are going to take the potential risks. Just image this, if one customer suffer a health problem while using the product (possibly no fault of the product), the potential lawsuit and bad publicity can easily finish the product.
DR. RASAM by The Patil Family: Vikram, Krutika and Priyanka
It is cute to see the kids pitch and it is good TV. While I also think it is a bit too cute (may be “manipulative” is too strong a word) that the parents are outside.
Now, I wonder if the dragons would still invest $25,000 for 75% of a company that consist of a soup receipt (no sales, no stores), if the soup has not been pitched on national TV? Which is of course the key. For $25,000, getting a product with free national TV exposure already advertised by cute kids, I think there is some good business potential there.
Just my 2 cents and I might have been harsher than normal, I suppose to compensate for the over-dose of cuteness from the kids.
Now, few more words on the kids pitch. I think they were very professional and presentable. Great for them and I am happy for the Patil Family.
BCP PET CARRIER by Kevin Spirak & Malcolm Jefferson
Sorry, just a bad idea.
THE DOOR DEFENDER by Kirk Hochrein
Hmmm, some people may like the product. Kevin does have a point that hot cars won’t want it because it does make a car looks funny. Mind you, if millions of owners of normal cars want the product, that will be quite all right by my book. But I am not sure.
Hopefully Kirk’s sales will at least be helped by DD’s national TV exposure. Good luck.
SAP WORLD by The Lewis Family
I will take the Dragons’ word for the funny taste of the wine. Too bad.
EXOTIC DANCER TV by Jan Mitchell
I was there on location in Toronto watching Jan pitch live in June. The CBC edit has not distorted Jan much and she did seem rough and confrontational. And I don’t know the advertising space for the exotic dancing TV market (the late night) enough but I suspect Kevin’s observation might be close — 80% traditional ad revenue source won’t be interested.
SYNCROHEARTS by Bobby O’Neal
Sales track record (1,500 units sold in 16 months, 1,000 units left) is not too attractive a business. Plus the name can be reworked a little, I suppose.
PLETHORA OF PRODUCTS by Ralph Chlipalski
I was there the day Ralph pitched his two big bags of different products. I have to say he got my attention and I felt I wanted to say something positive to him. And in my naive way, may be even pointed him in the right direction.
To some people, they may simply want to laugh at Ralph’s pitches or even his life. But that would be very wrong.
Reusing and rewriting words from my previous blog entry,
I thought hard about Ralph Chlipalski’s approach in pitching so many ideas and simply hopping one will stick. And then the image of James Dyson keeps coming up in my head since James took the total opposite approach.
It took James 4.5 years and 5,127 prototypes until he got his Dyson vacuum cleaner right. James is not only a first class designer and inventor, he is also a good businessman (owning a multi-billion dollars empire) who can execute his vision and strategy.
For the aspiring Dragons’ Den inventors/entrepreneurs out there, I highly recommend James’ insightful autography “Against the Odds: An Autobiography”.
I wish Ralph all the best and I hope he will get back on his feet and get a good job while putting his focus on one great idea and really really work hard on it. The key is 5,127 prototypes that lead to one great product!
Good luck Ralph.