Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 8 review

Tuesday, 20 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 8 business ideas and pitches.

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House keeping comments:

I quite enjoy the “where are they now” updates of the entrepreneurs in this episode. I think it mixed very well with the pitches. In particular, it warmed my heart to see the Anivac entrepreneurs/husband and wife team making some progress in their businesses and getting into pets care.

By the way, I found many comments in the Dragons’ Den forum actually quite insulting to the entrepreneurs and to other commentators. I think the $5,000 (?) prize for people who vote and the $50,000 prize for the entrepreneur who gets the most votes certainly generated lots of excitement in the viewers. At the same time, I wonder if these monetary prizes got the viciousness in people out in open? And make the contestants and their friends much more willing to insult others?

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Pop-up Pylon

Some commentator in the Dragons’ Den forum found Packacone‘s idea similar to James’ idea. I did some more research and found the following. For Packacone’s patent, see US Patent 6338311, for James’ see Canadian patent application 2353127.

James wrote a pretty good reply on the difference in the DD forum, which I enclosed here in the comment section for completeness. As an aside, James’ reply is one of the clearest, most comprehensive and level headed reply I have seen from Dragons’ Den entrepreneurs.) There were so many accusations of people copying ideas (e.g. pizza box) in the forum that makes me wonder if these people actually took the time to read the patent before they accuse people?

Patent and market size: Now, it would have been great if James got both the US and Canadian patents. If only one can be obtained because of cost reasons, I say go with the US patent because of the market size.

Patent protection: James’ patent app is an interesting read for aspiring inventors. The drawings are pretty clear and it certainly helped me understand how the thing worked. Now, my concern is there is only one claim in the patent. May be it is enough, I don’t know as I am not a patent attorney. My gut feeling and lessons learned from my favourite video “How to Review a Patent App.?” is that I would definitely want to have a few more claims. Just in case some of my claims fail to withstand legal challenges.

Nice pitch James and all the best in your business.

Just my 2 cents.

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Smiles Made Easy

I write notes sometimes to love ones but I usually use a blank post-in note to create my own. Karem was pleasant and was able to stand her ground. But I have to agree with the Arlene that it was surprising that, with the amount of publicity and media attention, the sales level remained small. So it may be a good small business for her for now, it may become an investable business when it grows much bigger.

Check out an update on the entrepreneur here.

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Touchyourtoes.com

Soft-pron as business always has its market but how big and if a business person wants to be associated with the pron industry is a different matter.

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Carry Comfort, Pickers’ Mitt, Jamato Sweet Tomato Jam, Bottums Up, Bala Scarfa, The Hoodo

Some of these pitches were fun to watch (e.g. how Bala Scarfa turns a piece of scarf into a hat, etc.) but unfortunately they are not quite in the stage of investable businesses yet.


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 2 episode 6 review – True North Mortgage, CanadianStudentMarketing.com, UJeans, Barking Biscuit Bakery, Janac Sportswear, Pizza Box 2000, Fishing Fun-nel, and others

Tuesday, 6 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 6 business ideas and pitches.

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True North Mortgage

Dan gave a pretty good presentation of his business in the Dragons’ Den. I am no expert in the mortgage brokerage business (especially retail, what is the rental cost of the high traffic location, etc.) but I have seen other mortgage brokerage businesses being ran successful . What I don’t know is if the business will stay good in a slowed down housing market (e.g. in Calgary) as a Dragons’ Den commentator has commented.

Like another commentator in the Dragons’ Den forum, I am not sure about the structure of the deal. It seems quite harsh to have a 7% interest charge on the “investment” which is basically a convertible bond.

If the business is generating a sizable monthly cash flow, why does it need the $250,000 convertible “investment” from the dragons? Won’t it be cheaper to get a loan from the bank and keep the equity? Or simply grow the business organically. There are not enough details dicussed on TV so I can’t really say much knowledgeably.

By the way, here is Dan’s True North Mortgage blog.

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Nov 6th update on True North Mortgage: Just read Dan’s Dragons’ Den blog update for some new developments. Here is an excerpt of the key part (emphasis mine),

The due diligence process was completed by the end of July and went fairly quickly and smoothly. We were given a letter of intent which very closely matched the offer made on the show. It included investments from Jim, Arlene and Kevin whom offered us a $250,000 debenture (loan) convertible into 50% of the company’s shares at the Dragon’s option.

However, the letter of intent did not include many of the details that we required in order to ensure the ongoing support of the Dragons. [K: ongoing support from the Dragons seem like a fair thing to have, given the level of equity (50%) given away as a means to help grow the business.] We went back to the Dragons numerous times with additional clauses but were repeatedly rebuffed.

Thus, after much deliberation we decided not to go ahead with the deal.

We could not get comfortable with the level of proactive leadership and tangible management support we would receive from the Dragons in the future given the level of equity we were giving up and the very modest valuation the Dragons’ were willing to place on this business. (~0.70 of 2007 EBITDA, for you MBA dudes) [K: 0.7 is of course not an audited number but it seems like a “modest valuation” indeed.]

True North Mortgage continues to grow organically, with a second store scheduled to open in February of 2008 and a third by mid 2008. The new stores will be located in the Calgary downtown core. [K: Growing organically seems like is a good steady approach to take. Not take in too much debt (my bank alternative) too early.]

Dan, as an “MBA dude”, has given a very professional account of what happened after the show which is good for him and important for his business.

In my original analysis, I didn’t have time to write and mention that Dan’s brand is still relatively young (1 year old) and there is not much barrier to entry in the mortgage brokerage (retail) business. In short, the competitions can come fast and in a hurry. But being an  “MBA dude”, I am sure he is prepared to deal with the extra business that being on National TV brings. And also the potential arrival of new competitions (in Calgary and other cities). But I think Dan gets this far already because of his business insights so it will be interesting to watch how things go with him in the future.

Good luck Dan.

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CanadianStudentMarketing.com

The entrepreneur bought six beautiful models with him to pitch. Unfortunately, those girls have nothing to do with his business except being pretty and standing beside him during the pitch and on-camera besides him.

A few Dragons mentioned that the UniversityParty.com site was already taken and in the age internet having no border, that is a problem.

And a commentator in the Dragons’ Den forum also mentioned Facebook.com as a competitor in the student space which is a quite valid point.

I enjoying seeing beautiful models on TV, I guess except when they were used only as props and have nothing to do with the business. As an aside, Bikini Weenie from Season one actually would have a perfectly valid reason to bring in pretty models to help her pitch!

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UJeans

This could be a nice niche small business but I have to agree with the Dragons that the current 4-5 weeks wait time for a pair of jeans may be too long a wait. Anyway, the market will be much smaller if the jeans can be delivered in a much more timely manner.

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Barking Biscuit Bakery

The dog was really cute. The business could be a nice small niche business if the cost was better controlled while the quality remains high.

In an age of pet food actually killing pets. I think pet owners may be willing to pay more for quality product. I think my friend who has a pet store probably knows a lot more about this.

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Janac Sportswear

Janet gave a professional and passionate presentation about her product. I am happy that Arlene and Laurence decided to invest.

After all four male dragons (including Laurence) complemented on Janet’s effort but rejected the idea of investing, Arlene’s initial offer of help in time and resources was nice.

But then, I think Laurence saw a market that Janet might be able to serve that a large company like La Senza would not be able to handle in a large chain environment. And by getting another dragon (in this case the marketing expert Arlene) to join in the investment, it also reduce the amount invested while getting another dragon to help.

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Pizza Box 2000

The Pizza Box is a nice idea but with a business valuation of $1.25 million on it, I can certainly understand Jim‘s reluctance in investing in something he has little direct knowledge of (without the ability to consult with his more knowledgeable friend first).

Now, the Pizza Box has generated the most discussion in Dragons’ Den forum. Many commentators thought that Jim has lost out on a great deal. I personally don’t think so.

It is the mark of a good business person to invest in a domain that he/she is competent in. Warren Buffet (check out this and this cool video) is well known for not investing in things that he doesn’t understand, and that includes his friend Bill Gates’ Microsoft.

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Fishing Fun-nel

I had the most fun watching this segment. And I think it is a fun game. I think three of the dragons had enough fun to pay about $500 for the hand made toy. (They probably know it was a bit of an expensive hand-made-toy.) But contrary to a few commentators believes, the dragons’ fun don’t make it a viable business selling for $50 each.

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Folding Bench

I met this nice and enthusiastic entrepreneur in the Calgary auditions. Not much of his pitch was shown and I’ve forgotten about most of his business case. So all I can say is best of luck to the entrepreneur and I hope the national TV exposure helps his business.

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BootyBoard

Having no idea if this game will be fun for its target audience, I can’t say much about it.

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The Menolith

The piece of granite looks nice but unfortunately, I don’t think it makes a good business. And I do agree with some of the dragons that the entrepreneur might have over-spent on developing the product (the machine tooling, etc.?), essentially a piece of thin granite.


Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 5 review

Tuesday, 30 October, 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 5 pitches/business ideas.

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Where’s My Stylist

I saw this determined young entrepreneur pitched his business in Calgary twice and then his pitch on TV tonight. Even the entrepreneur was very personable and was quite nice, unfortunately the business and revenue models still need some further development. Plus the valuation of the business was probably a bit too much for most investors.

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Power Zoom Rifle Scope

True, manufacturing the scopes might make more money per unit compare to the revenue from licensing the patent (?) to someone else to make the thing. But there are also so much more risk in all the associated cost. Plus patent litigation is not a fun thing to be part of.

Incidentally, I feel the same as some of the dragons as I have serious problem with the idea of making money from weaponry system. There are simply things that I would rather not make money from. For me, anything to do with guns is a no go for me.

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Cutless Trimming Razor

The multi-billion dollar razor business is a truly cut-throat one. Unfortunately the idea presented by the entrepreneur is simply not a good one in my humble opinion.

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Volila Masala

I think most viewers saw the passion of the entrepreneur during her pitch. But at the same time, passion alone doesn’t make good business. And the matter of fact is that a mostly different set of skills and expertises are required to create a successful TV show as oppose to a spice business. Just my 2 cents.

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Electric Gym Network
Sorry, I simply don’t see much real use of the system. Plus it didn’t help that the demo unit failed during the entrepreneur’s pitch.

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Lucid Air Pack

Thinking a little more about the product. I hope well placed and sensitive smoke detectors will eliminate most of the need for this product. I don’t know, I probably won’t buy one.

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Pony Shoes

I admire the entrepreneurs of trying. But unfortunately, the game doesn’t seem to be much fun when the dragons played it.

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Lit Cosmetics Inc.

Based on Jodie’s sales number, looks like she has a nice business for her. But I agree with the dragons that cosmetics is a capital intensive business and the marketing budget to promote a new brand can easily be much more than the $200,000 being asked for. I guess to get the business to a large scale that will interest the Dragons as an investment, much more money than $200K will be needed.

FYI: Here is an Oct. 26 article about Lit Cosmetics in Calgary Herald.

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Naturpack

It was truly disappointing that the entrepreneurs did not choose to reveal openly that the patent is owned by someone or some company in Germany and not by the entrepreneurs. That was a truly unfortunate 30 minutes of mis-communicating a crucial piece of information.

More details of the current legal arrangement between the inventor and these entrepreneurs will need to be known first before any further analysis can be done.

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Kinclomat

Sorry, I simply can’t get pass the idea of paying anywhere near $3,400 for 9 (?) exercise mats. It will definitely take Arlene some marketing and advertising magic to help the entrepreneurs to get the right niche customers to part with that kind money — $3,400. Wow. OK, professional sports team, specialized private hospital in US, may be. Home users? I am not sure. Arlene probably know something that I don’t.

Now, the other issues include whether the patent application is strong enough? Will the patent likely be granted? Are there existing prior art on this that the US patent office may have missed? These and many other questions will really depend on the patent application and I don’t have any information on that at the moment.


Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 4 review

Monday, 22 October, 2007

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

The following are my brief reviews and comments on the Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 4 pitches/ideas.

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Add-vanced Bottle System – by Dean Lane

I think I am warming up to the potential of this business (especially for licensing the patent to big water companies like Coke or Pepsi). Check out the pictures Dean has at his site here and here. Water is a big business these days (even though I am against drinking bottled water in Canadian cities for environmental reason). And the patent doesn’t limit the application to water/liquid, the bottles can be for anything.

Dean’s idea of manufacturing the bottles himself is misguided and I am sure Jim will be able to guide Dean to the right direction of seeing the benefits of licensing the patent and avoided all the related manufacturing headaches.

I will try to take a look of Dean’s US patent application 20070114200 when I find sometime. I welcome other Dragons’ Den patent geeks out there to take a look of the application and add your insight to the forum or email me.

Now, I am not a lawyer. And I don’t even play a patent lawyer on TV. But a word of advice for those that are reading patent/patent app for the first time. The Claims are the ones with true legal power. The “DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE BEST MODE AND PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION” section is a great read for the fact that patent regulations required the inventor to disclose the best mode (i.e. the best known way to make that thingy). One can learn a lot from this section. Plus if the inventor chose not to tell you the best mode, there are some nasty consequence for the inventor. The idea of a patent is the inventor disclose their “magic”, in exchange of having exclusive patent protections for X number of years.

Oct 29th update: Here is a Vancouver Sun article about Dean’s business.

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Anivac

I had the pleasure to watch this couple pitched live in June in Toronto. And many of their family members (including their son and daughter) were right outside the Dragons’ Den set supporting them.

Now, I am no expert in the horses or dogs/pets market, but I sure hope they take the advices from the Dragons and expand to include dog care, etc.

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Coretection

I don’t know much about the potential market for sports wear so I don’t have much to say. But I think it was a really bad idea for the entrepreneur to strip to show his product. If there is a real need, then hire a model for a day.

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Baby Kaede Clothing Company – (note: for some reason, this website crashed my Firefox browser)

The baby clothing looks cute but it is probably a niche market, not ready for investment given the existing business.

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Home Safe Environmental Testing

Laurence has it right on. We live in a world of technologies and will have to accept some level of risk to function normally. Excessive worry is not a good idea and unfortunately, this product counts on our fears (legitimate or not).

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The Stair Walker

I have to agree with the dragons that there is indeed potential risk if the system fails to work properly. There is an issue of potential product liability here.

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Obbi, Leisure Skates, Cold Buddy

These business pitches were ok to watch in a montage but not quite ready for business investment.

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Finally, I understand the “Purolator Lesson from The Den” makes CBC some good money. But these so-called “lessons” are getting to be rather weak and not fun to watch at all. Any chance to seriously improve them? I started to flip channel the moment I saw these “lessons”. CBC, please help.


Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 3 review

Tuesday, 16 October, 2007

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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BCP PET CARRIER by Kevin Spirak & Malcolm Jefferson

Sorry, just a bad idea.

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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.

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SAP WORLD by The Lewis Family

I will take the Dragons’ word for the funny taste of the wine. Too bad.

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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.

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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.

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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.


Dragons’ Den Season 2 Episode 2 Review

Monday, 8 October, 2007

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(Cross posted at Dragonfly with additional readers’ comments)

The following are my brief reviews and comments on the Dragons’ Den Season 2 episode 2 pitches/ideas.

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Reality Check — IMHO, pure talk and no products don’t make a good business. And the 10+ Reality Check men and women seemed to me were just there for show and wasn’t really part of the business at all. Not a good way to pitch, IMHO.

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3D Fanware — Since they were fanware to wear at live games or at home, I suppose we don’t need to worry as much about safety. (I was picturing kids wearing these hamlets to play street hockey!) I forgot was it Jim or Arlene or someone else, the sports promotional business is a tough business and the novelty of the product may wear off quickly.

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PeerFx (their Facebook group) — I am the most interested in this business and will spend most of my time researching and writing about it in this review.

The team of Florence Leung, Robert Dunlop, Grant Ringham, Parham Yaghoobi and Lewis Zimmerman have done a great job developing PeerFx. And Florence and her teammate (sorry, I forgot his name) did a nice job presenting their ideas.

With a lack of precise details of the working of PeerFx provided on the show, I will post some of my questions and make some comments based on assumptions that are potentially wrong . But thats half of the fun, right? (big smile)

Questions & Comments

  1. If the users want to exchange Canadian $ and US$, do they need to have bank accounts in both currencies? Will the users need to provide their account numbers to PeerFx? The question is how does the users get their hands on the physical US$ or C$? And how long will this process takes?
  2. I am *not* a lawyer and I am definitely not a Canadian or US banking law expert. But PeerFx may need to find lawyers that know the area. When I was thinking about this area, PayPal came into mind. And the “The Legal Relationship between You and PayPal” section in the PayPal User agreement may be a good place to familiarize some issues, including “(i) PayPal is not a bank and the Service is a payment processing service rather than a banking service“.
  3. The issue of float. As an aside, float is an important and interesting topic discussed by Warren Buffett many times, for example see the title “The Power of float” in this link or search for float in the official 2004 annual report (a great read)).
  4. Now, since we are talking about float. Then PeerFx must be temporary hold users’ money. (issues in — trust, rules and regulations, etc.) I think it is important for the business to use the float wisely because if the amount of money being dealt with is sizable then there can be good extra income generated. (As a side note, the float of *only* a few days are how some payroll processing companies make their money processing companies’ paychecks to employees.)
  5. The barriers to entry is quite low in this business. But then the barriers to entry for Craiglist was and still is quite low too.

PeerFx definitely has a good business idea here and I am interested in how the team and the dragons execute it. Best of luck to them.

Oct 9th Update: Here are some further research and discussions on PeerFX’s patent.

By the way, I think PeerFX got $200K and gave up 51% of the company to three dragons.

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Forever Chelsey — Watching the dragons analyze the market and the product, I agree with their judgment.

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Sincerity Inc. — The products are just not good. But the web name sincerity.ca may worth something. (Note: sincerity.com looks unused and ready to be sold?)

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Urban Inukshuk — Sorry, just a bad idea. The art DYI “art” look quite cheap.

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Heartland International English School Like Robert pointed out, I think web based interactive language instruction is better than a simple phone based one.

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Island Sports Entertainment — (Thanks to Shaun for reminding me I missed this company.) — Although the wrestling match and commentary were entertaining but I will trust Jim and Arlene’s instinct on the limited potential of the business. The potential sales may be worldwide but how to generate paying interest around the world is a totally different story.

The ability to generate interests of the wrestlers outside of the immediate surrounding geographical area is a big challenge that these entrepreneurs have to face. And the valuation of over $600K just make the decisions to say no that much easier. Just my 2 cents.*******
Vent Kit — I am really happy the lady got her $10,000 and a licensing agreement with the Dragons Jim and Laurence. Sometimes we all need a break and I am so glad that this lady got her break tonight. Hopefully with Laurence’s contacts and Jim’s help, this lady will make good on her words and create a nice viable business for herself and the dragons.


Dragons’ Den Season 2 Episode 1 Review

Thursday, 4 October, 2007

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(Cross posted at Dragonfly with additional comments)

Five months have passed since the two wonderful days of Calgary auditions in late April, and four months since my Toronto trip to watch actual season two Dragons’ Den taping sessions (real pitches in front of the dragons), I can finally shared with you more of what I felt then and now. Plus my review of episode one.

Before I review the business ideas/pitches and the show, I want to say I have the deepest respect for ALL of the entrepreneurs who came to Dragons’ Den to pitch. Creating businesses with good product ideas are not easy to start with, and pitching in front of many cameras with bright TV lights and being grilled by the Dragons made the pitching many times harder. So I tip my hat to all the participating entrepreneurs.

Now, on to my reviews.

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Mastermoves Core Training
The entrepreneur Oswaldo Koch seemed very charismatic on TV during his pitch and the product seems effect and easy to use. But I think I’ve seen variations of this idea 20 years ago already! The QVC’s requirement of having a stock of 5,000 units ultimately made the QVC idea limited risk for QVC and the entrepreneur/investors taking all the risk.

I have to say I am surprised that Dragon Robert Herjavec expressed interest in investing $300K for 100% of the company. Oswaldo should have rushed to take the offer. To me, I have the impression that Oswaldo thought that there are still opportunities to make lots of money on this product (as a result of Robert’s interest). If that was the case, I think Robert might have ultimately done Oswaldo a disservice. Mind you, Robert did have his own money on the table so he must have seen something that I have not seen or not willing to risk.

Bikini Zero
Like some of the dragons, I was bored by Taylor Moore‘s business idea (even the girls in bikini are cute). Putting aside the idea of having a business that objectifies women, there is not much new here. The similar and more radical idea like “Naked News” (dealing with general news as oppose to tech) have been around for years (since 2000).

Ultimate Sports Puzzles
This enthusiastic husband and wife entrepreneurial team (John and Peggy Milito) has their business since 1996 for 11 years already. The main problem is that John and Peggy haven’t been able to generate interest/sales for the last 11 years and I am afraid they will unlikely be able to turn the business into a profitable one.

In life, successful business people need determination to go through hard times. But I suspect they also have the ability to recognize when is it time to fold a money losing and time consuming business.

I feel really sorry for John and Peggy and wish them all the best.

Banana Guard
The fact that the entrepreneurs (Amin Sajan, Sunil Mangal & David Agulni) have successfully sold 700,000 units made the product really interesting to me. And it must be serving some market segment that I am not aware of nor understand (e.g. cycling).

The final offer of 400K for 25% may still seem a bit aggressive but then I don’t have full access to the financial data and business plan, etc.

What interested me the most here is the US Patent they have. US Patent 6612440 is a one-page patent that has one and only one claim for “a banana protective device“. I am not a patent lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV. But I suspect it shouldn’t have been too difficult to generalize the original patent to have its claims cover “fruits” (or even vegetables, or some general terms) and then use banana as an example.

Incidentally, the way the entrepreneur started the pitch with a joke was a really bad idea, IMHO.

Now, for entrepreneurs who are thinking of applying for a patent, I highly recommend viewing this video on how to review a patent application, getting some help and hiring a knowledgeable patent lawyer. The Wikipedia entry “Continuing patent application” is also a good read with some interesting info.

Adult/Baby Toilet Seat
I have the pleasure to meet the entrepreneur Marten Rhead twice (in the Calgary audition and in Toronto). He seems like a nice person. If I remember right, he owns a patent on this idea. What I couldn’t say until the show has been aired is the red flag of the product being in existence for many years and there weren’t the sales figures to prove that it is a viable product.

Oct. 4th Update: See Marten’s feedback in the comment section.

Automatic Closing Fastener
I don’t know these young entrepreneurs (Emily Choi, Sean Bekeschus & Benjamin Cairns) but I felt sorry for them as I think the product idea isn’t a good one.

Goatee Guide
I met Paul Bertucci (the entrepreneur) in Calgary during audition and Toronto during his pitch. Paul seems like a nice man when I met him. The problem, as I see it, with the goatee guide is that the market size (people who have goatee) is rather small which makes it difficult to sale and distribute it (for a reasonable retail price).

Rockpower – The Solar Powered Rock
I had a small laugh watching Roland Hofer pitched this.

Rhinobag
This seems like a lucrative business with really good margins. One major weakness is that there isn’t much intellectual property protection (I don’t think the idea is patentable or defendable in court) at all.

Now, it is nice to see Rhinobag already being sold in Canadian Tire stores (based on their web info). But I don’t see why someone else can’t come up with a competing product and same or better service to take some shares of this nice and lucrative market.

Who said watching TV can’t give you idea to make money?! I actually see some good profit potential and reasonably low barriers to entry.

Hmmm, may be I should buy a Rhinobag myself and try to reverse engineer the business and may be partner with someone! Thats an idea!

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My comments & 2 cents on the show itself.

  • First of all, I love the show and it is really enjoyable to watch.
  • Use of Montage – Nice and compact way of showing us more pitches. The length on them is about right. Of course, some of the entrepreneurs would like to have more time to explain things but I would rather four unsuccessful attempts than one long bad business pitch/idea.
  • Use of Music – The music sounds better and less intrusive than last year. Good.
  • New website – The new website layout looks nice. Although I kinda miss the old way of commenting right under each business pitches as oppose to have all comments appear in one big long list.

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Update: Check out my interviews with the five dragons and the host of Dragons’ Den to get to know them a bit better on a more personal level.


Sir James Dyson on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos on CBC

Sunday, 30 December, 2007

I found the following great interview while research and asking, Mr. Sir James Dyson, Tear Down This Wall!

Enjoy the following video interview.

Sir James Dyson on The Hour with George S. on CBC

Side note: I have tried my best (but failed) to inspire one particular CBC Dragons’ Den Season 2 contestant, who has 30-40 inventions (sorry to be blunt, useless inventions) to try to learn from Sir James and focus on ONE or TWO ideas. Oh well, I tried but I failed.


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