Do The Den’s Dragons actually invest in anything? Techvibes v. CBC – Asking Dragons, Den entrepreneurs for deal data

Wednesday, 2 November, 2011

cbc-dd.jpg

** Techvibes challenges CBC‘s & Dragons‘ credibility **

As a long time fan (since 2006) of CBC Dragons’ Den, it is painful to see CBC‘s & Dragons‘ investment credibility being questioned in the Techvibes article “The Den’s Dragons didn’t invest in Notewagon after all. But really, do they actually invest in anything?” (emphasis added) which was linked by CBC Facebook Fan Club. Here is an excerpt from the last part of the article (emphasis added),

The second issue is that Dragon’s Den deals aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Even in the U.K., critics insist that the show is pure entertainment […] Just because a Dragon or two agrees to give entrepreneurs X number of dollars for a Y stake in the company, it doesn’t mean anything will actually happen after the cameras stop rolling. There’s due diligence and the added fact that Dragon money isn’t always pure.

** Gathering CBC Dragons’ Den Canadian deals data **

In Knowlton’s articleNotewagon is discussed and two UK articles are referenced before Knowlton challenges CBC Dragons’ investment credibility. You see, these questions are not new in UK and Canada. Early this year in March 2011, I was researching for an in-depth article about Dragons’ Den, planning to write about, amongst many topics, the deals the Dragons made on TV vs deals they actually closed. I was able to find some deal data for one dragon Brett Wilson (more on this later). I thought if facts & figures like actual deals closed and by what Dragons vs. TV deals made were published, people’s questions and doubts would have been addressed.

To get my research going, I sent the following questions to CBC Head of Media Relations, Mr. Jeff Keay on March 17,

1) I would like to find out the number of deals the dragons made on air for each of the Dragons’ Den season (including the current).
2) The number of deals the dragons closed after due diligence in each of the season.

I got a prompt reply the next day on March 18 from Jeff saying,

Checking. Back to you soon.

Unfortunately, I got no further respond after followup emails & voice mails to Jeff on March 22 & 28. In fact, Jeff never got back to me. I eventually had to give up on the story.

** Actual Closed Deals data from one Dragon

(former Dragon Brett Wilson) **

As I mentioned before, as far I can find, the only comprehensive actual closed deals data I found were published by former Dragon Brett Wilson. Again, as far as I can tell, no other Dragons have publicly published any actual closed deals data! 

Brett made public the number of deals he has done on TV (60+ deals) in three years, actually closed after due diligence (30 deals) and also the amount of money invested (over $4.5 million) in a Prairie Merchant (Brett’s company) Feb 28th, 2011 press release “Dragon With A Heart Leaves the Den” (emphasis added),

“After three years on CBC’s Dragons’ Den, doing 60 plus deals in the Den and personally committing over $4.5 million in final deals with 30 Canadian entrepreneurs, W. Brett Wilson, the lead deal making Dragon, confirmed today that he will not return for the show’s next season.”

** Deals data from Dragons, CBC Dragons’ Den, or

Den entrepreneurs with TV & actually closed deals **

To me, one way to positively addresses people’s legitimate concerns about “but really, do they actually invest in anything?” is to have the Dragons, CBC, or Den entrepreneurs with TV & actually closed deals to provide deals data (the TV deals vs. what Dragon actually closed what deals, amounts invested & percentage, etc) so that Canadian fans of the show, and potential Den entrepreneurs can have some transparency & credibility back in the Dragons’ Den deals and process itself.

As a long time Dragons’ Den fan (since 2006) and champion of DD even before the show was launched in Canada, I hate to see people lose faith in Dragons’ Den‘s deals and its process. This is the 6th year of CBC Dragons’ Den and lots of Canadian entrepreneurs put their hopes on dreams into the show. Can you imagine if the deals are done on TV by Dragons for show only? And most deals fail to close? Imagine the Dragons ALWAYS can find reasons in due diligence phase to kill deals (small or big), will you still be interested in watching the show?

** Grounding Dragons’ Den popularity

with business facts & figures **

Looking back five years to 2006 when CBC just launched Dragons’ Den, I am still amazed how much Globe & Mail’s reporter John Doyle hated/trashed DD in its infancy even criticizing the set as “dark basement is, you know, dreary.” I will not forget my Oct 3rd and Oct 4th, 2006 articles jumping to DD’s defence when it was still an unproven show, long before DD is popular.

Now, over five years later and CBC Dragons’ Den is successful money making machine for CBC (with all the re-runs), I think fans of the show and potential Canadian Den entrepreneurs deserve to see their favourite show grounded with “actual closed deals” and actual business facts & figures and not just be satisfied by “TV deals”.


Brett Wilson interview – 01/05 – Leaving CBC Dragons’ Den, TV offers, Uno bike, and Ben Gulak

Thursday, 12 May, 2011

Brett Wilson interview 2011

Few days ago I had the great pleasure of chatting with Brett Wilson, Calgary entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. Here is the video Brett Wilson interview – 01/05 – Leaving CBC Dragons’ Den, TV offers, Uno bike, and Ben Gulak (see below for interview transcript). [Click her for links to watch all five parts of the interview series.]

Kempton Lam: I was shocked & saddened by CBC Feb 2011 press released that you won’t be part of Dragons’ Den. To be positive, did that motivate/excite you when the TV offers came in resulting in the chance to do a new TV show call “Risky Business”?

Brett Wilson: Those are very good questions.

First of all, I was and I am disappointed that CBC and I couldn’t reach agreement. I was very keen to do another season. CBC knew that. So just to be clear, I didn’t walk away from the show. I was very keen to do another season. Then CBC press released it that I was gone which also surprised me cause I didn’t think it was that big a deal. And I really thought that was the end of my television career. I’ve never studied acting. I can’t memorize lines. I don’t understand Shakespeare. So I had no interest really in doing anything else in terms of television. I certainly didn’t leave Dragons’ Den to pursuit other stuff. I wanted to continue with Dragons’ Den.

So first of all I was surprised that CBC wanted to press release it that I was gone. And then more importantly, I was surprised by the responds in the market place. All three networks reached out at various levels to say, “Hey, if you are interested, lets talk.” And I had two production companies say, “Would you like to screen test for shows we have in development?” And I did. I screen tested both. And we decided to move forward on one of the shows right now. The other show I am still hoping to do for another time.

And I’ve met with several production companies about doing some stuff in the world of philanthropy that I am very interested in doing. But then again, thats all in production, in development. Someone told me the other day that Mark Burnett  is telling the world that 90% of all television under production is documentaries and reality TV, which doesn’t bode well for those people who studied acting. Which does bode well for people who are playing in the reality TV genre which is what obviously now I am part of.

Kempton: When offers started to come it, did it surprise you too?

Brett: Well, I was very surprised. I really didn’t think there was anything else for me. You know, there is one television show in Canada that deals with business and thats Dragons’ Den. And I thought that would be it.

I am very proud that I’ve done 55 episodes with CBC. In terms of the 75 shows that they’ve shot, I have been involved with 55. And its the highest rank 55. I mean the first two years, the viewership was 200/300/400 thousands people. In the time that I was on the show, it has been running a million, and now up to 2 million a show. So it is in a league of its own. And its something that I am very proud of.

Kempton: You were one of five Dragons, and now you have your own show. Thats a big change.

Brett: Now I have my own show. When I left the show, one of the thing I said was, I like to challenge CBC and the Dragons to step up the game cause the quality, background, and knowledge of the viewership, of the people watching Dragons’ Den has gone up a bunch. Read the rest of this entry »


Dragons’ Den star Brett Wilson to host “Risky Business” on Slice TV

Wednesday, 20 April, 2011

4:43pm Update: Here is a great radio interview with Brett  by @phoenixonair. Highly recommended. I have fixed this article to correct my mistaken impressions about some elements of the show. Sorry for the mistakes.

***

I am excited to report a new high-stakes investing television series with Brett Wilson called Risky Business is being launched and premiering on Slice in Fall 2011. The show is holding casting calls for both investors and entrepreneurs.

After gaining better understanding from listening to Brett’s radio interview, the entrepreneurs are definitely not the kind I have originally been thinking of. This makes everything really interesting and non-traditional. According to Brett, Risky Business is based on the UK BBC format “Beat the Bank“. Interestingly, Duncan Bannatyne, presenter of Beat, is a Dragon on BBC.

Here is an excerpt from the press release (emphasis added),

“In each episode of Risky Business, Brett will give the daring couple a chance to risk big and win big. As host, he will guide the investors as they choose between pitches made by two different entrepreneurs, each looking for capital and offering a big return. The options will be unusual – such as investing in undervalued vintage wine labels or betting it all on a high stakes one-night-only event. The duo will stake their life savings on one investment, and Brett will invest in the other.  It isn’t until the end of the episode that it is revealed how each investment performed.  Will the risk-taking couple win big or lose it all?  Do they out perform Brett?  Or does Brett prove he can make money just about anywhere? Read the rest of this entry »


In conversation: Brett Wilson

Wednesday, 16 March, 2011

Check out this great Maclean’s article “In conversation: Brett Wilson “. I’ve excerpted three questions and answers that I found very insightful. [emphasis added]

“Q: You’ve challenged the CBC to dole out what you’ve called “constructive criticism as opposed to abuse” on the show. What prompted you to make that challenge?

A: I want it to respect the intelligence of the viewing community—you know, there isn’t a business school in the country that isn’t paying attention to this show. I was the lead deal-making dragon. I don’t know how many deals the other dragons have actually done or closed, but I managed to get 60 done on the show, and we’ve papered 30, and 31 should be done in the next couple weeks. That’s where my own fan base says, “Thank you for showing us how to do deals.” It’s easy to say, “No,” it takes no courage, no brains and no wallet to criticize. Criticism comes free. Action comes at some cost, and I’ve been pretty active. Will the 30 investments I’ve made all work out? Absolutely not. I suspect I’ll write off four or five in the next year because they’re stumbling. But there’s four or five that could become iconic brands in Canada because of the power of the entrepreneur. Any one of those top-five investments will pay for all 30. So I take a portfolio approach. Read the rest of this entry »


Brett Wilson talks to media about leaving CBC Dragons’ Den

Tuesday, 1 March, 2011

Of all the reports/interviews I could find today (Feb 28th, Monday) about Brett leaving Dragons’ Den, I want to say I enjoy the report (see below) from Calgary Sun‘s Lisa Wilton the most (very detail and insightful). It is nice to be pleasantly surprised by Calgary Sun.

Reports (see below) in Ottawa CitizenNational Post, Canadian Press, NewsTalk980 all added a little something (see emphasis) and worth a read. And then there are reports in Toronto Star and Calgary Herald. (March 6th Update: CityTV Breakfast Television Calgary interview video, “What’s Next for Brett Wilson? – Brett Wilson is leaving the Dragon’s Den. He tells us why and what’s next on his agenda.“)

Here is an excerpt from Calgary Sun “Wilson opens up regarding ‘Den“,

[ Q ] – Did your reason for leaving just come down to a contract negotiation breakdown?

Well, it started in December.

They gave me three weeks to sign the contract, take it or leave it.

There were some issues with the contract. First of all, they tried to cut the compensation. We negotiated that and got that solved. And they wanted to stop me from going on any other networks, so we negotiated that and got that solved.

Where we got stuck was on schedule. When I told them I had a family vacation and I wasn’t prepared to vary, they told me that wouldn’t work.

So, I politely advised that I would have to be out of the show because I wasn’t prepared to walk away from the vacation. It’s the first time I’ve had all three kids in one place in two years so I wasn’t going to walk away from that. It meant more to me than another season of the show.

Then CBC moved heaven and earth, and I really give them credit for it. Read the rest of this entry »


Brett Wilson leaving CBC Dragons’ Den

Thursday, 24 February, 2011

This morning, I am saddened to read from TorStar and Calgary Herald that Brett Wilson is leaving the CBC hit show Dragons’ Den. Here is an excerpt from TorStar,

Entrepreneur Brett Wilson is leaving the show Dragons’ Den at the end of the current season.

CBC-TV executive Julie Bristow says Wilson and the broadcaster could not agree on the terms of his contract.

Brett is a great guy and one of my most favourite Dragon on the show. I love the fact that Brett managed to find ways to close most of his Den’s deals. I like many of the businesses he invests in and secretly wish I could also invest in some of them if I am given the chance! (I won’t name them publicly here. :)

I will add more to this article if I have more to report.

I know I will miss watching Brett on the show. Good luck and all the best Brett.

P.S. On a personal note, in June 2008, Brett was really nice in agreeing to be video interviewed by me and he answered every question I had. It was a great pleasure to know Brett before he appeared on the Den. And I can honestly say Brett has always been the same easy going, friendly and nice guy. Here are links to part 1 and part 2 of the video interviews.

***

Feb 28, 2011, 9:18am Update: Here is a link to my comments plus Brett’s press release, “Brett Wilson’s press release: DRAGON WITH A HEART LEAVES THE DEN“.

Feb 28, 2011, 12:12am Update: From Brett’s tweet, “Will have a #NewsRelease out at 7:00am to comment on my departure from #CBC #DragonsDen. See the wire and my website. It’s all good folks…”

Feb 26, 2011, 1:27pm Update: From Hollywood Reporter, “CBC Loses Popular Reality Show Host – Deal-making shows fails to sign “Dragon’s Den” host to a fourth season.

Feb 24, 2011, 9:36pm Update: Two tweets from Brett, hope to hear from him directly about this news soon. As others pointed out, Brett was still tweeting about the show as usual only 16 hours ago.

Looks like there have been updates added to both of the originally quoted TorStar and Calgary Herald articles. Here are some important details added to the TorStar article as we can see what Kirstine Stewart (CBC’s head of English services) said last month (Jan 2011?),

The Star spoke with Kirstine Stewart, CBC’s head of English services, last month and asked about rumours of an oncoming Dragons’ Den shakeup. She denied one was coming but said that in light of situations like Lewin’s health issues, the broadcaster was ready just in case.

“Every year, we do auditions and people get excited and think they might be the next Dragon. The Dragons are huge mogul business people and their schedules don’t always align with our production schedule,” she said.

There are things that happen in their lives that make them not available to us, so we’re always auditioning to make sure that we have understudies. That’s been the case every year and that continues, but there is no plan to change anything up. But we don’t know if the Dragons are always going to be available to us, so we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a good roster of people that we can choose from, should their plans change.””

Some stuff in Calgary Herald from CBC spokesman Jeff Keay,

““We were unable to come to terms on his contract,” said CBC spokesman Jeff Keay. “Those things happen, especially on a business show like that. If you can’t reach an agreement on a deal, you don’t have a deal.”

Keay stressed that the contractual road block “wasn’t a matter of money” but he wouldn’t elaborate as to the other issues on the table.

“We consider these discussions with Brett to be confidential,” Keay said. [Kempton note: Huh? Confidentiality agreement to stop Brett from speaking??]

At press time a spokesperson for Wilson told the Herald that he wasn’t prepared to address the matter publicly but plans to at some point soon. [Kempton note: I hope Brett will talk about this from his perspective. His fans and the show’s fans deserve more from what CBC has provided.]


Concrete Equities, $118 million, 3700 investors and many broken dreams

Tuesday, 15 February, 2011

Before Concrete Equities went into receivership in spring 2009, it used to be a major advertiser/sponsor of CBC Dragons’ Den and many people got to know about the company through those ads. Sadly, “More than 3,700 investors, most of whom are from Calgary, lost more than $100 million through investments with Concrete Equities.” It is sad that many people had to learn the lesson in such a hard way.

For the record.

From CBC News “Alleged Alta. securities breaches under review” (Monday Feb 14, 2011) (emphasis added),

“A hearing into a Calgary real estate investment firm’s alleged breaches of Alberta securities law got underway Monday.

Four former directors of Concrete Equities, which went into receivership in 2009, are accused of acting as dealers without being registered, not filing prospectus and making misrepresentations to investors. […]

More than 3,700 investors, most of whom are from Calgary, lost more than $100 million through investments with Concrete Equities.

From Calgary Herald “Concrete Equities under scrutiny at hearing – ASC to determine if now-defunct Calgary company misled investors” (Feb 15, 2011) (emphasis added),

Monday, lawyers for the ASC outlined the case they hope to prove, which includes investors who were promised returns of more than 600 per cent and told the investments were risk free, as well as those who weren’t told of marketing commissions of between seven and 10 per cent being paid to Concrete Equities.

“You will hear evidence in the course of this hearing that Concrete Equities Inc., in raising capital in Alberta, failed to disclose certain information to its investors in its offering memoranda, which the investors will say was information that they would wanted to have known when they made their investment,” ASC counsel Andrew Wilson told the panel of three hearing the case. […]

The ASC allegations involve David Jones, David Humeniuk, Varun Vinny Aurora and Vincenzo De Palma and six limited partnerships.

Neil Narfason, a senior vice-president at receiver Ernst & Young, told the hearing Concrete Equities – which raised $118 million from 3,700 investors – couldn’t list all its bank accounts and had accounting and bookkeeping standards that were below expectations.

“All the basic stuff was not there,” Narfason said, referring to ledgers, financial statements, tax returns and bank statements that were missing or incomplete. “It’s unusual for a company in that business not to have a handle on funds.” Read the rest of this entry »


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