The hit BBC show Dragon’s Den has ignited an entrepreneurial spark in its viewers. Not only are more people taking the leap in to invention and business creation, there has also never been more interest in the process of investment.
Although Dragon’s Den has done a lot of good in inspiring future business owners- it does have its drawbacks. On the show, investors are portrayed as dragons- rude, condescending and often cruel in their interactions with those looking for help. Obviously, this is an overdramatic portrayal of the investment process in order to appease viewers but it could understandably put off potential investees.
Another aspect of the show that can be quite misleading is the focus on the financial investment. Of course, money is a vital component when starting a business but so is experience, contacts and general mentorship. The show tends to focus on the large piles of cash but it’s the relationship between a successful businessperson and a newcomer that can often make all the difference.
Real life investors may not be quite as dragon-like, in fact they are known as angel investors, ironically enough. However, it’s fair to say that they do have high standards and therefore what can company owners do in order to strike a deal?
How many times have we seen this scenario- a well thought out business proposal that sounds great on paper but the product just isn’t viable. It can be easy for start-ups to become so passionate about their work that they lose a certain objectivity. Creators need to ask themselves whether their product or service is providing something new or better. It is possible to reinvent the wheel but there has to be some new and unique spin on these types of products in order to gain attention from consumers.
If you do have a good idea and it receives positive attention from impartial third-parties- now is the time for patents. Many investors will avoid products without a full patent or copyright because there’s a chance it can copied by another company. This is a worst-case scenario but it does happen and can lead to the complete loss of the investment.
Although it may seem obvious- a good business plan is paramount in order to gain investment. There can be many pitfalls when drafting up a plan and these can often act as warning signs for potential investors. The plans should include information on funding, the percentage stake in the company, returns, as well as any relevant information on product which has already sold including revenue, profit, quantities etc.
It’s worth noting that your plan shouldn’t just be all numbers- there should also be consideration towards experience as well as research in to potential competitors and how they could affect your burgeoning product or service.
When asking for a serious commitment from an investor, they expect the same from you. Obviously one of the main reasons for a company to seek out investment is because it requires funding in order to grow. However, many investors will look to see if the individual or team has invested their own money and if they haven’t that can be a sign that they aren’t as committed as they expect others to be.
Real Life success
One of the most common mistakes made by fledgling business owners is a preoccupation with planning and neglect of real-world experience. After all, the best business plan in the world is useless if the product doesn’t sell.
Not everyone has the resources to sell their product on any sort of large scale. However, investors want to see at least an attempt at this- whether that’s contacting vendors, contacting manufacturers, prototyping, market research or even actual sales. There can be many stumbling blocks when starting out and potential investors are more like to work with individuals who have made their mistakes and learned from them, rather than someone beginning at square one.
One thing that Dragon’s Den does illustrate well is this idea that investment isn’t just about the product but also the individual or team behind the product. It’s important to showcase any relevant experience you may have that allows the investor to see you as bankable. What is your day job and how has that led you to starting your own business? Is there a personal story behind the product and why you decided to create it? Think of the process like a job interview- this is the time to sell yourself- just as much as you’re selling your invention.
It’s also worth remembering that business owners want to work with people who make the process and easy and exciting.
Investors may not be dragons but they can be formidable and it takes a pretty special pitch in order to grab their attention- it’s only with the right preparation, confidence and a little bit of luck that entrepreneurs can take that next step.