The upcoming CBC Dragons Den season will see two new Dragons: Michael Wekerle and Vancouver culinary superstar Vikram Vij. Michael and Vikram herald a new era for Dragons Den, infusing the show with their bravado and daring entrepreneurial spirit.
Vij and Wekerle will be replacing original Dragon Kevin O’Leary and internet mogul Bruce Croxon.
So who are these new Dragons?
Sharpen your swords and prepare your armor, Canada, a whole new breed of Dragon is loose in the Den.
Described as “Mick Jagger meets Warren Buffett,” Michael Wekerle reigns as a rock star in the world of Canadian finance. “Wek” has made many fortunes investing in tech and media companies. Most recently he founded and was appointed CEO of the merchant-banking firm Difference Capital. Now, Michael Wekerle is ready to use his investing acumen in the Den to fund the best start up businesses in Canada.
At 18 years old and fresh out of high school, Michael honed his talents on the Toronto Stock Exchange trading room floor. He rapidly shot to the top of his first firm, First Marathon, where he ran the equity markets desk. By age 30 he was Bay Street pack leader, launching his own investment banking business, GMP Securities. Wekerle and his partners were early believers and investors in Research in Motion, eventually taking the Blackberry maker public in 1997.
Michael now oversees a vast investment portfolio that includes video games in the form of Virgin Gaming, an innovation center and tech incubator in Waterloo, Ontario, and even fast food. Wekerle is a backer of Mark Wahlberg’s Boston burger joints, Wahlburgers, which will soon be opening their first location in Toronto.
Beware, there’s no buttoned-down-businessman in Wekerle’s DNA. He’s a heavily tattooed single dad to six children. He loves fast cars and rock music. He donates millions to a wide variety of philanthropic interests, ranging from hospitals, and educational funds, to arts companies such as Opera Atelier.
Michael Wekerle’s entrepreneurial spirit combined with lavish lifestyle, celebrity friends and joie de vivre have placed him uniquely at the top of both the society pages and the list of Canada’s top power players.
Restaurant magnate, celebrity chef and entrepreneur Vikram Vij is hungry for deals and eager to bring his flair for risk-taking ventures to Dragons’ Den.
Born in India, Vikram left home at the age of 20 to start his culinary journey abroad. The talented young chef was working in Austria when a Canadian hotelier tasted his creations and immediately invited him to savor Canada’s culinary possibilities. Vikram immigrated to Alberta in 1989 and started work at the Banff Springs Hotel.
A certified sommelier, Vikram opened his first restaurant, Vij’s, in Vancouver in 1994 to great success. A strict no reservations policy has led to a nightly never-ending lineup outside Vij’s doors. Vikram’s no reso philosophy is taken from the teachings of his hero Mahatma Ghandi, “Even Ghandhji said that we are all equal, that is why I want everybody to be equal.” Celebrities who’ve lined up for a seat in his uber popular eatery include Martha Stewart, Pierre Trudeau and Harrison Ford. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman said Vij’s was “easily among the finest Indian restaurants in the world.”
In 2004, Vikram and his wife Meeru opened a second restaurant called Rangoli, serving a more casual dining experience. His third concept My Shanti by Vikram Vij opened March 2014 in White Rock, BC and Vikram is busy planning a re-launch of the original Vij’s in a massive new space later this year. Vikram’s delectable dishes are also available in a gourmet food truck servicing the Greater Vancouver Area.
After dominating the West Coast restaurant scene for over a decade, Vikram launched his own line of gourmet prepackaged curries, which are based on the restaurants’ most popular dishes. In order to keep up with the growing demand for the packaged meals in Canada and the US, Vikram constructed a 28 thousand square foot food processing plant in Surrey, BC. His ready-to-eat meals are now available across Canada in national grocery chains. In between launching his restaurants and raising two children, Vikram and wife Meeru have also published award winning best-selling cookbooks Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine and Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey. His branding and entrepreneurial skills were rewarded in 2011 when he won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Vikram is familiar to Canadian foodies already as he acts as a judge on Food Network’sTop Chef Canada and Chopped Canada as well as CBC’s Recipes to Riches.