It’s hard work to develop and deliver a strong pitch on Dragons’ Den but, it is an insurmountably fulfilling feeling to see it evolve as you crystallize your vision into carefully chosen words.
After our recent experience, team Tangoo boils it down to the 10 ways to best prepare your Dragons’ Den pitch.
1. Know your business and compress it into five minutes
We spent a good week refining our business plan to make sure we were pitching our most up to date business. We then started to compress it into a five minute pitch, which takes a lot of hard work and fruitful team discussions. Know that the shorter the better and depending on what you do in your skit, it should range anywhere from three to eight minutes. Some have done it in under two minutes so if you want to get right to the point, the Dragons will appreciate it.
Once you can refine your business to a sweet pitch, it makes it easy to do other things like communicating your business through video, here is a video we filmed in the process:
2. Practice often and in front of many people
Yes, this one is indeed obvious but you need to make sure you actually do it and make your environment more challenging. Our mentors made us do weekly 6 a.m. pitches in Tangoo t-shirts as if it were the real thing. The last week before leaving for Toronto, we did a mock pitch in front of 40 Sauder students and the Glowbal Group’s owners, and finally one in front of friends, family and Vancouver investors.
The takeaway is to pitch in the most uncomfortable of situations so that when you get uncomfortable on national television, you’ll remember how you got through it.
3. Research your Dragons
This was especially important for us since less than a month before pitch day, we heard there was a switch in Dragons (which we had absolutely no complaints about). We made a shared document with their profiles, history, notable investments, Twitter handles, why we would want them as partners and just about anything else that tipped us off on them. We started to read their books as well, Decisions by Jim Treliving was especially insightful for us and we even got to reference it during the pitch!
We also started to watch countless past episodes with other tech companies to observe the do’s and don’ts – you learn a lot. Lastly, we took things to another level and started to reach out to people who knew the Dragons personally alongside companies that pitched a few weeks before us to get the inside scoop on the Dragons and how their experience on the Den went.
4. Involve the Dragons in your skit
This is a must. Our only advice here is that it’s not forced and that it makes some kind of sense with your idea and why they are a part of it. As a company that appeals to social outings and restauranteurs, Tangoo had a lot of options of who to incorporate and how.
5. Work closely with your producer
You’ll be assigned a producer who’s job is to help you with your skit and compile any necessary props (and lovely women) you may need for your skit. We had an awesome producer (thanks Charlie!) who really got things nicely set up and allowed us to pull off a skit which made two of the Dragons do something they had never done before on air – stay tuned for Tangoo’s episode on November 26.
6. Know your Q&As
It might be a little bit of a shock for you to realize that the eight minute episodes you see on TV really are edited down from anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes, most of which consist with a barrage of questions and answers. Ours was 45 minutes and it was primarily a back and forth between the Dragons asking us questions and us firing back responses. They have the potential to ask you just about any question about your business so you better prepare it well and have concise answers for them. This ties into our first point of really understanding your business inside out.
7. Know thy numbers
To supplement our last point, they will grill you on your financials with questions such as how you came about with your valuation, what your past revenue is, your future revenue forecasts and how you would use the money towards growing your business. Although O’Leary is gone, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. To avoid humiliation and to gain respect from the Dragons, take the time to make sure these are bullet proof. Remember, as long as you have a logical way to back up your numbers, the Dragons will accept it (usually).
8. Watch relevant past episodes
We’ll be the first to admit that we didn’t watch the show religiously before and needed a serious brush-up to understand what pitches have impressed and which have not. Since Tangoo is in the tech industry, we focused more on how other tech companies had valued themselves and how they had pitched their product. The gold was of course seeing which Dragons were most receptive to certain pitches and why some just drove them crazy. Below are a couple great examples of how to slay the Dragons and be eaten alive as a tech startup.
9. Get your whole team involved
A lot of the Dragons’ Den experience is about bringing together a complete team effort. Although it was myself and Jonathan Hill that pitched, we still got our tech team involved in designing the pitch at all our 6 a.m. practices.
In the research process it was our other team members who found the most insightful episodes. This was an experience that really brought the entire team together and that was the true gold we got from it. Don’t be greedy, get everyone involved and make this a shared experience.
Tangoo’s tech ninjas Alex Guyenne and Joshua Chan
10. Have fun, they’re not really Dragons
A lot of the pitches that bomb are the ones that take things too seriously and either choke up or give the Dragons’ attitude. You need to remember that they are also humans and if you show humility and your personality, they’ll be more receptive to what you have to say. Plus, it’s a once in a lifetime journey that you really need to have fun with and embrace, you’d be missing out if you didn’t.
Now that the dust has settled and we can take a step back to digest the whole experience, it becomes a lot more clear what the value of Dragons’ Den really is. On a high level, there’s no doubt that the publicity (we air on November 26th, you can watch it with us at our Dragons’ Den viewing party) and a possible investment is extremely valuable. However, neither are a guarantee whatsoever so there are so many other ways to get mileage out of this experience.
The main value for Tangoo was the journey and the excitement we created amongst the team and the Vancouver community:
1. We grew as a team and company 10x faster than we would have without the Dragons’ Den experience. There is something about working towards an audacious goal and deadline that brings a team together and motivates everyone to bring their A-games.
2. We documented our journey to Dragons’ Den on our blog and got an overwhelming response from the online community. It allowed us to connect with our customers in a way that was simply not possible before.
If you have ever even considered the prospect of taking your company onto Dragons’ Den we fully recommend you go for it.
There is an audition in Vancouver where you take five minutes to pitch a producer (no, the Dragons are not there) and if you come after lunch, you’ll avoid the morning lineup and walk in and out within 30 minutes. It was a surprisingly easy process to get there and with Vancouver companies being the talk of the town internally at CBC, we need to keep our entrepreneurial spirit strong and show the rest of Canada why we’re where the action happens.
Photo credits: Tangoo.ca, CBC.ca