They’re back in the den. Same hipster-style exposed warehouse brickwork, same mismatched armchairs and same piles of tempting wonga on side tables.
But wait, something is different.
“The den of deals and drama opens its doors once again,” enthused presenter Evan Davis, “with a brand-new dragon bringing funding and fire.”
In fact, social media tycoon Stephen Bartlett, 29, turned out to be an ineffably polite young man, despite elder dragon Peter Jones’s growling.
“What do I know about business?” asked Stephen incredulously. “I had a £300 million business by the age of 28.”
To which den mother Sara Davies could only gasp, “Why, you little so-and-so.”
And all this was even before the show’s spiffy new title sequence.
First to be thrown into the den were London-based entrepreneurs Edward Hancock (aka “The cheese master”) and Richard Simpson, founders of British cheese subscription service Cheesegeek, which hoped to ripen a subscription British cheese home-delivery business, doing for cheddar what Abel & Cole did for vegetables on your doorstep.
The cheeesemeisters wanted £85,000 for a 3 per cent stake in their business.
“Your valuation is smellier than your cheese,” sniffed senior dragon Peter Jones.
There was then some bitchiness about their EBITDA figures after Edward divulged that Cheesegeek would make a £2,000 profit this year on earnings of £3.3m. “That’s not a profit, that’s a night out,” sneered our Peter.
Deborah Meaden, who at times comes across as a plant-based Boadicea, passed, as did Sara Davies. However, Peter Jones and Touker Suleyman both offered the cheese-preneurs all the money they wanted in exchange for 15 per cent.
But it was baby dragon Stephen Bartlett who pared his offer, offering all the money for just 7.5 per cent of the business.
Our next three hapless applicants all came away emptyhanded.
First up was Ola Goldsmith of Naked Weave, a self-styled “mother and badass businesswoman”, who was looking for £70,000 for a 15 per cent stake in her hair extensions training academy. The business model was to help hairdressers fit seamless wigs. Sadly, Ola wasn’t so much badass as just plain bad. She burst into tears after being cross-examined by Stephen Bartlett, who spotted a kink in her business model, before Touker Suleyman set fire to the whole damn wig. “I think you’re just picking numbers from the sky,” sighed the Hawes & Curtis owner. All five dragons decided they were washing their hair that night.
Sarah Gleave hoped to collar £30,000 for a 25 per cent stake in her Meg Health anti-theft dog lead. Peter Jones yelped that the last thing we wanted to be was padlocked to his pooch when confronted with a knife-wielding dognapper and Ms Gleave went away with her tail between her legs.
The third disappointed entrepreneur was Scottish inventor Grant Bruce who wanted £40,000 for a 20 per cent stake in his Pop Lumen pop-off keyring torch. “Beam me up,” sighed Peter Jones, raising his eyes to the ceiling. Stephen Bartlett pointed out that nearly everybody already has a torch on their smartphone. Mr Bruce also failed to light up any interest.
The final piece of meat being thrown to the dragons in this season opener was Dr Chang Liu of Extend Robotics, who was looking for £150,000 for a 5 per cent equity stake in his virtual-reality interface for humans controlling robots remotely. Dr Liu’s pitch quickly malfunctioned. This tech, explained Dr Liu, could be used by hospitals having robots insert Covid patients’ ventilator tubes – a suggestion which left the dragons aghast after baby dragon Stephen gamely tried using the VR kit to manoeuvre a plushy toy dog on top a box and couldn’t even manage that.
Just at the point when Dr Liu’s pitch seemed more science fiction than science fact, tech investor and Mr Sceptic Peter Jones surprised everyone by offering £150,000 for a quarter of the company, warning that there was still a real danger of this business ending up on the robot scrapheap.
Come to think of it, given that this is the 19th series of Dragon’s Den, you would have thought Peter, Deborah, Touker, Sara and baby dragon Stephen could afford a decent office by now. They’re still working out of the same gloomy Victorian warehouse. I mean, given they’re all multimillionaires, couldn’t they at least afford a millennial Subbuteo table and a coffee machine? WeWork, you should get in touch.