Now I’m just a teenage scribbler (as chancellor Dominic Lawson once described City analysts) but it seems to me that if I was CEO of such a venerable Savile Row shirtmaker as Hawes & Curtis, I would use my weekly primetime telly slot to show off a different shirt each week.
Not so, Touker Suleyman.
The Hawes & Curtis boss seems to wear the same shirt every week. Now, this troubles me. Either (a) Touker only owns one shirt or (b) like Andy Warhol, he has a wardrobe full of exactly the same shirt or (c) like TV interviewer David Frost, he breaks into a new shirt each episode and throws away the packaging. Either way, the Fourth Estate demands an answer.
Anyway, on with tonight’s show…
First through the lift doors was entrepreneur Annie Mitchell and her Bottleshot cold brew canned coffee. Perky American Annie wanted £80,000 in exchange for a 2 per cent stake in her coffee brand.
But Deborah Meaden pulled a face when actually tasted the brew. “I don’t enjoy this at all,” she grimaced. “This tastes weak.”
“For my part, it tastes watered down,” agreed Touker.
But Annie batted away Deborah’s taste concerns, citing blind-tasting research which gave her cold-brew coffee a warm reception.
It was the business’s £4m valuation that gave Touker the jitters.
“You’ve come here with a ridiculous valuation,” he said. “It just doesn’t stack up.”
Having already raised £1.3m in investment with support from coffee industry experts, it wasn’t exactly clear exactly why Annie needed any more dragon cash. I suspect the real reason why Annie had come on TV was to get primetime exposure for her brand, not dragon gold.
In the end, four of the dragons gave her cold brew the cold shoulder.
It was only Peter Jones who perked up, offer all the money for 10 per cent of the business – 5x more equity than she was offering.
“I’m going to be the guy who can help you make this an enormous brand globally,” he pronounced.
In the end, Annie accepted Peter’s offer and left full of beans.
Next through the doors were Farhad and his partner Tibo, who were flogging their biodegradable plant-based packaging concept.
The pair were asking for £150,000 for a 7.5 per cent stake in their brand, which, as eco warrior Deborah Meaden pointed out, is the “holy grail” everybody is looking for.
It was Peter Jones who rained on their parade, pointing out that the plant-based shopping bag let in water – after which their pitch collapsed as quickly as their bags.
Flogging the concept was literally the word as it turned out the pair didn’t actually own their own IP; they were just a couple of not-very-good salesmen who stumbled over any technical questions.
Unsurprisingly, all five dragons binned that particular sales pitch.
Third through the doors tonight was Steven Murr, bike shop sales assistant and inventor of the TurboRocks indoor cycling plate. Basically, this was a wobbly platform you strap your racing bike onto indoors to recreate the feel of road cycling.
Steve wanted £90,000 for a 5 per cent stake in his business, which he ran out of his garden shed while still working part-time in his local cycle store.
Would the dragons tell him to get on his bike?
Steven Bartlett questioned his namesake’s commitment to his start-up business while still working part-time and he pedalled quickly away.
“What you need is a business partner, not an investor,” Sara Davies assured the unworldly inventor, offering all the money in exchange for 35 per cent of the business.
Touker, who owns online second-hand bike marketplace Bikesoup, then joined the race for investment.
Sara and Touker offered to split the £80,000 between them in exchange for 20 per cent of the business each, which won Steven the yellow jersey.
Hopefully Steven’s garden shed is big enough for the three of them.
Last through the lift chugging the dragons were Matt and Melody, whose Toucan app aimed to revolutionise charitable giving. The pair pointed out that since 2017 millennials have become the biggest charitable donation demographic in Britain.
The co-founders wanted £85,000 for a 3 per cent stake in their app, which enables givers to split a single monthly donation between different charities.
“Pretty good,” admitted Steven Bartlett after the pair finished rattling their tin. “You guys are a pretty impeccable team.”
It was Touker who suggested that what the couple really needed was all five dragons to invest, which they could each then promote. All five dragons pounced on this one, offering to share 2 per cent equity each in exchange for the £85,000 – so 10 per cent in all.
Who says cold-blooded dragons aren’t warm hearted?
Not quite believing his luck, Matt then tried to nickel ‘n’ dime the fiery five, pushing down their equity stake from 10 per cent to 7 per cent – at which point, every dragon apart from Steven turned tail.
The moral is, never try to lowball a dragon.