Dragons’ Den: dragons horde their gold – S19, ep 8

The dragons kept their scaly claws around their gold this week, despite being offered stakes in Prohibition-style bootleg moonshine, vegan watchstraps and a booking site for dog-friendly hospitality

If any of you ever play bridge, you’ll know that one of the most-used bids is a pass – where you sit on your cards and wait for the next bid.

That was the vibe of tonight’s episode, with all five dragons hording their gold for most of the show.

First through the doors was German-born entrepreneur Max, quaintly dressed as a Prohibition-era bootlegger, and his O’Donnell Moonshine drinks brand. Named after a famous Chicago bootlegger, Max wanted to take the dragons back to the Roaring Twenties when Al Capone and his mob supplied thirsty Chicagoans with illicit hooch.

Max wanted £200,000 for a 5 per cent stake in his moonshine distillery. Would this be an offer the dragons couldn’t refuse?

“That’s some serious shit isn’t it?” coughed Peter Jones, after swigging the contraband.

Turned out, Max may have been sampling his own product a bit too much after valuing his business at £4m. He didn’t actually own the brand but merely had a 5 per cent share of its UK arm, the rest being owned by his godfathers back in Germany. Then he revealed that the business had nearly £900,000 in debt.

“Your valuation is ridiculous,” snapped Touker Suleyman (really, this should be his new catchphrase). “Your business is overvalued and over-indebted.”

“Even if I drank everything on this table, I still wouldn’t invest,” agreed Peter Jones.

Max quickly found himself in last-chance saloon as the dragons sprayed the pitch with tommy guns.

Next to take the lift up to the den was smiley Laura Way from Hove, pitching her Votch range of animal-skin-free watchstraps and watches.

Laura wanted £100,000 for a 10 per cent stake in her consistently profitable brand. What she needed, she said, was time to grow her brand. Was this a horologist whose time had come?

“Will tech tycoon Steven Bartlett be prepared to swap pay-for-clicks for vegan-friendly ticks,” asked presenter Evan Davis in his voiceover. (Honestly, who writes his script?)

However, the dragons spotted that there was nothing inherently unique about her vegan brand, despite having been consistently profitable since launch.

And both Peter and Sara Davies struggled to see how the business could be scaled (geddit?).

Our Laura kept on nodding and smiling as each of the dragons passed in turn. “At least they loved the product,” she said optimistically, still smiling after she found herself back downstairs.

Third through the doors was Italian-born Nada and her spaniel Lola pitching her WagIt booking system for dog-friendly pubs, restaurants and taxis.

Nada wanted to collar the pooch-friendly pound with her website for dog parents (ugh), hoping for £50,000 in exchange for a 5.5 per cent stake in her business.

Would this the pitch get the dragons’ tails wagging?

Sadly, Nada’s pitch quickly became a bit of a dog’s breakfast when she revealed she only had 400 users and just 39 businesses signed up.

The problem, surmised Steven, was her business model. Rather than being able to list for free and then pay for promotion, any hospitality venue which signs up for WagIt has to pay £10 a month subscription. Better to adopt a freemium model, advised the den’s youngest dragon.

‘That women could make being told you have raging Ebola sound cosy’

Both Sara and Deborah Meaden agreed that all it would take would be for one of the dominant players to add a dog-friendly tick box to effectively destroy her business.

“You’re going to raise awareness and someone else is going to eat your dinner,” soothed Sara in her warmest Newcastle accent. Honestly, that women could make being told you have raging Ebola sound cosy.

At this point all of the dragons bow-wowed out.

Three pitches down and not a single offer on the table. The dragons sure were hording their gold this week.

Last through the doors were London-based entrepreneurs Eddie Fisher and co-founder Matt, whose bold mission statement for their Fussy reusable deodorant was “saving the world one armpit at a time”.

The question was, would their pitch stink?

As usual, Touker wanted to smell the financials. In its first year, Fussy had made a £273,000 loss on £1m of turnover. Touker sniffed once more that their valuation was “ridiculous”, claiming he could do something just as good himself, and capped his pen.

But the deal smelled sweet to Queen of Green Deborah, who offered all of the money for 6 per cent of the business.

Peter Jones then trumped her offer, wanting a 5 per cent stake.

In the end, Peter and Deborah agreed to share 5 per cent of the business between them.

So a fragrant deal for our two veteran dragons.

More on Dragons’ Den

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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