Entrepreneurs are more firmly in the spotlight than they have ever been thanks to TV shows such as Dragons’ Den, which is currently back on our screens. Entertaining as it may be, I worry that the show could actually be damaging to young entrepreneurs of the future, and the digital industry in particular.
The most concerning thing for me is the fact that bright, young entrepreneurs are often under-represented on the popular show. To keep us viewers interested, we are subjected to endless pitches for increasingly quirky products. In this series alone, we have seen pitches for ice cream for dogs, a self-service marriage machine, and even a design-your-own coffin service.
I worry that young people with big ideas in the digital industry are holding back because Dragon’s Den gives the impression that digital businesses cannot be taken seriously (but of course, doggy ice cream can).
Although it’s great that some start-ups are getting recognition, I believe Dragons’ Den is giving an unrealistic view of the way things are done. With so few serious entrepreneurs and so much ridicule for unsuccessful pitches, it’s enough to put young entrepreneurs off trying altogether. But the air of tension is exaggerated in post-production and squabbling between the ‘Dragons’ would never happen in real life – I can assure you that’s not what it’s like to pitch to real investors.
When entrepreneurs are turned down in the Den, it can be disheartening to those viewers who are considering starting up a business. However, there are so many success stories from those that the Dragons dismissed, that it’s clear the show is no indicator of how viable a business is. Ideas such as the Trunki kids’ suitcase and the Tangle Teezer hair brush were thrown out of the Den but have gone on to sell millions.
I think the show is good fun, but should be taken with a pinch of salt. If you have a great idea, don’t think you’ve got to stand up in front of the cameras to get noticed. Real investors require less of a stake in your business, will take you seriously, and are considerably less intimidating.