Taking the next step to pursue your business further through this form of venture capital is not easy. In fact, many entrepreneurs have left the Den after a serious dressing down. The potential of being extremely criticised and being used entirely for entertainment purposes isn’t actually the most difficult part. It is, however, the preparation, dedication and commitment involved prior to even stepping through the door of the Den. It requires late nights, hours of meetings with producers and endless days of hard work. The most realistic advice I could offer anyone who is thinking of seeking venture capital through this method is if you’re not willing to give 100% effort throughout the entire process, then forget about it. If you have any doubt whatsoever about your business and have not received continuous positive feedback about your offering, then it’s simply not for you. If you however believe it is for you, then I’m willing to share my advice on how to succeed.
1. Know your dragons
Research every dragon and what their specialities are in order to design your pitch to appeal to them. By knowing who you are pitching to, you can decide who you would be most likely to attract and who would be best suited for your business. Mine was Ramona Nicholas, the head of one of the largest pharmacy chains Ireland. I also had my sights set on Gavin Duffy, who brought a start up tanning company from zero to over one million sales. As I designed my pitch towards both of these dragons, they were both willing to offer me an investment.
2. Know your pitch off by heart
I cannot stress this enough. First impressions count and this will be your first form of communication with the dragons. I probably practiced my pitch over 500 times and to the very last detail. You will be given a pitching coach, but usually only on the day of filming. I hired one before the show and I would advise others to do the same. Be sure to practice in front of people and record yourself- ensuring to also pay attention to body language. Speak slowly and act confident. If your presentation is smooth, you’re far more likely to be a winner.
3. Sell yourself as well as your product
Many dragons are looking for a great entrepreneur, as well as an excellent business idea. Everyone has heard of the notion of investing in the person, not the business. No matter how great your idea is, if you do not come across as competent, likeable and professional, then you are highly unlikely to gain the confidence of the investors. You must impress these people- be charming, extremely enthusiastic about your business and entice them through what you have achieved so far. It is one of the most nerve wracking experiences, but if you fake confidence through your nerves, I can guarantee it will work.
4. Know your numbers
It is important to know your turnover, costs, profits, so on so forth, completely inside out. I had to memorise figures down to the very cent of over 20 products. The reasoning behind this is that in the heat of the moment, you can melt under pressure and actually forget everything. You must be completely confident that the stress of being put on the spot will not effect you, even if this means being able to recite the numbers in your sleep.
5. Be realistic and honest
The dragons are not gullible. If you are thinking of valuing your business at $1 million in the next year even though you’ve only made two sales then you’re simply going to be laughed out of the room. Ensure you have realistically calculated your company’s worth and be able to back it up with facts and figures. The dragons appreciate honesty and understand the challenges that entrepreneurship has.
6. Prepare for surprises
There is so much that you are not told before you appear on the show and the entire outcome is unpredictable. You may have to arrive in the middle of the night to prepare for filming the next morning. You will film parts of your entrance hours before you even get near the den. You don’t get to see the den or your setup until you walk in and remove the board covering it. Your microphone may malfunction- I was stuck standing in silence for 15 minutes before I could even start my pitch (this was actually a good thing because it calmed my nerves). There are 2 minute silences in between each question. You have to attend numerous events and meetings if you’re successful on the show. The list is endless.
All I can say to anyone wishing to do this is that it will be one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding experiences of your life and it will provide endless opportunities for you to succeed.