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Dragons’ Den Fails: Pitches that went wrong and what we can learn from them

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If you want to know what not to do when pitching your business to an investor, this is the space for you!

This article talks about six pitches in The Dragons’ Den that went wrong and all of them have a unique characteristic that led to their ousting from the Den.

There exist a hundred more pitches that may or may not be more savage than these but we have tried to feature only those pitches that help budding entrepreneurs learn something.

For those who don’t know, Dragons’ Den is a reality television show in the UK wherein budding entrepreneurs pitch their businesses to investors who are known as Dragons. All the Dragons are well-established businesspersons and have a fortune in their bank accounts.

Without wasting any time, let us begin with the learning.

Index:

Tangle Teezer:


Tangle Teezer introduced a range of specialized combs designed to provide a painless and smooth hair combing experience, and the company achieved great success after being featured on Dragons’ Den. However, their pitch turned out to be a major disaster.

During the presentation, Shaun quickly demonstrated the product and effectively addressed the problem it solved. However, he was unprepared for the onslaught of challenging questions that awaited him.

The Dragons swiftly raised concerns about the uniqueness of the product, leaving Shaun unable to provide a satisfactory answer since his patent was still pending.

Furthermore, he had not generated any sales revenue and had distributed his manufactured products haphazardly for testing purposes. To make matters worse, Shaun unintentionally offended Dragon Deborah Meaden with a comment about her hair color.

As expected, this pitch disaster resulted in Shaun leaving the Dragon’s Den without securing a deal. However, he did receive valuable advice from the Dragons, which he implemented and ultimately achieved the desired outcome.

The hair-color professional did manage to prove to the Dragons that his product was exceptional even if his business skills at that point weren’t. This teaches us that an entrepreneur must never let his products slip out without returns and never go out looking for an investment at an early stage.

Trunki:

Trunki, a company established by Rob Law, specializes in manufacturing miniature trolley bags specifically designed for preschoolers.

These bags are crafted from the same durable materials used in standard trolley bags but with delicate features catering to the needs of young children.

During his pitch on Dragon’s Den, Rob demonstrated the Trunki product impressively, with Richard Farleigh even taking a ride on one of the mini Trunkis.

However, the Dragons raised concerns about the valuation presented by Rob. Despite this, they still seemed open to the possibility of investing, until an unfortunate incident occurred during the Theo test.

Theo effortlessly pulled off the hook of a Trunki, causing irreparable damage. As a result, three Dragons withdrew from the potential deal.

Richard Farleigh remained interested and continued to ask questions, but during the discussion, Rob revealed that he expected the business to repay the money he had invested in its development.

This revelation raised significant doubts about Rob’s business acumen, ultimately leading to his exit from the Den without receiving any offers.

The lessons to be taken from the Trunki pitch are that an entrepreneur should never take his/her product to the market until it has been quality tested beyond its usage expectations because ‘the last thing you want as a seller is your product to be returned’.

LadderBox:

Ladderbox UK Ltd. introduced Ladderbox, a portable toolbox designed to fit on various types of step tops, targeting trade and DIY applications similar to GripIt, another product featured on Dragon’s Den.

During their pitch, the father-son duo presented their product along with their chemistry, which initially appeared entertaining. However, as the pitch progressed, it quickly turned chaotic.

The overlapping dialogue between the father and son became increasingly irritating, raising concerns that the pitch might be halted and the pitchers asked to leave.

Some of the Dragons even refused to engage with Robb and Geoff due to their disruptive behavior. Adding to the challenges, the pitchers lacked any financial data regarding their company’s operations. Moreover, Robb presented the projections in a manner that seemed improvised.

Ultimately, the uncomfortable situation concluded, and the Hills were escorted out by one of the Dragons. The pitch turned into a notorious disaster, leaving a lasting impression on the viewers.

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The lesson within is even if the product is of any utility, a disputed leadership can make the enterprise completely non-viable.

Wine Innovations LTD:

Wine Innovations LTD is a company that sells wine in its exclusive patented packaging that is ready to serve on the go. The company also had tens of thousands of units of sales just from exhibitions behind it at the time it was featured in the Den.

The founder, James Nash wanted to sell his wine along with the packaging either to big manufacturers or under his label. This business model seemed quite impractical and the letter of intent presented by James also turned out to be ‘not a letter of intent’.

The patent of the product was also literally in the most primitive application stage at the time the product was featured in the Den. James’s lawyer could also not prove things any further. The Dragons did not take the valuation of this product adequately and blew James out of the Den. 

Wine Innovations LTD had a turnaround in its fortune and it got an investor due to The Dragons’ Den Effect and went on to turn over millions of pounds.

The underlying lesson here is that an entrepreneur should always be a realist and never let his/her emotions or predictions come in the way as that paves the way for an investor’s exit.

The House Crowd:

The House Crowd was a property peer-to-peer lending crowdfunding platform in the UK that was declared bankrupt in 2021.

The company had funded 368 properties, raised over £93 million, and paid investors returns of over £38 million. It was all good except for the valuation proposed by the founder, Frazer Fearnhead, and his attitude toward the Dragons.

Some Dragons showed the founder some extra leniency by even considering evaluating his business before declaring their exit from the deal but Sarah Willingham was extremely straightforward in showing Frazer his error.

Nick Jenkins considered the business to be the one that could tarnish his image and Peter Jones couldn’t just keep himself from thinking that why would a seasoned businessman such as Frazer try to pull off such a pathetic pitch?

All the Dragons flew away in disdain. The lesson this gives is that one should have basic moral decency and realism when asking someone to invest in their business.

Westhawk:

Westhawk is a patio heater manufacturing company that delivers top-notch technology to its consumers at a comparatively fair price. 

Eddie Middleton presented the Den with an opportunity to invest in his innovative and environment-friendly patio heater manufacturing company. The product manufactured by the company was equipped with cutting-edge heating technology which was ultra-safe for home usage.

The valuation of the company seemed a bit off-the-mark but that was not a new thing in the Den. The problem arose when the founder bluntly refused to share the cost price of his products.

Theo used harsh words to describe Eddie. Even after this fiasco, the qualitative aspects of the company’s products led it to an offer from the Dragons but it came at a steep price which would eventually lead to a fallout of the deal.

Eddie may not be the man he turned out to be in the Den but still, lack of transparency led him to a failure to secure any investment from the Dragons.

Nonetheless, The Dragons’ Den Effect compensated for this fiasco and Westhawk turned over £500,000 the year following its Dragons’ Den appearance.

It teaches us that transparency is the premier requirement when one requires an investment from a seasoned venture capitalist.

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FAQs:

What is the most successful product that failed in the Dragons' Den?

Tangle Teezer is the product that was an epic failure in the Den but the biggest success after it.

Which pitch in the Dragons Den was the most pathetic?

Ladderbox was the single most pathetic pitch to have ever featured in the Den. The overlapping dialogue between the father and son became increasingly irritating, raising concerns that the pitch might be halted and the pitchers asked to leave. Some of the Dragons even refused to engage with Robb and Geoff due to their disruptive behavior.

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