Is Dragon’s Den bad for innovation?

I was talking to Greg Wilson about the Dragon’s Den on CBC. I think that this show has really done a disservice to entrepreneurs and innovators. It might make interesting television for a government network but I think it is doing more harm than good for early-stage entrepreneurs (particularly technology entrepreneurs).

  1. Making venture capital process appear too simplistic
  2. Putting people on stage that aren’t venture fundable
  3. Creating misconceptions for future entrepreneurs

Simplistic Process

The Dragon’s Den basically showed a 5 minute pitch followed by 5 minutes of discussion where the “Dragons” decide the valuation and their investment in a company. There is a significant amount of legal paper work and due dilligence that happens even before most contestants were allowed on the stage. Turning to successful, informed venture capitalists like Rick Segal or Don Dodge for information about the funding process is much better for most (serious, venture-fundable) entrepreneurs. However, this is not good television, and including the details would keep the CBC’s ratings right where they are (there are exceptions, the JobLoft.com episode turned out to be pretty entertaining).

People that aren’t venture fundable

Bikini Weenie and FaceForm these are ideas that just aren’t venture fundable. While I’m not a VC, I don’t even play one on the Interweb. I’m pretty sure that these wouldn’t event make it through the door for the “No Harm, No Foul” meetings.

Future perceptions and misconceptions

Are these stellar “entrepreneurs” what future generations of Canadians have to use as role models? My last concern is that the Dragon’s Den show does not raise the profile of entrpreneurship and venture funding, it does the exact opposition. It makes a mockery out of the folks who choose to create new companies, new products and need financial investment to grow. We need to strive to create companies, products, services that are impossible to ignore! We need students and younger entrepreneurs to see ideas, people and products that are transforming our world and the lives of everyday people. What we don’t need is for that kid who was going to write some new software to decide that she doesn’t want to do it, because of an opinion formed when watching this show.

We need to create better stories. We need to find the folks doing more with less. We need to talk about the successes that are happening in our backyards, basements, garages and coffee houses. Flickr was Canadian (Vancouver). StumbleUpon was Canadian (Calgary). Both of these folks are now based in Silicon Valley. We need to celebrate the fantastic entrepreneurs and innovators in Canada. It’s too bad I’m not a film/tv producer, I’d be all over this.

6 thoughts on “Is Dragon’s Den bad for innovation?”

  1. <p>So far I've only caught 2 episodes, but I thought it was a joke. One participant nailed it when he said, 'I think they take their roles as Dragons far more seriously than they take their roles as Angels'. True that. Unfortunately, I can't honestly say I blame the Dragons for being harsh on the 10 or so pitches I've seen so far. Ridiculous.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>A mockery indeed.</p>

  2. So far I've only caught 2 episodes, but I thought it was a joke. One participant nailed it when he said, 'I think they take their roles as Dragons far more seriously than they take their roles as Angels'. True that. Unfortunately, I can't honestly say I blame the Dragons for being harsh on the 10 or so pitches I've seen so far. Ridiculous.

    A mockery indeed.

  3. <p>Haven't seen the show myself, I have echo the point about inspiring the young.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>We need to change the culture in this country.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>We need to provide support, encouragement, and mentorship to the kids in their basement, experimenting and aspiring to building the next big thing.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Sure 99% of them WILL fail, but if we don't have more people striving for the moon and the stars, none of us will ever get there.</p>

  4. Haven't seen the show myself, I have echo the point about inspiring the young.

    We need to change the culture in this country.

    We need to provide support, encouragement, and mentorship to the kids in their basement, experimenting and aspiring to building the next big thing.

    Sure 99% of them WILL fail, but if we don't have more people striving for the moon and the stars, none of us will ever get there.

  5. <p>David,</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>I obviously have a different view, since I participatge in the show and the VC community.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>However, I agree, we (Canada) needs to feature more fundable co's. I'm happy to report that in season two, which just wrapped and will air Oct 1, you will see much more of that. However, keep in mind that some people learn more from mistakes than from success. And showing pitches that aren't fundable (other than in the founder'ss mind) allows the audience to learn where some investor sweets spots lie.</p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Will that ever replace the value of a Rick Segal meeting..never!!! but then it is a TV show after all. </p><br />
    <br />
    <p>Sean</p>

  6. David,

    I obviously have a different view, since I participatge in the show and the VC community.

    However, I agree, we (Canada) needs to feature more fundable co's. I'm happy to report that in season two, which just wrapped and will air Oct 1, you will see much more of that. However, keep in mind that some people learn more from mistakes than from success. And showing pitches that aren't fundable (other than in the founder'ss mind) allows the audience to learn where some investor sweets spots lie.

    Will that ever replace the value of a Rick Segal meeting..never!!! but then it is a TV show after all.

    Sean

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