You can usually trust a good comedian to get down the truth of the matter, and David Mitchell has done just this with the Dragons’ Den format.
“Dragons’ Den is a bare-faced lie about how business is done,” he says. “The people who do that job are not rude because there’s no percentage for anyone in them being so.
“They don’t sanctimoniously tick people off nor do they spend 10 minutes thinking up a weak pun which combines their wish not to invest with the field of the invention in question – ‘A new type of cheese, I’d have to be crackers to invest’ as if they’re auditioning for the Beano.
“Dragons den not only misrepresents rudeness for straightforwardness, but also implies that this is how successful business people behave.”
Rudeness aside Dragons’ Den is responsible for other misconceptions that damage the perception of enterprise and entrepreneurship:
- Getting investment is a competition. The best entry wins whether it is good bad or indifferent. (Specifically this is what the enterprise professionals ‘teach’ when they try to piggy back on Dragon’s Den to get their engagement numbers up. The dragons themselves would invest in any and every opportunity that meets their investment criteria.)
- Any business that does not meet the criterion for investment from a venture capitalist is not a good business. “It might make a decent business for you and your family – but there is not enough in it to interest me – I’m out“. This echoes and reinforces the disdain that much of the public sector has for ‘lifestyle’ businesses. They seem to forget that most entrepreneurs learn the ropes in life style businesses before some of them get bigger aspirations. As I believe Peter Drucker said – ‘You can’t have the mountain top without the mountain.’
- You have to conform to venture capitalist norms and conventions if you are to succeed – everything from the way you dress, your hairstyle through to your knowledge of the numbers (you had better pretend WITH CONVICTION that your crystal ball is good for revenue forecasts at leas three years ahead.
- Investment readiness should be evaluated on a single pitch – there is a simple binary response – yes or no. In fact most investments come as a result of a relationship between an investor and client.
So come on. Let’s drop the Dragon’s Den emulations. No more ‘Strictly Enterprise.’
Instead let’s get down to the hard work of having some informed conversations about enterprise and what it can do for our communities.