19 February 2006

What the Dragons were looking for

One of the most interesting presentation of Venturefest Yorkshire last week was the presentation by Doug Richards of Library House. Doug, like me, is a graduate of UCLA. As I observed when I asked him a question, we Bruins are not too thick on the ground in this country. While I would have preferred to have heard more about Library House and the Gauntlet Test in particular, it was his appearance on "Dragons' Den" that drew the crowd. As it happened, one of the people who didn't manage to get any money out of him was in the audience and posed a question about why better due diligence had not been done on one of the panellists who ended up needing help herself.

Doug's talk centred on what the dragons were looking for. He listed four things:
  • benefit
  • team
  • market and
  • return.

One trap that all entrepreneurs fall into is what he called the "ugly baby" trap. Nobody would ever hurt a new mother by telling that her baby was ugly even when it is. So it is with entrepreneurs who discuss a project with family and friends. Few will be offensive enough to tell them that their idea is rubbish. So they will be told that they have a great idea and proceed to waste resources on it. Far better to get an objective opinion.

Not everyone agrees with Doug's judgments on bright ideas. One inventor he turned down was David Wilks of Varyflush who has just won £40,000 in the Shell Springboard competition. Congratulations David!

One point that bugged me throughout Doug's presentation was why would anyone as capable and busy as Doug go onto Dragons' Den? It can't be for the BBC appearance money. Doug is clearly not short of a bob or two. So I asked him. The answer I got was that he did it for a hoot. And then I am afraid I cooled on him. Making these poor chaps climb us several flights of stairs (in some cases carrying their invention) and then bare their souls seemed positively Hogarthian. A bit like visiting Bedlam.

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