I have never been able to watch Dragons' Den. To my mind it borders on voyeurism. Watching four supercilious business people (one of whom came to grief herself) grilling folk who have put their hearts and souls into their business or products reminds me of 18th century gentle folk visiting the poor lunatics in Bedlam. I had the chance to ask Doug Richard why he did it at last month's Venturefest. He admitted that it was "for a hoot".
One of the first pitches (if not the very first) was Graham Whitby's "baby dream machine". Essentially it is an electric rocker. A video clip on Graham's sit actually shows it working. It appears to consist of a set of rollers connected by a belt and powered by an electric motor. The baby is placed in a pram or push chair, the back wheels are placed on the device, the motor is switched on and baby is lulled to sleep. At least that is the theory.
Now Graham and his partner Barry Haigh who invented this contraption didn't get very far on Dragon's Den. The dragons appeared to like the concept but they thought that Graham and Barry were asking too much for their investment. So they sent them off empty handed. But they did not give up. They found support from a local business angel and with the help of Huddersfield Business School Lecturer and marketing consultant, Nadio Granata, and his contacts they are well on the way to a successful re-launch.
One of the milestones on the re-launch was yesterday's "Enterprise Event" at Huddersfield University. This is one of a series of seminars arranged by Nadio around a real business. After drinks and canapes it starts with a presentation by an inventor or entrepreneur. It is followed by cross-examination by a financial journalist and is completed by some pearls of wisdom from an expert panel and one of the professors from the Business School.
Much of the discussion was about price and distribution but I thought that there was a very real issue about IP. I asked Graham about whether his company had any specialist insurance. He said he hadn't but when I told him about Mandy Haberman's battle over the anywayup cup (see her article "Insure or Unsure") I got the impression that he was certainly going to think about it.
Although I have never managed to sit through a whole programme I have met quite a few Dragons' Den contestants - the snowbone man and the interflush to name but two. The thing that impresses me is that they are all sensible folk. I wish them all well. They deserve to be taken seriously.