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The difference between men and women entrepreneurs played out on Dragons Den

I love Dragons Den. There I said it. The drama, the crazy ideas, the courage and conviction that people have for their ideas AND the people who seem to get it all right. So it was with great excitement that I watched the show last night and it didn’t disappoint. However, what really struck me was the difference between men and women entrepreneurs, in a way that couldn’t have been clearer if it had been scripted.  I’m going to commit a cardinal sin here and generalise based on these two examples, but I think there is a BIG lesson in here for us women…

Investment One:  The men’s way…

Two men, Richard Enyan and Michael Davis, have founded Base Tone Slap .  Richard has never held a full time job; Michael has done some ‘team building’.  Base Tone Slap is a drumming group and they have decided that they want to enter the corporate team building market, using drum playing as a way of pulling corporate teams together.  Between them they have very limited experience, no real revenue to speak of, no market understanding indicated and a £10k turnover.

What they were looking for: £50k for 10% (valuing their business at £500k!) Phew, I’d love to value my business at 500x of turnover

Amazingly the Theo and Peter lovefest decided that this was a worthwhile investment but at 40% – inspite of Duncan’s clear disdain and rubbishing of the business proposition!

What’s the learning? Be brave, be bold, believe in your product and don’t be afraid to try it on as someone may buy it. (and in the following video  two guys value their web business at £1m and it doesn’t even have a website!)  Why is this important, because typically women undersell and undervalue themselves.  We should all take this on board as it is all about confidence and self belief.  So ladies BE BOLD, you never know where it might take you.

Investment Two:  The woman’s way

Sharon Wright has invented a revolutionary new product which enables engineers to pull cables through wall cavities (not sexy, but impressive!).  It addresses a clear need, is very simple and has a BIG market both nationally and internationally.  Sharon was very well presented, had her patent in place, was well spoken, her pitch was extremely well thought through AND she had a contract with BT (Sharon comes on at 2m 55s on the video).  Watching her was a masterclass in how to get investment.

What she was looking for: £50k for 15% of her business (notice the 5% increase in equity offer from the above example).  The dragons were all over themselves trying to invest in her business – she was a clear winner on many levels.

What happened next: Theo offered her what she was asking for but Sharon really wanted James and Duncan as they have a company that could support her venture.  I agree with Deborah that any of the Dragons would have been effective in supporting her and her business.  James and Duncan took the opportunity with gusto and offered her 25% for £80,000 which was ultimately negotiated down to 22.5%.  I agree that she hadn’t asked for enough, and in fact she could have asked for £150,000 and still achieved a similar percentage. Which brings me onto the learning…

What’s the learning: Sharon did a fantastic job in the Den, easily the best pitch I have seen to date.  However, Sharon easily gave up an additional 7% equity in her business too easily and without considering the consequences, this can really bite you in later years .  Also, I think she didn’t ask for enough money – this is a classic female trait and most VC’s will tell you that women under-finance their businesses.  Finally, as I said above, if you are looking for investment for your business, watching these clips of Sharon are a great place to start.  She got it right on almost every level and had the dragons eating from her hands.

If you are looking for investment, look at Guy Kawasaki’s blog, books and videos as a good place to start and go along to one of Astia’s events in London for women seeking investment.

Did you see it? Tell us what you think!

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About Julie Hall

Hi, I'm Julie Hall, the founder of Women Unlimited. Which is my 4th business. I've had a business as a headhunter, a consultant, a new media agency and now finally Women Unlimited. I've learned lots of lessons - many of which could have been avoided. I hope you find the articles and stories on this website useful, and feel free to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.

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9 comments

  1. It would be right that on a female based website you would of course like this ladys pitch, I note though you don’t mention how she did what all woman do so well, and thats the sob story, I’m a single mother bla bla bla! this program is edited very well so yes it made her look like she had invented the wheel! she hasn’t shes just copied products that have been around for years, if you dont believe me just search “pick up tools” on the net, this is not an innovative product just a copy of something already used by many electricians world over. Get a grip people this lady just got lucky, i wonder if her old business partner and the man that designed this new copy product will now be looking for his share?

  2. Hmm, interesting Edward – do you think it’s a ‘sob’ story that she’s a single mum? I didn’t see her pushing that side of it at all – it’s a fact of her life. The reason I liked the pitch is that she was articulate, knew her business and was professional. She was not phased by the dragons questions and she showed good business awareness.

    I’m afraid I know nothing of whether she has a business partner or not, but I have searched on the pick up tools, as you suggested and while I did see magnetic tools, I didn’t see them being shown in the way her product works. She took an existing technology and improved upon it to create a commercial product that has found a market

  3. I totally agree – it was great to see someone (male or female) enter the den fully prepared – able to answer all questions, and with a product packaged and ready to go. I am constantly shocked at the complete lack of business acumen and awareness shown by people in the den that it was refreshing to see Sharon actually present in a way I think all business owners looking for investment should.

  4. Agree with Edward. Cable rods have been around for years and unfortunately the basic practical skills that the dragons lack made them thought she had invented something marvellous. It’s just another piece of plastic that may be bought by DIYer’s used once then thrown out into landfill. I’d like to see that magnet hold together when snagged up on a piece of brick or flint in a solid wall construction. Made me laugh when she said she got the idea from watching a BT engineer struggling to fish a cable. They are not the most practically gifted tradesmen at the best of times. Cable rods are cheaper have more accessories and can be extended up to 10-15m. Barring all that just use a straightened out wire coat hanger. Benn using them for the lats 25 years and won’t leave home without one. So sorry Ms. Wright and the dragon’s but to me it is a waste of money and resources.

  5. Fish sticks – Cable Rods, call them what you will, they have been around for years, she has just copied something that has been selling for years, because like most women she did’nt do that little thing called RESEARCH, no doubt she will sell a few, most of which will be to the hen pecked husbands that were told to buy one, I know a much better use for them – back scratcher anyone?

  6. Sharon’s product is an innovation on an old idea. The cable rods that you are talking about are not the same and the simplicity of her product makes it a winner. She has a patent on her product – patents can be difficult to get and are not handed out to products that are a duplicate of another

  7. I’ve coached and worked with both men and women with new products and inventions since 2003.

    Sweeping generalizations are dangerous, of course.

    But there ARE a number of interesting differences, which led me to focus on supporting women:

    1) Women are usually less interested in tinkering to invent something per se, and more interested in helping solve an issue that they see real people are experiencing. In essence, they start off being much more customer focused. Which means their product is more likely to meet with success.

    2) Women are more likely to put in the legwork themselves to do the research. Men will try to outsource work or bring in a partner, or especially for market research, will make it secondary to the inventing process. Doing the research yourself – into intellectual property, market demand, pricing and costings etc, – will always raise your chances of commercial success because you learn all sorts of things in the process that you wouldn’t have anticipated.

    3) Women are more open to learning and understanding ALL aspects of the development and business processes before they leap into development. Maybe because they’re good at multi-tasking, they’re often able to draw all the elements together and realize important principles they need to stick to. They don’t treat inventing as a stage by stage process as men tend to (ie make, protect, sell – which rarely works). So they tend to anticipate problems down the line better and take steps to avoid them.

    4) Women will tend to be underconfident about their abilities. Men, tend to overstate them. This has two effects:

    i) Women can be enormously rewarding to work with. A small amount of coaching releases their confidence and they move forward at speed.

    ii) Women are often less suspicious and confrontational in building business relationships, which tends to foster more cooperation, faster progress and bigger chances of success.

    I suspect that I won’t be getting any more male Members at She’s Ingenious! now.

    And as I say, they ARE generalizations. So now take me out and shoot me!

    Cally Robson
    Coach and Founder
    http://www.ShesIngenious.org

  8. Blokes – so typical, look it may or may not be a good product, we can all have our opinion on it, so none of us are right! the fact is she has done very well to get on, there is enough misery in the world, so lets just congratulate this person for getting on and doing well, I love dragons den, you have to have some nerve to go on national tv with your idea, and possibly get ripped apart, some great products on there to, my fav was the bra angel bra repair – another product thought of by a woman! and a great one at that, the only difference here is that her husband got behind her and went with it! shame not more blokes like that I say, I purchased there product and its fantastic, so well done to the woman inventors!!

  9. i bought one of these after watching the show, and it has been lying unused in my van ever since, because it is basically useless. The magnet is nowhere near strong enough, and the rod is too short. A badly designed product which as has already been mentioned is just an inferior copy of an existing product, cable rods which do the job perfectly

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