Half of Dragons’ Den investments fall through due to panic, lies & being ghosted

A successful Dragons’ Den deal always ends with smiling faces, a handshake and some delighted new business partners.

However, it’s a completely different story once the cameras stop rolling as almost half the investments made on the BBC Two show actually fall through.

Behind-closed-doors, deal destroying issues that weren’t immediately present during the show start to emerge.

During the first 11 series of the show, only £5.8million of the £13million pledged by the Dragons as actually invested as 76 out of 153 deals did not materialise.

While in the 13th and 14th series, 18 of the 14 companies offered money ended up going alone – with more than £1.3million that was offered not leaving Dragons’ pockets.

There are many intriguing reasons why successful deals fall through off air, including false claims made by contestants and some just appearing for publicity.

Peter Jones explained the Dragons must check all the figures themselves

Often it transpires that entrepreneurs have inflated their sales figures or provided the wrong information during their pitch due to the intensity of the Den.

“You go through it with a toothpick… that’s where these things fall down,” explained Peter Jones to the BBC this year.

“I’m not saying the entrepreneur is trying to tell us things that aren’t true, but through excitement or being unprepared, their numbers maybe got a bit mixed up in their head.

“That’s 90% of the reasons why things in the Den fall through, but there’s another part of it. Sometimes people come into the Den, get a deal, and think, ‘We’re on TV, that’ll be great for my product,’ and they drag out the due diligence.

“They’re thinking that if they can get their product on air they’ll get fame, and maybe won’t even need a Dragon, which is disappointing, but does happen.”

Once they shake hands in the Den, they enter a period of financial due diligence to make sure all the claims made are factually correct.

Deborah Meaden has been ghosted by some of the people she shook hands with
Deborah Meaden has been ghosted by some of the people she shook hands with

The BBC do some due diligence themselves before they allow contestants to pitch in front of the Dragons, but the business tycoons get their own people in before they sign contracts.

Deborah Meaden has claimed some of her deals fell through due to entrepreneurs with extremely unfortunate health issues and patent issues.

Staggeringly, she also had two or three silences where she never heard from a contestant ever again.

“Some people panic in the Den and say something that is not true,” she told The Telegraph in 2015.

Deborah explained the Dragons would only walk away from a deal if there were discrepancies while assessing legal documents.

She added: “If it’s not a material [discrepancy], I can forgive that. The den is a hot place. But if it is material, I feel completely entitled to walk away from the deal.”

Deborah will only walk away from a deal if there are material errors
Deborah will only walk away from a deal if there are material errors

The business mogul also pointed out that in terms of angel investing the numbers are actually very high, as she’d be lucky to get one in 10 deals through in the normal world.

Deborah said she usually spends between £5,000 to £10,000 on each company during the diligence fans – and sometimes things are not what they first seemed.

Some entrepreneurs primarily use the popularity of the show as a platform to gain publicity for business, then pull out when sale surges once their episode has aired.

Deborah said: “The world explodes for them after Dragons’ Den. They get offered better deals in some cases, or think they don’t need the Dragons.

“But what they find when the publicity dies down is that they still need help running the business.”

However, the most infuriating situation for Deborah is when people walk away from the deal through silence, which is particularly annoying when she has already spent money on due diligence.

Baked bean fanatic Ben Mason's firm 'Mason's Beans' never took off after his appearance on the show
Baked bean fanatic Ben Mason’s firm ‘Mason’s Beans’ never took off after his appearance on the show

Chris Barnardo never even got as far as seeing the paperwork when he signed a deal with Duncan Bannatyne for his Take The Wand Company.

But it wasn’t the Scottish Dragon’s fault as Barnardo’s remote control-shaped wizard’s wand company made £50,000 worth of sales after they episode aired, so they realised they didn’t need the investment.

Ben Mason, who runs Mason’s Beans, bagged a £50,000 offer for 20 per cent equity from founder Nick Jenkins in season 13.

Getting Ben’s beans onto shelves proved an impossible task and he wound the company up, but he said Nick was “enormously helpful”.

He explained: “The business had insurmountable challenges. It’s a lot of work to participate, but investment opportunities are small compared to those available through conventional routes.”

There have also been a number of disagreements that have proved fatal for deals.

Polly Gotschi won an offer of £37,500 from Sarah Willingham for 40% of her firm Vitiliglow, but never got the money
Polly Gotschi won an offer of £37,500 from Sarah Willingham for 40% of her firm Vitiliglow, but never got the money

Jacob Thundil’s coconut food firm Cocofina bagged a £75,000 promise for five per cent from Nick and fellow Dragon Sarah Willingham but the deal fell through.

Jacob said there were disagreements over direction, so Cocofina, who were already selling to Harrods, went it alone.

“The Dragons did help me make my business stronger,” he said.

Polly Gotschi won an offer of £37,500 from Sarah Willingham for 40 per cent of her firm Vitiliglow, a make-up product for sufferers of skin condition vitiligo.

But even though her deal never came through, for “several reasons”, she said: “The publicity generated helped raise awareness of my product and the condition.”

The highest amount successfully pitched for in the Den in a whopping £250,000, but both times the deals fell through on the outside.

Former Dragon Kelly Hoppen pointed out that real-life investments would take far longer than is given to the Dragons.

The Dragons have to check they haven't been lied to
The Dragons have to check they haven’t been lied to

“Often some entrepreneurs, many of whom are in the early stages of their business and start-ups, in their excitement can miss vital facts and figures when pitching,” she explained in 2015.

“Once the cameras are off, the Dragons may not find they have, for example, the rights to sole use of the brand name or the IP is not within the company and these are important points to consider with any investments, whether on the show or outside.”

The BBC have defended the amount of failed deals by pointing out it’s just standard business.

A BBC spokesman explained: “Dragons’ Den is about real business and investments, and we are proud of the brilliant success rate of deals and upward trajectory of businesses after their time in the Den.

“All the successful entrepreneurs enter into the normal period of rigorous due diligence with the Dragons once a deal has been struck and, as is often the case in the real world, deals can fall through.

“As well as investment, the entrepreneurs benefit hugely from the exposure the Den brings and all the work that goes on behind the scenes, including guidance, connections and advice the small businesses receive from the Dragons.”

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